Royal Mail today announced that it will be rolling out its ‘Delivery to Neighbour’ initiative which I’ve mentioned a few times. With Ofcom’s approval, they’re pre-empting the consultation, for which the deadline is a week today.
I’ve just been talking to Nikki Bedi on Radio London about some of the neighbourliness issues. I made the point that some people will have genuine good reason not to be taking-in a neighbour’s packages, and we need to avoid their being stigmatised by the opt-out sticker (‘Neighbours not trusted here’) on their doorway. Technology, as I’ve suggested before, can surely be used to advantage, for instance through QR-coded digital instructions on the package.
The scheme obviously implies a potential increase in neighbour interaction. The Ofcom consultation document reminds us that ‘in the trial areas there was a reduction of approximately 40% in the numbers of undeliverable items that were returned to delivery offices’ (emphasis added). That might be interpreted as a non-trivial increase in the number of neighbourly conversations that might not have happened before.
Hopefully we’ll hear of more neighbourhoods with an informally ‘designated’ older person who is at home most of the time and known to the postal worker – and in return for the neighbourly service the recipients readily stop for a chat and catch up when they go round to collect their package.
Online technology has helped to reduce the number of letters we get, but contributed to an increase in the number of packages being transported. We live in smaller households and there is less likely to be someone at home during the day, so there’s an increase in the proportion of packages not being delivered.
Our letterboxes aren’t fit for purpose. The market solution is the external security box or parcel pod, with the deliverer placing the package into the unlocked container and usually being expected to ensure it is locked afterwards. This is part of the ongoing not-entirely-tasteful extension of secured privacy beyond the home, and Kev's Automatic Door Principle (which I referred to here) applies - another example of technology confiscating tiny social interactions.
I’m sure the market for such boxes is set to expand, although our house-builders and architects might yet come up with alternative solutions. I much prefer the simple social alternative of the ‘Delivery to Neighbour’ scheme.