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June 5, 2022
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Mailing Systems

What is a Parcel Locker? How Does It Work?

parcel locker

One may think of a parcel locker as an upgraded mailbox or PO box. The parcel locker delivery system has been around for a long time, but parcel lockers have become more widely used in recent years because they offer a safer and more convenient contactless option for parcel delivery and pick up. 

What is a Parcel Locker? 

A parcel locker is essentially a lockable storage box where packages can be left and stored for collection by a mail carrier, delivery company, residents, and/or customers. A parcel locker provides a safe, contactless, and streamlined delivery system. How is a parcel locker different from a mailbox or cluster box units (CBUs)? 

CBUs or cluster mailboxes are common in multi-family residential properties and, just like the single mailbox, are designed to receive mail. A parcel locker, on the other hand, is a bigger compartment designed to accommodate larger packages. 

Parcel lockers are often attached to cluster mailboxes, either on the side or underneath. A cluster mailbox may have one or two parcel lockers, depending on the needs of a residential complex or commercial space, or the size of a business. Some grocery and retail stores, for example, have a wall of branded parcel lockers for their customers. 

How Do Parcel Lockers Work?

Parcel lockers facilitate more efficient package deliveries. Mail carriers and delivery personnel no longer have to make multiple delivery attempts as personal receipt of and signing for a package is no longer necessary. Pick ups and deliveries can be made at any time, and packages are securely stored inside the parcel locker, which can only be accessed by authorized individuals, i.e., the delivery person and the parcel recipient.  

Delivery

Traditional parcel lockers require a key; USPS mail carriers may use a unique master code or key to access a parcel locker and place the delivery inside, while other delivery personnel may get the key from the property manager. Electronic parcel lockers, on the other hand, may have a keypad or QR code or barcode scanner. The delivery person must enter a unique code or scan the package to unlock the locker. 

Notification 

For a traditional parcel locker, a numbered key is provided by a USPS mail carrier and left inside the recipient’s assigned mailbox or the recipient may also acquire the parcel locker key from the property manager. For electronic parcel lockers, the recipient is notified by text, app, or email when a package is delivered, they are also sent the code they need to unlock the locker and retrieve their package.  

Collection 

The recipient uses the specific parcel locker key to collect their package from a traditional parcel locker, or enters the unique code (which can be an alphanumeric code, QR code, or barcode) to access an electronic parcel locker. 

Where Parcel Lockers are Located? 

Parcel lockers are typically placed in highly frequented commercial spaces, such as supermarkets and shopping centers, as well as in office buildings and residential complexes. Many retail establishments, for example, have started using parcel lockers to improve customers’ shopping experience. In some universities, parcel lockers are no longer exclusive to mail rooms/centers; they are also currently being used in libraries, bookstores, and athletic stadiums. 

International shipping companies have established their own parcel locker networks. These companies include DHL, FedEx, UPS, InPost, and Hermes, to name a few.  

Why Should Your Business Use Parcel Lockers? 

A parcel locker system has plenty of advantages over the traditional doorstep delivery. Whether for a business that regularly ships out packages, a small- or middle-scale office, or a residential complex, using parcel lockers offers the following benefits. 

Security

Deliveries are more secure when dropped off in a parcel locker. Whether the parcel locker uses a traditional key or an electronic locking system, the possibility of mail/parcel theft or packages accidentally collected by the wrong person is practically null.

Safety

Because one of the benefits of using a parcel locker is having the convenience to drop off/pick up packages at any time of the day, some parcel locker companies also offer CCTV surveillance to further ensure that packages and the people delivering and collecting them are safe. 

Time and Certainty

For mail carriers, couriers, property managers, and recipients, the one-stop delivery and pickup option and 24/7 availability afforded by parcel lockers translate to countless hours saved. There’s no need to rearrange schedules or to rush home to accept a delivery; couriers no longer have to make multiple delivery attempts; package delivery is always 100% guaranteed. 

Cost 

Parcel lockers are a cost-efficient centralized delivery system for a number of reasons. The one-stop option means delivery costs are reduced. Sorting and redistributing packages are minimized or no longer necessary for offices, which means clerks/admin staff can perform more important tasks. Because damage to or loss of packages is minimized, liability to the courier, property manager, or office manager is likewise kept to a minimum. 

What to Look for in Parcel Delivery Lockers? 

With so many options available, choosing the right parcel locker model for an office, business, or property may prove challenging. Here are the most important factors to consider when selecting a suitable parcel locker for one’s needs. 

Reputable Companies 

Parcel lockers can help eliminate the usual issues associated with deliveries, but choosing a reputable company will further ensure that all the benefits of using parcel lockers are also delivered. A reputable company also puts an emphasis on providing good customer service and adequate security measures, even after the lockers have already been installed. Find a parcel locker company that’s trusted by big ecommerce platforms, such as Amazon, and well-known shipping companies, like FedEx. 

Security Solutions 

Opt for a parcel locker with an automatic lock option, i.e., after the package is placed inside, the door locks automatically when it is shut. Find out how access to the locker is restricted to the authorized individuals, i.e., the courier and recipient. 

Accessibility 

Can you access the parcel locker 24/7? Can you pick up a package only during certain hours? How does the company guarantee restricted access to the locker?

Are Parcel Lockers Fee? 

Investment in parcel lockers is made by businesses or property managers/owners. The use of parcel lockers by customers or residents is usually free, unless the package is cash-on-delivery. The USPS also offers a free parcel locker service

How Long Does a Package Stay in Parcel Lockers? 

The length of time that a package can stay in a parcel locker depends on the shipping service or the property manager. Typically, parcel lockers can hold packages up to one week or 10 days. In the case of community parcel lockers in a residential complex, if a package will remain uncollected for a few weeks or months, the recipient must advise the storage manager in advance. 

For postal deliveries, parcels that are uncollected after a few weeks are typically returned to the distribution center and the recipient is often given a notice for pick up. In some instances, a home delivery may be attempted. 

The best option is to always pick up packages from a parcel locker at the soonest possible time. 

Are Parcel Lockers PO Boxes? 

The main difference between a PO box and a parcel locker is that one can only rent a PO box from the postal office, whereas a parcel locker can be privately owned. 

Final Thoughts  

Using parcel lockers benefits everyone involved in a delivery network: from the business that ships out a package, to the courier, the property/office manager, and the recipient. Parcel lockers are an extremely convenient option for both deliveries and pick ups. Shipping issues are minimized, tons of time are saved, and costs are reduced when the delivery system is centralized with parcel lockers. And in today’s new normal, when contactless options have become crucial to public health, parcel lockers are the practical and safe choice. 

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