There is no gentler way to put this: Amazon is trying to get somebody f*cked up out here.
The largest online retailer that we’ve seen thus far has announced plans for a new service that will allow couriers to open customers’ homes using cloud technology and leave packages inside their residence, as opposed to on a doorstep or in a mailbox where they can get stolen easily. Because if you can’t trust your own neighbors not to steal your packages, surely the contents of your unattended home are safe in the hands of an unknown Amazon delivery person, right?
According to The Verge, here’s how Amazon Key will work:
“When a courier arrives with a package for in-home delivery, they scan the barcode, sending a request to Amazon’s cloud. If everything checks out, the cloud grants permission by sending a message back to the camera, which starts recording. The courier then gets a prompt on their app, swipes the screen, and voilà, your door unlocks. They drop off the package, relock the door with another swipe, and are on their way. The customer will get a notification that their delivery has arrived, along with a short video showing the drop-off to confirm everything was done properly.”
Honesty hour: I read that sh*t three times and I haven’t the slightest idea what it says, but to be fair, I accepted long ago that there are no terms layman enough to make me understand what a “cloud” is in the first place. However, I am rather clear on what it means to allow a whole ass stranger in your house whilst you are elsewhere and I’m not confident that this is the best idea that Amazon has ever had.
As the company marks 12 years since the launch of Amazon Prime, the delivery service that provides free two-day shipping to subscribers for a modest annual fee (a service that has taken so much more of my money than I’d ever admit, a glorious-yet-addictive offering that has changed my life in so, so many ways), it seems only right that there’s a push to launch something equally innovative and solution driven. And yes, I know all too well how vulnerable packages are when you don’t live on a street where people leave their doors unlocked and their gluten-free casseroles unattended with no fear. But letting a stranger in your home in your absence, even for mere moments, seems like a recipe for possible disaster.
What’s the worse that can happen? I have a few ideas:
1) WHAT ABOUT, YOU KNOW, THEFT? You leave something small and valuable in plain sight and swiper gets to swiping. This is the most logical concern about the service, which may increase the likelihood that couriers don’t actually do it, kinda like the notion that Black people don’t tip being so pervasive that you end up tipping 24% on bad service just to protect the race from critique (or maybe that’s just me?)
2) WHAT IS A CLOUD ANY DAMN WAY?: My cell phone and internet providers both have spotty internet service in my home, and no, I don’t live off anywhere remote, rural or lacking in people. If my plans tomorrow are contingent upon someone being able to get to this so-called cloud thing today, well, I might be in trouble. Amazon has had its own troubles with connectivity interneting-type stuff as well. Does the cloud work when it rains? That is a very literal question dressed up as a metaphorical one.
3) WHO IN THE HELL LEFT THE GATE OPEN? OH: What if your courier is professional enough to resist the temptation of the large bowl of candy that is labeled “Candy for Amazon Courier!” but somehow leaves the door ajar and next thing you know, your neighbor has upgraded from stealing your wi-fi to stealing your everything?
4) WHAT IF RACISM RACISMS? You could not pay me enough money to go in anyone‘s house in their absence, and the illogical fear of colored folks that exists in this country is at the top of the reasons why. Imagine what might happen if no one tells Memaw —or her 19-year-old grandson, to be honest—that a random Black person is going to be walking inside of her neighbor’s home? I don’t care if the uniform is a bright orange jumpsuit that says “AMAZON KEY! DON’T SHOOT,” there is no proven method for protecting us from getting hurt, arrested or worse for showing up Black at the wrong place at the wrong time.
5) WHAT IF I NEVER GO TO A STORE AGAIN? As someone who was initially hesitant about services like Handy and TaskRabbit, that pair clients with folks who clean, assemble furniture and do other household tasks, I will admit that I’d live in a pile of unwashed laundry and grime without them. Thus, despite all my anxiety, it’s likely that I’ll eventually be so pressed to get a new $20 bodycon dress and some sheet masks that I’ll risk it all and give Amazon Key a try. Will this be a gateway drug to me never leaving my couch, that leads to not even needing the magic cloud service anymore anyway because I’m trapped in my home for good? Perhaps. Thanks, Amazon, as if I needed another reason to be a social outcast.
Alas, Amazon has had its fair share of out-of-the-park hits and misses (It’s worth noting that Whole Foods had a FIRE dessert bar before the purchase and it’s just gone now. Sad.), but you don’t become one of the biggest retailers on the earth without taking some big risks. Amazon Key might not be the most compelling concept in the world, but if anyone can make it work, it seems safe to bet on the big guys.