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Amazon driver arrested after taking GPS 'bait' package off Washington Co. porch (kcby.com)
196 points by MagicPropmaker 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 163 comments

I have delivered thousands of packages through the Amazon Flex program; I am quite well-versed in their policies. There is no such incentive policy to return undeliverable packages as he claims. If you are out making deliveries, and you can’t deliver a package for whatever reason, you mark it as undeliverable in the app and return it to the station after your route is complete. That’s just part of the gig. It sucks because you might have to go out of your way to bring back the packages to the station (using your own gas and time), so the real incentive is to deliver the package, even if it’s risky.

This guy is just a lying thief. There is no such program.

Edit: I should add that Amazon keeps track of your delivery metrics, including the percent that are undelivered/late/reported missing (DNR, did not receive)/etc. If you drop below some threshold you get kicked off the app. You get a weekly email with a summary of your stats. I think I had a couple DNRs out of the thousands of things I delivered, and was paranoid they were going to kick me off for them.

Does Amazon still use OnTrac? I had countless delivery issues with OnTrac when I lived in Tacoma, WA. I'm not even kidding when I say that 50% of the packages never made it and another 20% made it many days after their online status said that they were "delivered". It was truly the shittiest package delivery system I've ever seen. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this guy worked for OnTrac and that OnTrac did have some kind of incentive which encouraged this.

I would have had more reliable delivery if Amazon simply gave the packages to a meth head on a BMX bike.

OnTrac is the worst, in Palo Alto the Ontrac guys would drop off every single package they had from Amazon at our Apartment Leasing office after they were closed, so you'd often find 5+ packages sitting on the doorfront in the evening, instead of delivering the packages to the apartment locations (which are clearly labeled and very public)

Now in Oregon I ordered winter tires, Ontrac marked them delivered on the delivery date but never actually dropped them off, later and they decided to deliver 4 days later once I complained to the Shipper.

It's all anecdotal but the moment I see anything delivered by Ontrac I just assume it has a 50/50 chance of being actually delivered.

> It's all anecdotal but the moment I see anything delivered by Ontrac I just assume it has a 50/50 chance of being actually delivered.

USPS does this in my area. I'll frequently get packages that are "out for delivery" switch to "delivered" at around 7:30 - 7:45 PM or so. Then they'll show up the next day.

During the past year, I’ve been getting a photograph on my front porch of the package sitting there along with the delivery notification (I live in Washington county Oregon). I assumed everyone was getting these notifications.

I only get those photos when it was delivered by AMZL (Amazon's own delivery service). I don't get photos when it's delivered by USPS, UPS, Fedex or OnTrac.

They still use them although where I live it just seems to be for larger packages. Most stuff is delivered to me by Flex drivers now. I agree, though, they are the absolute worst.

This guy was probably just a Flex driver. I’ve had bad experiences with them, too, but OnTrac is much worse.

It seems like HNers are quite willing to believe that Amazon factually has the "We'll pay a non-employee contractor a bonus to move without authorization onto private property to take a package they don't have any documentation for and reintroduce it into our logistics system at some arbitrary point in the future" policy.

This... is an unlikely policy for Amazon to have.

It may be indeed, but the article gives no indication that this isn't a policy Amazon has after giving a vague indication that it might be.

HNers are reading a news story as clearly as it was written.

(to contrast, the other option is that HNers would make logical assumptions and making logical assumptions is quite illogical when it comes to how large corporations interact with sub-contractors)

However, the story is quite clear that this is a claim made by the accused thief, and not independently verified in any way. When an accused criminal gives a stupid-sounding justification for why he committed the crime, maybe don’t believe him.

I would argue that the author should have made some attempt to independently verify the claim, or if unable to confirm or deny, at least include a line to that effect.

The article noted that the accused thief has no prior criminal record. That probably means little to nothing. There's no proof that he's not an amazing career criminal holding down a 9-5 in order to mask his criminal activity. There's also no proof that he's never even jaywalked prior to getting in trouble for the GPS Bait Package.

That said, whether he's a secret career criminal or truly a first time offender his defense doesn't really seem like some sort of elaborate explanation he thought of in case he got caught up by the police. It more seems like a vague excuse or a vague lie... But...

Is it really outside of Amazon's realm to have policies that the average person / worker wouldn't agree with? Is it really outside of the public's knowledge that Amazon employees have at times commented about, posted about, and protest over working conditions or pay or break time or lunch time given or scrutiny over many other seemingly menial things that the average person wouldn't expect such a massive and profitable corporation to have enacted and enforced?

This all may mean nothing. Heck, I'll admit it all means nothing, but I'd love to hear an official comment from Amazon about the policy the accused thief mentioned. I'd also love to hear from Amazon employees who would have knowledge about whether such a policy existed or not. Either from a driver or other employees higher up on the food chain like lawyers, HR, or other corporate level employees who may have had to deal with such things directly if not directly dealt with such matters.

When somebody (whoever may be) claims something very unlikely the confidence people have on it being true has no other way to go but up. And people react to that change by talking.

It's a bad cycle where absurd stuff (like "the Earth is plane") gets normalized by people repeating their surprised reactions. But there's no reason to think we are seeing anything besides people coping with an idea they will conclude is baseless.

