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Consumer Diary: Porch Pirates and Gifts

Having packages left at the door in plain sight is not recommended. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Consumer columnist and West Hartford resident Harlan Levy has more than 20 years of experience writing stories about everyday experiences that anyone could encounter.

By Harlan Levy

You hear about “porch package” thieves following Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and U.S. Postal Service delivery trucks in certain delivery-heavy neighborhoods and fearlessly pilfering what’s dropped of. But, you think, that doesn’t happen to us or our neighbors, right?

So we thought.

Then it happened to us.

My wife orders a flood of packages from Amazon and other retail sites, especially at holiday time. It was December a few years ago, and we had been away for about a week, expecting all our holiday gifts that we had ordered and our mail to be delivered the day we returned, possibly including a wedding invitation to one of our son’s friend’s wedding.

When nothing appeared that day … and the next, we called the various deliverers, whom we had tracked, with all stating our packages were “on the way.” All also said the packages and mail had been deposited in a large plastic container on our front porch. We found the container – empty, and could only assume the packages and mail were stolen. And we didn’t know if we were invited and felt too embarrassed to ask. Then, a couple of days after the RSVP date, the friend asked if we were going. That’s when we absolutely knew everything had been stolen.

In fact, we aren’t alone. More than 25 million Americans have their packages stolen right from their doorsteps by porch pirates each year.

So here are some steps to avoid that fate this holiday season (gleaned from online sources, including CNET, familyhandyman.com, LegalZoom, Reader’s Digest, and others):

  • When ordering online, check off “signature required,” an option with all the major services. If you won’t be home, see if they will redirect the package to a trusted neighbor’s address. UPS MyChoice does this.
  • Add package tracking so you know when your packages are on your porch.
  • Install a video doorbell. Ring, Arlo, and Nest sell doorbells that are also home security cameras. When someone rings the doorbell, you can see a live video feed and hear what your visitor is saying. Many have motion sensors, send alerts when someone is on your front porch, and allow two-way talk. You can tell a delivery person where to put a package. Video doorbells are widely available for under $150.
  • Get your packages delivered to Amazon Lockers, located at sites like pharmacies, convenience stores, etc., or to USPS,  FedEx, and UPS locker services. You’ll receive notice upon delivery to make pick-ups or a code to trigger lockers.
  • Buy a porch lockbox, which the deliverer can open for instructions.
  • Install security cameras observing your porch and front sidewalk, which may discourage potential thieves or record thieves for later identification.

NOTE: We never went to the wedding.

Oprah-approved shower caps. Courtesy image

Some gift ideas for her and him

  • Pickleballer’s Embroidered Scarf: $40 from Uncommon Goods.
  • Apex Drill: $44.99: Small rechargeable cordless battery-powered electric drill and precision electric screwdriver. Pivots on a hinge. Built-in flashlight. Magnetic tip to keep dill bits fastened.
  • Orbi Domino Train: $29.99 after 50% discount. Kids fill the dominoes into the loader, then insert it into the top of the train. Press a button, and the train moves forward, setting up evenly spaced dominoes behind it. Kids control the train’s direction to create different domino patterns.
  • FlightPath tees: 8-pack $19.99. Advanced long-lasting polycarbonate tees featuring a design that reduces friction and backspin. Your drives go longer and straighter.
  • Huusk steel knife: With discount $29.95, 2 for $49.94, 4 for $79.92: Japanese blackened, dimpled steel super sharp chef’s knife with oak handle with finger hole.
  • Shower cap: $36. Grace & Co. Oprah-selection shower caps for women. Waterproof, water-repellant, latex-free, breathable, washable, long-lasting. Protects your hair against humidity and water, avoids hairstyles and blowouts ruined by humidity and water every time you take a shower.
  • Tenikle: $29.99: a Shark Tank winner. For mounting any device anywhere, with bendable legs and strong suction cups to stick to smooth surfaces, holds up to 30 lbs.
  • Ready Rocker:  $59, $79 with foam back rest and cover. Transforms any seat into a rocker. Rocking enhances better posture, pain relief, relieves pressure from back and joints, promotes better circulation.

Merry Christmas and Happy Last Day of Chanukah!

Huusk steel knife. Courtesy image

Orbi Domino Train. Courtesy image

Flightpath golf tees. Courtesy image

Tenikle device holder. Courtesy image

Ready Rocker. Courtesy image

Tenikle device holder. Courtesy image

Apex drill. Courtesy image

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