Taking Package Delivery Management Out of the Leasing Office

5 minute read

Apartment communities this month will likely experience an unprecedented deluge of package deliveries for their residents.

The exploding popularity of consumer e-commerce—not to mention Amazon Prime membership, which grants its users free delivery—should jam plenty of chimneys and leasing offices this holiday season.

Recent media buzz focused on package delivery actually preempted the traditional mid-November holiday shopping season kickoff. In October, the front page of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Camden’s “new” package delivery policy—that it would not accept package deliveries on behalf of residents in its leasing offices.

The policy, Camden’s Chief Information Officer & SVP Strategic Services Kristy Simonette says, had been rolling out across the country since early spring—well before the WSJ article. That report was then picked up by national TV news reports on The Today Show, The Associated Press and by local news outlets, when Houston’s Fox affiliate interviewed Camden CEO Ric Campo about its decision.

“We were amazed at the media frenzy that this caused,” Simonette says. “It’s not caused a resident frenzy, but the media really took off with it.”

Simonette stopped short of suggesting that the media misreported the story. She says the headline was “a little confusing; we didn’t ‘block’ deliveries of packages.” Camden rather decided to require carriers to deliver directly to our customers’ doorsteps, Simonette says.

“They reported on what we’d already been doing for many months,” she says. In 2014, Camden accepted 1 million packages in its leasing offices across 169 communities.
Simonette says those communities were ill-equipped to handle that kind of volume in terms of storage space and staff obligation. Seeing that volume only increasing, imonette says the company decided to direct the deliveries to the doorsteps of its residents.

“We had alerted our residents well in advance about this policy change,” Simonette says. “They understood what we were doing and why we were doing it. We gave them the option of having packages delivered directly to their doorstep or utilizing online services from the major carriers to manage their delivery locations and times.”

To this point, Simonette says Camden’s decision was the “right” long-term decision. We believe we are offering a better customer experience by giving the carriers full access to deliver packages directly to our residents’ door.

“Yes, there have been a handful of residents [out of its more than 100,000] who told us that they may not renew because we would not receive and manage the delivery of their packages,” Simonette says. “But apartment operators know that there is a risk of losing residents when policy changes occur at a community. Change creates anxiety.”

Package theft is another concern. However, Simonette says her company has seen no evidence of an increase in missing packages.

“With our approach, it’s just like what would happen if you lived in a single-family home,” Simonette says. “You come home and the package is at your door.”

Before moving to this policy, Simonette says, “Camden tried many of the available solutions. Four years ago, we implemented package tracking software, which did help with inventory and email communications to the residents, advising them that they had a package to pick up in the office. The volume of deliveries just kept exploding and, on average, residents waited three to five days before actually picking up their packages.

You can see how the number of stored packages quickly grew beyond what we had room to accommodate.”

Simonette says that there are many storage locker companies and software systems that can help communities store and track packages.

“We looked seriously at the locker option,” she says. “It was problematic for us; we did not have the physical space at many of our locations and there were other barriers. In the end, we decided, we just aren’t in the logistics business.”

Simonette says that “Package-Gate,” as Camden President Keith Oden describes it in the WSJ article, has opened the eyes of those in the industry about the overall situation of package volume, which is estimated to continue to increase.

“We have worked with FedEx, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and Amazon about how to solve this,” she says. “Competing apartment owners and managers have done the same. We invited [UPS] to a property in Atlanta to see the situation firsthand. They said they had no idea about apartment communities’ challenge. This wasn’t even a blip on their radar. But now it is. We are working with them to create plans on how to have these packages delivered best, based on the community. What works at some properties, won’t work for all.

“[These logistics companies] are listening and they have been helpful. With Amazon, for example, they point out that if a person orders something and it does not arrive, there’s a box the customer can check on the order form and they will resend it. The USPS has not put forth as much effort. They are the ‘last mile’ in the delivery process for Amazon Prime. Sometimes, they are not even attempting to make the delivery to the door.”

Alternatively, Simonette says that the package policy does not apply at Camden’s 11 high-rise buildings.

“Having a concierge service at high-rise communities is something we do, and it does work,” she says. “There is storage room. But at garden properties, we once used small closets to hold them. They aren’t big enough, now. Our residents like to go to sites like Overstock.com and they order very large items that couldn’t possibly fit in our ‘community’ mailbox area. So now, they are delivered directly to their door.”

She adds that because Camden’s leasing office is not open all hours, seven days a week, deliveries made when it is closed are now instead placed directly with the residents.

“Our residents actually are getting them faster this way,” Simonette says.

And apartment residents know that December will be filled with many “urgent” late-night package deliveries. -- Paul R. Bergeron III, NAA