The news should be read critically, without any assumptions that quoted figures are telling the truth nor assumptions that journalists are always attentive, unconstrained, or unbiased enough to sufficiently disclaim each item of information.

Reading and understanding are distinct from believing, without verification. We know a great deal about the press and its tenancies towards sensationalism. Market incentives certainly encourage sensationalism, for both publishers and individual journalists. It could also be that the article is not sensational at all, and Amazon has a ridiculous policy here.

Until you have concrete evidence to tilt your belief one way or another, the proper disposition is skepticism towards either position.

"Deputies said that they found 18 other Amazon packages inside his vehicle. They delivered the rest of the packages."

That was really awesome of them to do, especially around Christmas!

A telling contrast with the Mark Rober video and comments. Citizen has video evidence of package being stolen ? Or in the case of the comments GPS of offenders? Police dont give a fuck. Trillion dolllar company? Yes sir Mr Bezos, and we’ll deliver those extra packages for you on our time as well!


Seems like in this case the GPS trap is the police's, maybe they like it better if it's their own idea.

In the dystopian near-future, Amazon will start offering police departments these kinds of bait packages so they can reduce package theft...

The dystopian medium-term future is relocation incentives being paid by cities to increase liquidity and therefore facilitate competition in the "better place to live" market.

... I guess we already have those for corporations, so extending it to individuals can't be much worse. But there's currently little meaningful competition to shake out what small-scale policies are better (e.g., the question of how much your police should care about package theft probably has basically the same answer throughout all of American suburbia) and it'd be interesting to see if people make the markets work efficiently (and leave ghost towns in the wake of bad decisions).

They say in the article that the police department was able to double the number of bait packages due to a grant from an external organization. It would be pretty trivial to donate money to a charity or "Friends of" organization and then have them write a grant to pay for bait package kits.

Not saying that's what happened -- lots of people might be pissed about the package-theft epidemic -- but it certainly could.

Why is that dystopian? That actually sounds pretty awesome and would be great if it reduces package thefts.

It is distopian for there to be bait packages that help catch thieves?

I assume every locality has their own set of police priorities. In the case of Mark Rober's video, it's clear that his local police don't care about package theft. The thieves know that, and exploit it. Hence it was necessary for him to do his own thing outside of the law to try and deter people (or at least recoup his losses with some YouTube revenue).

There's a big difference between apprehending a suspect based on fuzzy phone video vs just driving around a little to drop off some packages. Why would you compare those two actions?

If you haven't seen the exact video he's referencing it's here [1].

It certainly was nothing like just "fuzzy phone video". He had 360 degree video with fine detail clearly showing the thieves' faces up close, vehicles, and so on. His bait package also had GPS and several of the thieves took the packages home to open them. You can't have more condemning evidence. But this all begs the question. I expect that those thieves were indeed arrested, unlike the ones he caught on his home surveillance system stealing packages where indeed it was just some video snippets of the thieves taken from cameras several meters away.

[1] - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoxhDk-hwuo

It's just not that simple. I've seen the video but it only starts filming separately after being opened and there's no material loss since the item is retrieved at the end.

Even if this was a normal shipment being stolen, you have to weigh all the costs in time, effort and tax-payer dollars being spent to arrest a suspect and prosecute. When most shipments are either insured and/or replaced for free, it's not worth police time on these petty crimes.

There are a lot of crimes that have no direct victim or 'offender' at all - drugs, prostitution, etc. And these crimes are actively prosecuted. I'd fully agree with you in cases like this that the enforcement is a complete waste of time, effort, and money. But in this case stealing stuff from somebody is a crime that very much has a victim and an offender. Crimes against property are second only to crimes against people. I think these should always be very actively prosecuted.

Beyond that the video also shows a second reason why these crimes need to be actively prosecuted. The creator and his friend trialed their trap packages for what couldn't have been all that long. Yet in that time period they caught around a half dozen thieves, probably around a dozen once you include accomplices. When crimes aren't prosecuted and you have the sort of people that would take advantage of this, you're incentivizing crime.

A third issue is that without enforcement you start to encourage vigilante justice, which can be disproportionate and extremely dangerous. In this case the retribution was good spirited and presumably aimed at embarrassing the police into action and getting some social media love. But you could just as well have somebody who created dangerous packages, or an armed individual seeking to engage in confrontation with the thieves.


And as an aside, with criminal theft it doesn't matter if the item is returned after stolen. A big difference between criminal offenses (including misdemeanors) and civil offenses is that the latter is generally about making material loss right again. The former seeks to right the material loss, but the punishment also includes purely punitive measures. Break a contract to the tune of $100 and you're generally on the line for $100 and some court costs. Steal the same amount and you're facing e.g. 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine.

> When most shipments are either insured and/or replaced for free,

The free part of insurement or replacing is a lie. If there is a 10% chance that your packega will be stolen/lost/break/whatever, then the shipping company ill add a secret 10% more to the price. You are paying for it. It's just that instead of an explicit extra charge that you can't opt out, this is marketed as a free feature.

