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Many online merchants do not offer shipping that requires the recipient's signature for security purposes. To avoid the inconvenience caused by a “step theft”, it is up to the consumer to secure their package.

Package theft: a lot of problems!

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With the growing popularity of online commerce, the number of package thefts is reportedly increasing in Canada.

  • François Sanche (View profile)François Sanche

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Steve Pépin is at home last July and he glances out the living room window sometimes. His brand new iPad, obtained through a points program from his employer, must be delivered by FedEx between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. He waits.

At 1:23 p.m., ding! He receives notification of the long-awaited delivery, with a photo of the package at his door. Oddly enough, the delivery man didn't ring the bell. Steve Pépin opens the door: nothing. No trace of the package. How could he have vanished within a minute of being notified?

I have everything subsequently called FedEx. […] The file was closed because there was proof with supporting photos that my iPad had been delivered. So, they [the FedEx employees] told me that there was no responsibility on their part, relates Steve Pépin, who had the impression of having the burden of proof to bear.

We hear about people saying "I got robbed" to finally have two. I didn't want to look like that.

A quote from Steve Pépin

Then, Mr. Pépin went to knock on his neighbors' doors. I don't have a camera, he said. The neighbor across the street has one. The neighbor on the side, the third neighbor, he has cameras.

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Steve Pépin had a package stolen from his porch last summer.

Looking at the images from five different angles covering his entire street, he discovered what the appearance of a carefully planned theft.

The footage shows that a few minutes before the delivery truck arrived, a black car parked at proximity to his residence. An individual got out and walked past his house, taking a brief look at it.

The FedEx truck arrived a few minutes later and parked in the back, whereas normally, according to Mr. Pépin, trucks stop in front of the delivery location. The delivery man left the package by the side and, returning to his truck, he walked backwards, so as not to be seen, believes Steve Pépin.

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Steve Pépin received a photo notification at 1:23 p.m. telling him that his package was delivered at 1:15 p.m.

After a few moments, the individual returned, grabbed the package and left. It was only after the thief left that the delivery notification was sent to Steve Pépin.

If I hadn't had these cameras, I would have had no way of proving that someone was doing it to me. #x27;had stolen.

A quote from Steve Pépin

FedEx confirms having received the images sent by Steve Pépin and having investigated this event, without however disclosing the conclusions to us.

Because the popularity of online commerce is relatively new, little research has been done on stoop theft. But there is general agreement that this crime is on the rise.

Package theft is a crime of opportunity. The longer packages sit on the porch, the more likely they are to be stolen, estimates American criminologist Ben Stickle.

In 2019, he signed one of the first studies on this type of crime. He noted, among other things, that fences, cameras and guards seem to have little impact on thieves.

Package theft is not only a problematic crime for consumers due to the cost and of the frustration it causes, but it is also a concern for retailers, because this crime is a result of current delivery practices, we read in this study.

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Approximately 119 million packages would have been stolen in the United States in 2022, according to a study by the American firm SafeWise.

According to a survey by the Angus Reid firm, commissioned by FedEx, 28% of Canadians surveyed who made an online purchase in 2023 said they had been victims of package theft. This proportion was 20% in 2021.

In the field of delivery, the choice of security level comes up to the person who sends the package. And delivery with signature costs more.

However, FedEx requires (at its expense) a signature from the recipient when the value of a package is 500 $ or more. But shippers still need to disclose this rule, which they do not always do. This could explain why a signature was not requested from Steve Pépin, whose package was worth nearly $1000.

The merchant who sent him the package preferred not to answer our questions.

Steve Pépin was quickly reimbursed by the merchant. He immediately ordered a second iPad. Surprise… this same merchant did not require the package to be delivered to him personally, with a supporting signature. It's an additional step, but one that would protect everyone, the delivering company, the shipper and the customer, he believes.

This does not surprise Jean Carrier, e-commerce logistics consultant at the firm eMission. What are the costs? The delivery person has to come to the door. It has to ring. Let him wait for someone to come and answer him. If there is no one there, he leaves with the package and will have to make another delivery the next day. There are therefore additional costs, he explains.

