Amazon pilots new Pickup Locations in Chicago (field report)

    

Amazon is piloting a new type of pickup location in Chicago.  These are indoor, retail locations which are staffed with Amazon employees, where you can return Amazon purchases, and pickup Amazon orders.

In many ways these locations are similar to Amazon lockers (which are placed in locations like Whole Foods and 7-11).  While the standard lockers are unstaffed and are primarily self-service.  These new pickup locations are staffed (so they are only open certain hours), and offer 4 primary advantages over the lockers.

  • Free Same-Day Pickup for Prime Members
  • Free Returns
  • On-site Customer Service
  • Longer package hold duration (15 days vs 3 days at Standard lockers)

The Free Same Day Pickup is heavily promoted.

Free Same Day Pickup Sign Free Same-Day Pickup Sign

Amazon already offers free same-day delivery in Chicago.  This is distinct from PrimeNow (which offers 1 or 2 hour delivery on a limited assortment).  Free Same Day delivery offers approximately 1 million SKU’s from one of our local Amazon Fulfillment Centers (#SDF8 – 900 Patrol Rd. Jeffersonville, IN 47130 – Clark County) for same day delivery for Prime members.  Unfortunately this FC is about a 5 hour drive from Chicago, and so in most cases it’s order by 12pm get it around 9pm, delivered by Amazon’s own employees (even on Sundays).

In my test order, I placed an order for Amazon Elements Tumeric at 2pm on October 5th.  The order was offered for Free SameDay Pickup at the new Amazon – Clark & Diversey pickup location, which I selected.  I received an notification that my item was ready for pickup at 10:57pm.  Unfortunately, the pickup location is open 9am – 9pm weekdays, 12pm – 9pm on weekends.  So “same-day” doesn’t mean exactly what Amazon thinks it does.

Amazon Lockers

Same day or not, the way you pickup your package is to use the Amazon mobile app, go to your order history, and select “generate pickup code” for any item eligible for pickup.  You will then get a bar-code, that you can scan at the lockers which automatically opens a door containing your item.  If you don’t have the mobile app, you can use a self-service kiosk in the branch to generate the code.

The reason that this location can store your package for 15 days instead of the usual 3, is because the items aren’t actually stored in the lockers.  There is a secure storage area behind the lockers (employee only area) and when you generate your code, that triggers an employee to actually pick your item from the local storage and put it in a locker.  So there can be a few minute delay from the generation of your pick-up code until you can actual open the locker.

Free Returns are quite useful.  You don’t need to pre-package the items or print anything out.  You can either start the return at home (on the website) and pick the location for return, or you can simply bring your item to the kiosk at the pickup location and start your return there.  In either case, you’ll need to log into a self-service kiosk with your Amazon credentials (so no doing returns for orders placed on others accounts).  You can see all your orders on the kiosk and select the items you want to return.  A label is automatically printed, which you put on various sized poly-bags and then simply seal the bag and drop it in the return window.  Once someone scans your return label, the purchase is immediately marked as returned, and a refund is issued (I got my refund within 15 minutes of dropping my return in the return window).

This is a better option than taking the package to a UPS location (where you’ll need to have pre-printed your return paperwork, provide your own sealed shipping box, and wait days for a refund).

Amazon has two of these locations in Chicago:

These locations are most similar to the 25 college campus pickup locations that Amazon already operates, Amazon @ Your University.  However, these two locations are off campus (one is next to the DePaul campus), and are available to all Amazon customers (no Prime required).  6 of the college locations inventory popular items so they can offer 2 minute pickup called Amazon Instant Pickup.  Instant Pickup is not offered at either of these Chicago locations.

Returns are the new e-commerce battleground.  My home in Chicago is 2 blocks from a Whole Foods which has Amazon lockers but does not accept returns, and 3 blocks from an Amazon Bookstore which also does not accept returns.  So it’s interesting to see Amazon pilot a new retail concept largely focused on facilitating returns.  Clearly the returns experience is an issue for some Amazon customers, which explains why Amazon invented a new easier return service for their Amazon Prime Waredrobe service, and why Amazon now accepts returns to Kohls stores in Chicago.  Especially as Walmart, which has a store within 10 miles of 90% of the US population, has streamlined returns, with Walmart Mobile Express Returns .

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