Deterrent is a thing. Even a couple hundred well-publicized arrests (heck, even a couple dozen sufficiently well-publicized arrests and prosecutions) could move the needle on replacement needs, insurance cost, and all of the intangible inconvenience associated.

Wouldn't that mean this video and the lack of prosecution also did the opposite and possibly encouraged people to do it more?

Yes, it's entirely possible. I still think the primary problem is the state refusing to enforce the sensible laws against theft.

I'm impressed they didn't disappear into the void of, "maybe this needs to be kept as evidence. I dunno... Maybe ... Easier to just assume so than risk getting a slap on the wrist"

Being known as the police department that screwed up some kids Christmas is not a good thing particularly in a town of around 49K. Plus, most small town cops are not bad people (frankly like most people in this world aren't the bad sort).

My sample size of 1 says the opposite. I was driving from Greensboro to that hometown of Lowes. I think ~3 hour drive, speed limit is 70, in the middle of nowhere. I'm doing 75 on cruise. Guy pull behind me on the road empty as far as the eye can see. Rides my bumper for 10 minutes. The lights go on, speeding ticket. Feel free to fly out here again and go to court. The ticket for 5mph over the highway limit? $350. I spend a thousand to get a big time attorney out there, took it to court, got it dismissed. Just to prove a point.

How many stories out there have you read about this happening to people - small town, passing through, and they rape you on made up bs because it's hard for you to come back and go to court. How about all those small towns in the news where they steal all the cash out of your car?

Small town cops are not bad people - to the small town in which they live. Saying they are not bad people in general is opposite of the truth. It's like saying the nazis were great people because they were good to other nazis.

I once got a speeding tickrt for driving 20km/h faster than the claimed speed limit of 100km/h however this was on the german autobahn and nowadays when I'm there people are driving there at speeds of 130km/h and above without getting a ticket.

All of this bullshit is just a moneygrab.

So you broke the law, willingly, and got out of it because you have money.

Or, you know, you could try going outside and joining society. 5mph over on the highway is completely normal, and the only reason the smalltown cop, those OP claims to be nice guys, gave me a ticket is because I was transiting through. $350 for 5mph over on the highway is normal in your world? Again, I urge you to go outside and join society, oh mighty keyboard warrior.


Small town?

People are neither good nor bad; they act depending on penalities, risks, benefits and culture within a range of moods and behaviors.

Sounds like the police in Oregon have too much time on their hands.

Pretty bad when Five-o has to do the job of underpaid temp workers with no livable wages or job security.

> [...] he did it because Amazon has an incentive program that pays drivers $5 for each undelivered package they return.

Not sure I understand the program and how it benefits Amazon in any way.

To avoid people thinking "meh, they aren't answering, I'm just gonna toss it in the garbage". Since these are contractors driving their own cars, they don't "return to Amazon" at the end of the day. So, basically, Amazon is just compensating people for the drive back to the warehouse that they only have to do if they have packages leftover.

(Remember that this article is quoting an arrested man; I think there's a good chance what he's saying is a lie. He's probably just stealing packages.)

but in this case it doesn't make sense. I could understand returning the packages HE was supposed to deliver, but picking up another package already sitting on a porch sounds stupid: don't they have a way to check that this package was never his to deliver?

I think we're reading too much into the words/actions of a petty criminal. I imagine he's lying and was just stealing packages, or at the very least hadn't thought things through properly.

Seems like a poorly designed incentive on Amazon's part is enough to establish reasonable doubt. You get what you measure.

> Seems like a poorly designed incentive on Amazon's part is enough to establish reasonable doubt.

Yes, but a mere claim by the accused that the policy exists with no supporting evidence of the policy is not the same thing as “a poorly designed incentive on Amazon's part”.

If it's true, it does seem like a bit of a loophole.

Perhaps returning too many of his own packages raises a red flag. Or perhaps it's $x per delivery and $y per return, and returning his own packages would eat into his $x.

I mean, I'm sure amazon have a check in place to stop you just picking up your packages in the morning, returning them in the evening, and picking up $y*packages. That's a little bit too obvious.

But it does seem returning packages that weren't yours should be noticed. Perhaps not impossible (red tape shouldn't get in the way of someone doing the right thing), but at least flagged (this has to look as fishy as it sounds).

you're assuming he's telling the truth..

more likely:

- policy exists for drivers own packages or is poorly checked so that other packages can be returned for the $$ even though they are not that drivers

- thief is using loophole/lack of oversight in policy possibly along with feigned ignorance to make this excuse to make the theft seem like an accident

I don't think a driver with a history of that could get away with it, though. Customers will definitely complain if their package just disappears, and it's not very hard to see which delivery contractors have statistically significant higher rates of complaints.

Fair but $5 isn’t really much compensation to drive out of your way to the warehouse either. Seems like a number that comes from balancing the edge cases of people who might occasionally say fuck it because it isn’t worth it 1 in 20 times, while not worrying about the aggregious violators because they’ll be found out anyway.

I still don't get it. Why do they need an incentive to not toss it in the garbage?

I did a bit of research, and found a bunch of people saying they just leave undelivered packages in their cars because they don't have time (desire?) to drive back to the warehouse 10-15 minutes away.

I also couldn't find anything about anyone getting paid, so either the arrested guy was lying or it's something new they're trying?

