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Missing Package Madness Escalates

Image of 5 boxes on a porch.
Reports of missing or misdelivered packages have increased four-fold in the past few years. Photo by Sandy Stevens.
If you take postings on Front Porch Forum (FPF) about lost and found packages to be a leading indicator, the incidence of misdelivered and altogether missing packages in our area has increased four-fold over the past four years during the pre-holiday season.

While concern about “Porch Pirates” is rampant in many areas of the country, it has not emerged as a problem in Montpelier, according to police department records. Officer Eric Nordstrom reported, “Since October 1, 2021, we have received only one report of a mail/package theft.  That package was later found to be delivered. I can’t speak to what is being said on FPF, but I do hear that most delivery places and the post office need staffing help and are struggling with the demand this time of year.”

Steve, who answered the phone at the FedEx distribution center in South Burlington explained that at the same time package volume has increased more than 30 percent, the company’s staffing is down about 30 percent despite efforts to recruit new employees. “The problem is the ‘last mile of delivery’ where we sometimes have less experienced drivers,” he said.

Postings about lost and found packages have been increasingly prevalent on the Montpelier Front Porch Forum. From Nov. 1 through Dec. 10, 2018, a search for “packages/lost and found” produced four postings. For the same period in 2019, the count went up to 14; in 2020 it rose to 26; and for 2021, reports of lost and found packages during this timeframe increased to 46. 

Membership in the Montpelier Front Porch Forum has grown to 6,282 members currently. According to Forum membership services, the website had 5,670 members in March, 2018, meaning membership has grown about 10 percent. And while daily postings on the Montpelier page have increased, reports of lost and found packages have increased far more in proportion.

What this may mean is that local listservs have become an effective resource for finding lost packages and getting misdirected packages to the rightful recipient. 

Although some forum postings indicate dissatisfaction with one of the delivery services in particular, UPS, FedEx, United States Postal Service (USPS), Amazon, and DHL — all have at one time, or another, been culpable of delivery to the wrong address or even tracked packages lost altogether. 

The Importance of Keeping Track

In the face of the dramatic increase in package delivery volume that came with the pandemic lockdown in 2020, all major delivery services offer customers the options of tracking, delivery notification, customized delivery instructions, or delivery to a local store for pick up. 

Moreover, a quick online search will reveal more than a dozen apps that track shipments on all of the delivery services. Notably, you will find almost as many reviews and rankings of these tracking apps.

Possible Fixes?

If it hasn’t been revealed by the alternate-side winter parking mandate, one problem in some Montpelier neighborhoods is a lack of clearly visible house numbers. While we can be confident the city police and fire departments have figured this out, an inexperienced driver, alternate driver, or driver shifted from another route needs to see clearly where packages should be delivered. Be certain that your street number is clearly visible from the curb and remember that during the busy holiday season, darkness likely falls before drivers finish deliveries.

While FedEx officially uses a USPS-approved map for locating addresses, Steve at FedEx noted that new drivers will sometimes pull up Google maps on their phones, “because that’s what they’re familiar with.” So it’s worth a minute to check your address on Google Maps to be certain it is properly located. (Note: this writer recently found that both his residence and the office of The Bridge, 62 Ridge Street, are incorrectly located on Google Maps. Getting mapped locations corrected is another story altogether).

While Montpelier does not appear to be a destination for porch pirates, those concerned with better protecting their deliveries have options, at some expense, of installing lockboxes or security camera systems on their property.