Amazon Locker

Have you used an Amazon Locker? I did this afternoon, and it seemed to work quite well.

I had to return an order, and after going through the usual steps, I was presented with three options for sending the package back. Two of them, UPS pickup and UPS dropoff, were the options I was familiar with. The new one was Amazon Locker. These are the sort of lockers you’d see at a bus terminal—or, more likely, the sort of lockers you’d see in a bus terminal in a black-and-white movie—but they’re owned by Amazon and set up in places to make it easy for customers to pick up and return orders (and for Amazon to avoid paying UPS).

I was given several options for “nearby” lockers. One of them really was nearby, in a department store about a mile from my office and more or less on the route home. I chose it and printed out a set of instructions and a label to attach to the box.

The instructions were dismaying. They said the box had to be no bigger than 12×12×121, even though the product I was returning was itself was over 16″ long. Why would Amazon give me a return option that wouldn’t work? And why would they not tell me the size restriction until after the return was processed?

I decided to press on and hope the size restriction was wrong (it was, at least for the locker I went to). I packed up the box and stopped at the department store on my way home. Amazon said the locker was near the customer service desk. When I didn’t see any signs for customer service, I asked one of the clerks. She told me they didn’t have a customer service desk anymore, but she did know where the Amazon Locker was—on the second floor, where customer service used to be.

If I were a professional writer, I’d work up a whole article on the ironies of this. First, that Amazon was taking root, like an invasive species of plant, in a traditional bricks-and-mortar store. And second, that Amazon had stepped into the vacuum of that part of retail that “real stores” were supposed to be best at. But I’m not a professional writer, so let’s move on.

The locker was about 6′ high and 8′–10′ wide, with a touchscreen set in its center and the familiar logo on the door of the compartment at the upper left corner.

Amazon Locker

I touched the screen to wake it up, scanned the barcode on my return label, and the door with the logo popped open. I put the package in the compartment—it was at least 18″ deep, more than enough to handle my box—closed the door, and I was done. Presumably, my package was picked up this evening by an underpaid Amazon contract employee and sent back to the mothership.

Package away

Truth to tell, the UPS Store is closer to my office than this Amazon Locker, but I always have to talk to a person at the UPS Store (ew) and there’s usually a line. An interaction with a touchscreen and cold sheet metal seems much more Amazon-like.

The big question is: Where will Amazon put the locker when the department store goes under?

  1. That’s in inches. About 30×30×30 in centimeters for you poor metric people who get all confused by US customary units.