But if it's true, I'd say it's less of an incentive, and more of Amazon just compensating people who end up having to do more work.



It would seem that Amazon would just pay them to return to the warehouse with merchandise, rather than paying them for each package they don't deliver.

The only place I've seen the $5/package thing mentioned was a quote from the guy who was arrested, so I think we can take it with a grain of salt.

Given Amazon's razor thin margins, zeal for efficiency and cost consciousness, this seems to just be a suspect making up a story to try and get away with a crime.

Not only that. Amazon is aware of which packages it’s given to a delivery driver. If he returned packages that weren’t given to him that’s a major red flag.

If it's between ditching the package and returning it for money, which would you pick?

Maybe the contact says shippers only have to fulfill 99% of their shipments, and leftover items (think a reason that makes delivery impossible) can be abandoned or returned for a kickback.

Do you really think Amazon is going to setup a system where only 99% of customers get their stuff? 1% of Amazon's retail sales is $2.5BB in a year.

No, but that was just an example. What about 0.01%?

I don't know much about Amazon's shipment model, but either this guy is telling the truth and there's a system in place, or he's lying. Either way wouldn't surprise me.

Because a non-zero number of the drivers are scum?

That .. still doesn't make a lot of sense. Does Amazon require signatures for some of their package deliveries? (Honestly asking, I stopped buying things from Amazon a few years ago).

I've not had to sign for an Amazon package - or just about any other online retailer - in years. The only thing I've had to sign for in the recent past is my bitx40 hf radio kit, shipped from hfsignals.com out of India.

Amazon will cheerfully leave many hundred dollar packages on my porch. The other day, they sent a $16 toilet seat by UPS 2nd Day and I had to sign for that...

That’s UPS, and more specifically the UPS driver who made that delivery. Our neighborhood is very safe, but has apparently been flagged as a “don’t leave packages” zone in UPS’ system. Our regular drivers know to leave them, but whenever we get a sub or a fill-in around the holidays, we have to deal with trying to convince them to just drop it at the door.

There is no such program. This was the thief's lie.

Sounds like an instance of Perverse Incentives: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perverse_incentive

One could argue that returning a package to Amazon that had not been picked up would allow Amazon to avoid losses. But the dark pattern, of offering delivery personnel to return to "you" undelivered packages for a $5 bounty would be one way of using the delivery driver as a cutout.

So like you, I'm really curious about this alleged Amazon program.

I suspect it’s a lot more limited and sensible than it sounds from this brief description, and this guy was just an idiot who thought he could make a quick $5 returning a random package.

No prior records. ... This sucks. His ability to get work will be greatly diminished because he thought he could game some poorly structured Amazon system.

I mean, I know it's still his fault. Still, I wish people would take time to think about these kinds of decisions though.

> This sucks. His ability to get work will be greatly diminished because he thought he could game some poorly structured Amazon system.

Poor him. All he did was abuse the trust that was placed in him by his employer. And now it will be harder for him to get a new employer to place trust in him. How unfair.

Pedantic, but Amazon isn't his employer. Flex is B2B contract work. The drivers pay for their gas, self employment tax, FICA, health insurance, etc.

So he robbed his client, not his employer.

I hope railroading this guy assures that none of my amazon packages are ever stolen in this kind of scheme again. I don't feel bad for him whatsoever. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

(Replying to the dead comment)

People are bloodthirsty because stealing packages is so much more personal than, say, shoplifting. The mail is personal. The shit you get shipped is personal. Especially around christmas. "Who the fuck steals the gift for my nana?"

And it's like, people don't usually even know what they're stealing. There's a damage&reward imbalance between the person who loses something of great potential sentimental value (it's not always amazon packages, sometimes it's stuff people send each other), just so that some petty thief has a shot at having something they care about / can make a profit on.

I'm with everyone else on this, fuck people who steal packages. Those and bike thieves.

It seems sensible enough to me. If you steal $item from a shop, you're a shoplifter. You stole it from an abstract corporation. If you take the same $item from /my/ doorstep, you stole it from /me/.

I don't eat the losses, Amazon do. So technically you stole it from them. But just as my insurance company eat the losses if you steal my car, I'm still going to internalize it as "you stole my $item." And I can't help but judge that much more harshly than shoplifting from some faceless name.

It’s also just plain inconvenient. Shoplifting doesn’t affect me as a customer at all, aside from the ambient rate eventually being reflected in prices. But when my package gets stolen, I have to report it and get a replacement sent out, wait for it, hope that one doesn’t get stolen....

It’s small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, but it’s definitely more than retail theft.

  stealing packages is so much more personal than, say, shoplifting
When it occurs at my house, and my name and address the thief clearly knows, it magnifies personal risk in a way that shoplifting doesn't.

Who knows. He doesn’t have to know the specific value. Maybe the thief has analysed the data in some way and has calculated the expected value of a package.

I agree. It's too bad we don't collectively apply that same, sane logic to wall street, banks and the corporations that led to '08 due to their "games." I wonder which is a larger problem...

The problem is we collectively employ the logic of "punish them or subsidize them with bail outs". A free market, without a lender of last resort or FDIC, will effectively punish those responsible for financial crises.