The sender will therefore make a calculation based on costs and benefits. How many iPads are stolen per year? Then he will conclude that out of 100 or 200 iPads sent per year, there are X number that are stolen. It might not be worth it; the signature will cost more, he illustrates.

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Jean Carrier is an expert in e-commerce logistics.

But the millions of packages stolen from the stoops represent a financial loss which is necessarily reflected in the prices of the products. A report from the American company SafeWise estimates that in 2022, in the United States, 119 million packages left on stoops were stolen, representing an estimated value of more than 8 billion Canadian dollars, which merchants must absorb.

It is difficult to have exact statistics on what is happening in terms of volumes stolen each year, but we know that there are some. There is fraud, then there are organized systems to steal packages from the door, assures Jean Carrier, who worked for several years at Canada Post.

For Steve Pépin, be it any company, please has thefts, they have to recover somewhere. And it's always the consumer, in the end, who pays for that.

Given the eloquence of the images obtained from his neighbors, Steve Pépin would have liked the police to investigate. He was rather disappointed. I was told that they don't have time to investigate small thefts like that, that I was wasting my time, he says.

This does not surprise Michaël Gillet, Director of Investigations and Intelligence at Commissionnaires du Québec, an agency specializing in security and investigations. Proving complicity between the thief and the delivery person is not an easy task, he maintains.

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According to Michaël Gillet, expert in investigations and security, it is better to prevent package thefts rather than investing in lengthy police investigations.

In criminal terms, it is beyond a reasonable doubt. Could the complicity be at the distribution level? Or elsewhere in the company? It will be enough for the defense to leave a reasonable doubt, he explains.

A deployment would be required to verify several hypotheses, which would be very demanding in human resources, for a smaller theft.

A quote from Michaël Gillet, Director of Investigations and Intelligence at Commissionnaires du Québec

However, Michaël Gillet believes that it is important to report thefts, so that the police can act in the event of a wave of thefts in an area given.

The police are generally not in the loop, confirms Jean Carrier, of the firm eMission. The first instinct that everyone has: communicate with the sender, who, most of the time, will take care of the return of a new box.

This is what the Consumer Protection Office recommends doing. According to the law, it is the merchant who must contact a consumer who wants to be reimbursed when they have not received a good ordered online or by telephone.

According to the survey commissioned by FedEx, only 7% of theft victims surveyed said they had made a report to the police last year.

In Laval, where Steve Pépin lives, the police counted 374 package thefts on its territory, again last year. If the reporting rate was the same, the number of thefts would be over 5,000 in 2023.

When a consumer is expecting a high-value package and the online retailer does not offer signature delivery, the best solution is to ask the delivery company to hold the package in a safe place and collect it at the counter the closest.

Although this is not complicated, it requires the consumer to familiarize themselves with the procedure of the courier of the package. It is the consumer who must make this approach to the carrier, concludes Jean Carrier.

Strangely, this option was not available for sending Mr. Pépin's second package. But a package rerouting test carried out by The bill was successful.

According to e-commerce logistics specialist, the pinnacle of secure delivery is the smart locker – from English expression smart locker –, that is to say lockers of all sizes installed near homes like post office mailboxes Canada, in which all delivery people could drop off packages.

Smart lockers would have the advantage of reducing truck traffic in residential neighborhoods, eliminating theft and reducing delivery times. However, except in very densified urban areas, the installation of such lockers is complex in terms of financing, operation and location, advises Jean Carrier.

Steve Pépin's adventure has however brought him something good: Since this episode, when we have parcels arriving, if we're not there, the neighbors will take the parcel, leave us a note: "we have your parcel!" Everyone felt concerned, because everyone receives deliveries.

With the collaboration of Isabelle Roberge

The report by journalist François Sanche, research journalist Isabelle Roberge and director Stéphanie Desforges is available on the site of the issue The invoice.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116