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Well, here we are — December again and, if readers haven't already baked/frozen, decorated, shopped, and wrapped, then this is the month for you! My own tried-and-true advice, along with some new ideas I've run across in preceding weeks — all on display in today's and the next few weeks' columns to make your lives a tad cheaper, easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Read on for our first segment in the series, this one regarding sneaky Scrooges who steal from one in every five Americans: porch pirates.

I used to mail homemade fudge to my two eldest grandchildren — one batch with nuts and the other without. None of us had a worry back then about porch thievery (except perhaps from pranking kids), and I looked forward to both Grands calling to say thanks as best they could with a mouthful of chocolate. Nowadays are different, however, and not in a good way. Porch pirates, or the scourge of online packages delivery, are on the prowl right this minute, stealing parcels from us and our neighbor five doors down. With full-fledged Coronavirus once again knocking us around and the days of in-store shopping a thing of the past for many, we're depending upon Amazon deliveries, FedEx, UPS or the USPS; unfortunately, our packages aren't necessarily protected any longer, particularly this time of year. On the other hand, there are ways to keep purchases safe during the holiday season (or at any other time, for that matter), especially if we listen to (and read from) experts' advice. Let's take a look at some of these safekeeping techniques. (Just as I've always cautioned about protecting your snail mail from gangs or thieving individuals, some of the same practices apply here, too.)

Thankfully, there are ways people can mitigate the risk of package theft, such as investing in smart home technology like a video doorbell. Statistically, folks purchase guardian systems, including cameras, video doorbells and the like, as well as home security systems, for our family's peace of mind, and to avoid package/mail theft, as well as home protection from break-ins.

Schedule packages to be delivered when you or someone you trust will be there to pick it up.

Should your local post office OK the service, check into getting a lockbox installed near your front door so the delivery person can put your package in a secure location.

And since Perry Pirate looks for anything visible from the street (and close enough to jump out from his idling getaway car), place a large planter pot with foliage or a piece of furniture to hide a delivery.

And going back to that camera, be sure it's by the doorbell to grab Perry's face, but also one on the side of the house facing the street to grasp not only Miss Pirate getting in and out of her vehicle but, indeed, the make and model of said transportation.

I've discussed cultivating wonderful neighbors before, so ask these nice folks to keep an eye out if you're anticipating a package but don't think you'll be home to get it off the porch before you-know-who strikes. Even better, leave specific instructions for the delivery driver, such as requiring a delivery signature or requesting the package be left with Nancy Neighbor.

Just last week I discovered Amazon Locker for returning items to Amazon. Much better, however, is to use the online zip code locator to find a locker near you (Gabe's is just one source for the Chattanooga area) and use that as your delivery address! It's free to use and, if you're a Prime member, that two-day free shipping is available.

One extra step online shoppers can choose is to allow packages to be delivered to their places of work instead of their homes.

The United States Postal Service, FedEx and others also allow recipients to sign up for shipment alerts across a combination of email, text, phone call or app notifications. Once you get an estimated delivery day or time, arrange for someone to be home during that window — or follow the previous step.

P.S. For shipping mail and/or packages to arrive by Christmas — or other holidays — (Hanukkah/December 10–18; Christmas/December 25; Kwanzaa/December 26–January 1), find the recommended domestic, international and military deadlines by checking usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates. Waiting any longer after these mandated times will result in your wallet taking a big, fat hit.

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

 

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