It's funny how bloodthirsty people are when it comes to someone being ultra-punished stealing a consumer product,

but I bet when people talk about wage theft and capitalist malfeasance this guy turns into a corporate lawyer.

I mean, the two scenarios are completely different. Yes, they both suck, but it's almost impossible to compare stealing physical property one owns and "stealing" the potential difference in wage between two individuals.

...that's not what wage theft is

You know, it’s tough. We don’t know this guy’s backstory, but we do live in a society where there are rules. His decision will have personal repercussions. Unfortunately that’s the way things are. And yes, other people steal too but never so much see a fine or jail time, but that’s the way the world works.

Why is it unfortunate that bad judgment or weak moral compass has repercussions?

I feel like it's much worse overall when those things have no repercussions...

Probably because it's obvious to everyone in this instance that this is not a super powerful person.

Lots of people have a weak moral compass and get away with it. It comes down to power, not the weak moral compass.

Give me a break He's a thief who tried to rip off his employer. You know which sort of behavior will stop future employers from trusting you? One guess.

There is no such Amazon system. This was merely his lie when he was caught. Don't feel bad.

>His ability to get work will be greatly diminished because he thought he could game some poorly structured Amazon system.

His ability to get work will be greatly diminished because he is a thief.

Second degree theft is a Class A misdemeanor in Oregon. It will likely have little, if any, effect on his future prospects.

Given that we're all talking about it I have my doubts. This is all one Google search away.

I've started having Amazon packages delivered to Amazon's package lockers. For example, at 7-eleven stores and Safeway stores. I've also had Newegg packages delivered to Walgreen stores. Bit of a hassle to go there for pickup, but better than having expensive things stolen.

>Bit of a hassle to go there for pickup, but better than having expensive things stolen

afaik you're not liable if that happens (Amazon will send another for free), so why should you care?

> so why should you care?

Because you don't have the item you ordered until a second is sent?

I was under the impression that because I've told UPS that they can leave packages without requiring a signature, I'm liable for packages that disappear. But I'm not sure - I have never had a package stolen, so I don't know what would happen

Because some thief is getting away with it.

... and now associates your name and address with items of value to be had.

> Johnson admitted to taking bait package, claiming he did it because Amazon has an incentive program that pays drivers $5 for each undelivered package they return.

Like paying for rat tails.

I used to drive for an Amazon contractor earlier this year and I can tell you from experience that most package theft isn't coming from situations like this, but instead packages that are actually a part of a driver's route

Usually each delivery contractor has a set delivery area because of this it's extremely obvious when you're given a bait package because it's usually got an address that's very much out of your way. Or the package will look really beat up. Most of the time it's the former in these cases. Where I saw the most theft happen was packages that had an address that couldn't be found, clearly marked items (ex. toilet paper in a branded box), or a driver genuinely misplaces a package inside the van so they mark it missing only to find it later in the day. Now you might ask: why not just bring a package back if there's a legitimate issue with it's delivery? You'll be marked down. So it's easier in many cases to simply rip off the label and abandon it or take it for yourself and hope you've been given something valuable.

Most of these guys are in rough situations, are under extreme pressure to perform (200 + deliveries in a day), and often aren't given benefts or a stable schedule. Turnover is extremely high, employee theft is absolutely rampant, and frankly it seems like Amazon never cared so long as there was a certain threshold of delivered packages for the day.

Sure when you are claiming multiple packages per week are on your manifest but not present in your van things get suspicious, but of course all they do is send you an extremely obvious bait package that you'll end up returning unless you're just stupid. Many of these drivers aren't lasting more than a year and almost all of them are gaming the system through the method I listed above so there's no reprecussion for doing the wrong thing and in most cases doing the right thing gets you a thank you coupled with a black mark on your record. I've seen easily over 10k worth of theft in my first few months I really do wonder how Amazon manages to stay in business.

> ... claiming he did it because Amazon has an incentive program that pays drivers $5 for each undelivered package they return.

and then

> "This behavior is unacceptable and does not reflect the high standards we have for delivery partners," Amazon

so you build a delivery system with incentives to not deliver packages, then fire those with the temerity to game the system.

so you build a delivery system with incentives to not deliver packages, then fire those with the temerity to game the system.

I think the incentive is to keep drivers from tossing undeliverable packages into the trash or just dumping them on the ground where the address should be even if it's a vacant lot.

Only a thief would treat it as an incentive to not deliver packages.

Lots of businesses make it easy for dishonest employees to steal from them, but it's still the employee's fault when he takes advantage of the system. When I was in college, bartenders were notorious for pouring double drinks for their friends (or pouring a drink and pocketing the money, etc)... and some bar owners tried to put expensive pour metering systems in place to combat it, but the ones I'm aware of were eventually disbanded because the system made making drinks more labor intensive, and labor was more expensive than some free booze. So even if bartenders can skim money, that doesn't mean they should or that it's the employer's fault for not doing more to stop it.

We expect people to follow the law even when breaking it would profit them. Do we criticize stores for building a business with incentives for taking stuff without paying, then prosecuting people who take advantage of that?

We've built systems to fleece the sick and dying and put children into prisons, why the hell not?

