Tuesday, July 23, 2024

The bin of packages found abandoned in a Fernald Drive apartment building lobby on Wednesday. (Photo: Andrea Norman)

Amazon – the logistics expert the world has come to rely on for everything from groceries to furniture – abandoned an entire cart of packages meant for delivery to Forest Street in a Fernald Drive lobby on Wednesday. Alerted to the problem by one of the residents, Amazon did not come back to redeliver them.

“I was like, ’If there’s a driver in the area, can you just send him here to pick them up?’ And that apparently is not an option,” said Andrea Norman, who found the bin of 30 large boxes and bags in her lobby. “Everyone at Amazon was saying, ’You can just throw these out.’”

Fernald, in Neighborhood 9, and Forest, in the Baldwin neighborhood, are a five-minute drive apart.

Amazon spokesperson Loni Monroe later described the problem as resulting from “a simple mistake between the delivery center and the delivery service provider,” but did not go into details. The delivery service providers are often small, local businesses, she said, again without specifying whether that applied in this case.

Norman spotted the packages as she left her six-unit building of Harvard housing on Wednesday afternoon, but ignored them on the assumption they were for other tenants. When she returned, she looked through them to see if she might bring up some belonging to a pregnant neighbor. That’s when she realized none were in the right place.

She tried to make it right. In addition to taking “an insane amount of time” talking with befuddled Amazon support staff in online chats, Norman went on social media Wednesday to try to reach Forest Street residents waiting for those packages. Although her post on Nextdoor sparked some interest and a couple of private inquiries, none turned out to be from people whose packages had been abandoned at her building.

“What if little old granny was sending gifts to kids and didn’t tell the parents – and now the gifts won’t get there, and granny won’t know? That’s all I could think about. Otherwise, I would have just been like, ‘Screw it,’” Norman said.

The conversations with Amazon were bonkers: More than once, Norman said, she was assured by Amazon that she wouldn’t be charged for the packages its own driver had simply dumped in her lobby. At one point, she was asked to read every tracking number over the phone; when she agreed to try one of the 30, Amazon couldn’t “access that account.” When a customer service rep said by phone this was an issue for the company’s logistics team, Norman asked to be transferred – only to be told, “‘They’re not available.’ I’m like, this is Amazon. I’m not calling a mom-and-pop independent store here,” Norman said.

“What really struck me was how confused every single person that I spoke to was,” Norman said.

Ultimately, Norman decided to take an Amazon suggestion to open every package – not to donate safe items, as the company suggested, but to try to hand deliver anything that seemed like a gift and leave the rest back in the lobby. She was told “an Amazon recovery team” could come pick them up for shipping to a company return center.

Commenters had varying reactions to Norman’s post on Nextdoor, from outrage at the company’s irresponsibility to offers to come by and take over delivery, since every reordered item was a tiny addition to climate change. One person noted that “It costs more logistically for Amazon to pick up and redeliver than to replace most items. It’s simply a cost of doing business and is factored into the model.”

“We are working with the local delivery station and delivery service partner to ensure this does not happen again,” Monroe said Friday. The company said all the packages were picked up from the apartment complex lobby and sent to the appropriate addresses.

“The customer was a true hero in this instance and we thank them for their commitment to their neighbors,” Monroe said.

This post was updated with comments from Amazon on Nov. 12 and 16, 2021.