You're being overly critical of society, and failing to consider the nuance in all of these policies. What's the alternative to allowing healthcare providers to sell their product/services to the dying? Throw anyone who does in prison? But then you're criminalizing consensual interactions. Force other people to pay for the medical care of the dying? Then you're throwing people who refuse to care for people they have no moral responsibility for in prison. Maybe you think the latter is the answer, but it's not an easy thing to justify, especially for those who reject your ideological presuppositions.

And what do you do with children of people entering the country illegally? Release them to their parents, and let their parents go home without punishment? Maybe that's what you prefer. But there are major trade-offs from having such a policy, in losing the ability to disincentivize illegal immigration, so it's not obvious it's the right stance.

It's easy to criticize society when you don't have a better alternate solution to difficult problems. You're mistaken if you think throwing your arms in the air and saying "to hell with it", and contributing to those problems, by justifying theft of property, won't make things worse. It will. The only constructive way forward is to do the right thing in every situation, and clearly the right thing is not to violate the trust your client/employer put in you and steal a package. Making excuses for this behaviour only encourages more people to go down this destructive path in life.

I'm not even clear what the first line is saying. Packages undelivered by.. them? other drivers? How? If it's by another driver, how do they get it, and how do they know it's not delivered? If it's their own package, wait, they're literally paying drivers not to deliver my packages? What in the actual hell.

AFAICT (from googling), it's actually for returning undeliverable packages (no access, etc), and it sounds like resorting to this regularly it will reflect negatively on your job status.

Maybe it was intended for the case when someone orders a bunch of stuff from Amazon, but then goes on vacation before it's delivered. Then when a driver notices that yesterday's delivery hasn't been collected yet, it might be for the best to take it back and try again a few days later.

I think some explanation is missing here. Why would Amazon pay its drivers to pick up other packages and return them to Amazon? Surely the Amazon incentive program would only apply to packages which that driver picked up at the beginning of their route but was unable to deliver.

It doesn't seem necessary to have a program like he's claiming - it's easy to see who's not delivering packages and not returning them, and it's easy to then never work with that person again. So I doubt his claim is true.

As long as the incentive to actually deliver them is higher, it seems sensible enough to me. It's the loophole that allows him to return things that weren't his to return, that sounds like it may be more problematic than intended.

The driver had the "temerity" to remove a delivered package from someone's porch for $5 of personal profit at the cost of the shipper's and receiver's time and/or money.

"Gaming" systems in reality can result in draconian, irreversible punishments. That _some_ systems are more permissive and allow people to exploit them once, twice, or more times before exercising punishments is no guarantee that _all_ systems will.

There is fault to be found with Amazon for designing a bad system. There is fault to be found with the driver for "gaming" a bad system. One does not excuse the other. Participants in a badly-designed system are not automatically empowered to disregard the rules and "game" that system.

TLDR: "An eye for an eye" may be an appealing strategy, but it is not universally accepted as valid.

All this talk about the returned package credit is surprising me.

Occam's Razor would suggest here that the driver was simply a thief who lied and gave an excuse that made himself look less guilty than if he'd stolen.

If he is guilty of theft then Amazon was accepting fenced goods.

I don't see what is controversial about these definitions. If peons are going to be charged with serious crimes over dark patterns used for free advertising that eat up civic resources then follow through on the rest of the law..

He is guilty of violating ToS or fraud, (to whatever extent Amazon could believe he (regularly?) found 18 undelivered packages!?) but if this is theft then Amazon was encouraging and abetting theft.

The DA should really start the process of investigating this Amazon program to see if Amazon is benefiting materialy from returned packages not being claimed, etc, etc.

Would they benefit? Assuming it's amazon packages that are being returned (I can't see any other approach that's remotely logical), then either:

a) they re-attempt delivery, and it's zero-sum (with slightly raised logistics costs)

b) the package goes in the returns bin, and they send a new replacement (at a loss, returns aren't sold at ticket value)

c) the package goes in the returns bin, and the customer is refunded (also at a loss due to the devaluation of the return).

None of these options actually has amazon benefitting. The latter two just have them lose less.

D) Amazon doesn't actively report the return to the recipient and waits for the recipient to claim it. Some recipients don't, some packages are incorrectly paid for by their delivery contractor (USPS) insurance or go into incorrect penalties against them.

The most likely thing I would suspect is an initial program intended to handle seasonal employees leaving packages at the wrong door, then being abused leading to needing to come back and scan before redelivery..

I don't see why Amazon didn't spend their quote denying they in anyway paid drivers for returns as it reads to me like they aren't really denying that they might have a dark incentive that they became reluctant to fix.

(The article reads a little like it is just local police beat, but then there should be nothing from Amazon.)

What would happen if I noticed a package not addressed to me on my porch, and I:

1) Took it inside?

2) Took it inside and called USPS/FedEx/UPS depending on the shipping label?

3) Took it into my car, and drove to a USPS/FedEx/UPS office depending on the label?

To add, I appreciate that there are efforts behind solving this problem. I'm living in an apartment, and I've had to deal with missing packages as well. I'd personally rather have legitimate packages have trackers, and then return or drop-off the tracker once I receive the package successfully. I understand the price would be high given the scale of my ask.

You live there. You're allowed to remove items from your own porch. I think the scenarios would be:

1) Cops show up and and say, "Hey, that was a bait package. Can we get it back?"

2) Same as 1), plus USPS/FedEx/UPS would be unable to locate the tracking number.

3) Cops pull you over, thinking you're a porch pirate. You tell them where you live, and they regret the error, and ask for their bait package back.

(But these scenarios probably wouldn't happen in the first place. I assume that the chosen bait locations were done with the knowledge of the residents.)

4) Cops arrest and charge you with theft over $10000 (the tracker is overpriced), interfering with an investigation, and resisting arrest. You make a deal and plead guilty to resisting arrest in exchange for having the other charges dropped.

It could happen but is so unlikely as to be not worth considering.

In the US everything is possible coming from a cop. Like being pulled over because you're black, having your car searched because it "smells of cannabis", and once nothing is found, they decide to seize $150,000 of your cash through civil forfeiture because you didn't blink the turning light long enough and one of the bills was a counterfeit $20. [0]


Not sure what you're getting at. Are you suggesting that the police would leave bait packages at random houses without the informed consent of the occupants? And then arrest them if they picked them up? That would be nuts, but there's no suggestion of anything like that in the article.

You could have informed consent of some of the occupants and not all e.g. tenants, roommates. I also assume they have informed consent, but there was no explicit mention of this consent in the article.

This happened a couple blocks from me. There's been a ton of packages going missing around here. Luckily I live on a small off street that doesn't really attract criminals.

Also should add, I've had pretty bad luck with amazons hired drivers actually delivering packages on time or at all. When I lived in the city they'd often call me up asking me to meet them down on the street since they couldn't figure out how an apartment building worked.

I'm off Millikan and Amazons direct couriers have been an order of magnitude more reliable than my UPS driver (who doesn't follow my delivery preferences and takes my stuff to random UPS stores that I have to pick it up from).

> who doesn't follow my delivery preferences and takes my stuff to random UPS stores that I have to pick it up from

Corporate policy, Access Point after 1 attempt is cheaper than 3 attempts when the resident is likely at work anyway. Driver release (most situations where the package is left at your house and the shipper didn't explicitly authorize it) is at driver discretion, it's their problem to a degree if something gets stolen.

I live about a mile west from the Nike campus. I have Amazon deliver packages to the locker at the Plaid Pantry on Murray and Walker. Never a misdelivery, never a stolen package. And I drive right by it as I drive home from my daily commute, so it's super convenient.

Thats good to hear. Fedex is the one here that is really unreliable. I work from home and my office faces the street. I'll have the blinds open and the driver will still try to sneak up and leave a delivery attempted note.

So does anyone know why delivery drivers do that? Is there some sort of perverse incentive to leaving a delivery note versus actually delivering the package?

I can kinda get the incentive (saving time) on signature-required packages, since it's faster to slap a label on the door than wait for someone to answer and sign for the thing.

But why do they do it on non-signature packages? It makes no sense.

It may also be an attempt to hide a failure they made that would likely be held against them if found out (e.g. if they forgot to load a pallet on to the truck).

My best guess is the package is buried in the truck and don't feel like digging it out.

My own experience with AMZL (Amazon Logistics) was so bad that I got Amazon to add a delivery preference to my account so they don't use AMZL unless it's the only option

Why is it standard practice in the US to leave undelivered packages on the porch of people's homes? With the reports of stolen packages and Amazon having to put dummy packages to catch thieves, as a non-American I'm struggling to understand why they don't just put them back in the truck and let you arrange a later delivery or pick-up at the closest parcel centre.

Ultimately, if I'm not home on Monday between 9am and 5pm, I'm not going to be home on Tuesday between 9am and 5pm. That might sound like a simplistic answer, but I want my package and I don't want to have to pick it up at the service center or stay home to wait for it.

I also think that package theft is reasonably rare - to the point that retailers are willing to put up with it and just re-ship the packages. I live in a major city and in a decade I've never had one package be taken (at 5 addresses in different neighborhoods). Personally, I wouldn't want them to attempt re-delivery for days and then tell me to come to their service center to pick it up.

Companies like UPS and Amazon also have options if you're worried about theft. UPS can leave it at lots of convenience stores for pickup. Amazon has their lockers all over the place.

Still, given that I've never had a single package stolen including shipments of laptops and such, I don't really want to have to travel to pick up my package.

Packages get stolen here so often, that every other door in our neighborhood says "Please do not leave packages out front".

Because in much of the country it is incredibly rare to have a package stolen off of a porch. For example I have never had a package stolen nor do I know of a person who has had a package stolen off of their porch.

The person sending the package can choose if the package is left at the door or if it requires a signature. Amazon and others like them have decided that the increased convenience is worth the occasional cost of reshooting a package.

I know of two separate cases of package theft so...ymmv.

It varies greatly depending on where you live. Where I live, an Amazon package was stolen once six months ago and it literally made front-page news in the local newspaper. People don't lock their houses, they leave their keys in the car. Most of the time, nothing comes of it.

Most of the country is somewhere between here and "thief follows UPS truck and steals all unattended packages," but there's lots of places where leaving packages unattended makes good economic sense.

I don't think it is standard practice but depends on neighborhood. Trying to re-deliver a package should be more costly than covering the cost of lost package when the crime rate is low.

Because forcing everyone to drive someplace to pick up a package is extremely annoying to customers who have a reasonably-secure location to leave packages.

Being from the US, I'm actually surprised to learn it isn't the same everywhere. How do people get their packages if they work during delivery time every day? Does everyone just drive down to the shipping warehouse?

Also, I'm not sure how it works outside the US, but here frequently packages with higher value items will require a signature and therefore wouldn't be left on a porch.

In India, people may prefer to get these delivered at work. For those who give their home address but aren't available there, usually what happens is that the delivery/courier person calls the recipient and figures out what to do (come back later or hand it over to building security or leave it with a neighbor, etc.). In some cases, the courier delivery person may not call, and then the package may just go back to the sender, involving lengthy processes to get it shipped back.

> How do people get their packages if they work during delivery time every day?

One option is to have the package delivered to the work address, or if you live in a building with a reception, the receptionist receives the package for you.

(Also, where I live a house's porch is normally behind the fence, so to leave a package in the porch it would have to be thrown over the gate.)

I have a mailbox at a UPS store. Solves the signature problem and the theft problem.

This happened to my friend last year, her security camera captured the whole thing: driver dropped off the package, took a picture as proof of delivery, then picked up the package. She didn't report to the police in fear of retaliation.

Fear that the driver would retaliate?

I mean, if it's a driver I'd report it right to Amazon. They'd probably care more than the police.

What does Amazon do with packages returned like this one was about to be? Presumably delivery is re-tried or the user refunded... in which case stopping this behaviour isn't actually preventing any thefts, just adding delays.

So we have some Amazon drivers stealing Amazon packages now? Seems like in 5 years this won't be an issue anymore, not sure how yet, but seems like it will be solved.

Cobra effect seems to be brewing here.

As others have pointed out, the guy may be pretending to have misinterpreted the way the program works in order to reduce his penalty. Other than his statement, there's no indication that Amazon does pay drivers to return packages never assigned to them. He may also have genuinely misinterpreted the rule and been unlucky enough to get caught his first time trying to game the system.

Even if their system has the flaw described by the theif, their package tracking system would be pretty poorly designed if it can't be trivially modified to prevent drivers from returning packages not assigned to them.

I imagine they also datamine non-delivery and missing package rates by neighborooh, day-of-week, driver, and a few other factors and flag suspicious drivers. This probably means having a given driver cover a patchwork of different neighborhoods on on irregular schedule to reduce the effect of a driver being unlucky enough to get assigned a high theft neighborhood on a high theft day of the week.

If they find the package return rates are really too high, it's easy enough to just pay all drivers to return to the warehouse at the end of their shift. However, that probably costs significantly more and is inconvenient for drivers.

Amazon giveth, Amazon taketh away...

The law, in its infinite magnanimity, forbids the rich and poor alike from stealing bread, sleeping under bridges, and loitering.

Considering the demographic of the people who read Hacker News I would be willing to bet that most of you have never seriously considered having to steal to get by.

Comparing stealing a package to stealing bread is silly.

Downvote if you want, but I have real sympathy for these crooks. This leaving of valuables on our front porches is a new thing. If I were shopping at a mall, and left my purchases on the roof of my car, I would not expect them to remain there hours later. Theft is illegal but for centuries we at least made it difficult. We didn't rely on the law as the only deterrent. Leaving valuables on your front porch while you are at work is like walking out into a crosswalk and just assuming that all the cars will stop for you.

Arrest the thieves. Punish them as the law deems necessary. But do not demonize them. These glitter bombs and GPS devices are sad. These are non-violent property crimes. Cops have far more important things to do than protect your right to leave your new iPhone in public view all day.

Pay for proper delivery. Take the time to pick it up at a dropoff location. Have it sent to a neighbor who is home during the day. That's far easier than playing pathetic pranks on pathetic criminals.

It’s not a new thing by any means. Mail order has been a common thing for well over a century. It’s more frequent now, but unattended valuables being left on porches goes back a long time.

It’s actually pretty common in a lot of places not to put much effort into securing valuables. In places with little property crime, people often leave their cars and houses unlocked.

Blame the thieves, not the victims.

Well stated point. I disagree with you but will certainly not downvote you.

I guess as a former attorney I see the slippery slope here, the history. Once upon a time there was a guy who hung out on the NYC subway. He had nice cloths and a fancy watch. He was the bait. With a revolver in his pocket he was also the hunter. He found what he was looking for. These bait boxes are a step towards that guy on the subway. They aren't exactly entrapment or vigilantism, but nevertheless aren't ethical behavior.


What makes it unethical? It seems like it would be nice to live in a world in which thieves are constantly wondering if their latest acquisition is actually bait that’s going to land them in jail.

> aren't exactly entrapment

Are you saying that dressing nice is approaching entrapment?

I can think of some similar arguments...

I could see an entrapment angle for something that appears to be abandoned property. Not for something that has very clear ownership, where you can expect that the owner is going to come for it in the near future.

Someone that invades personal space deserves an amount of demonizing.

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