Biz Beat

Love shopping online but hate stolen packages? Amazon, Walmart offer Modesto pickup

When online shopping started, the magic was being able to order something from your couch and a few days later have it show up at your doorstep.

But now that online shopping has become a staple of everyday life, a decidedly less magical side-effect has emerged — rampant package theft. So two retail giants have begun fighting that problem in Modesto by installing new delivery methods.

For Amazon, it’s its Hub Lockers, which began popping up at valley 7-Eleven and Rite Aid stores in Modesto this summer. For Walmart, it’s its new Pickup Tower installed in July inside its McHenry Avenue Supercenter store.

Both allow customers to buy products online, have them delivered to either the lockers or tower location and then pick it up from a secure digital kiosk, thus thwarting package thieves. The new pickup options no doubt also save both companies money on pricey home delivery services.

The imposing 16-foot tower near the entrance of the Walmart Supercenter on McHenry Avenue is hard to miss. The automated Pickup Tower stores your online orders inside, and delivers them almost like a vending machine when they arrive.

“They just need to bring their confirmation code, scan it, and they’re in and out in under 5 seconds,” said Juanito Herrera, McHenry Walmart store co-manager.

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Department manager Amanda Arriaga adds an order to the pickup tower Friday afternoon September 13, 2019 at the McHenry avenue Walmart in Modesto, Calif. Also pictured at left is co-manager Juanito Herrera. New Walmart pickup towers allow guests to retrieve their online orders at fixed locations, instead of home delivery. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

While people could opt to have their online orders shipped to the store before, they would previously have to wait in line at customer service and speak to a clerk, who would retriever their order. This way an associate stocks the tower once an order is delivered to the store, and the customer receives an email with a code they scan on the tower’s kiosk screen. You then have about a week to come retrieve your package.

Small to medium-sized items are stocked inside the tower, which can hold anywhere from 150 to 200 items. Larger items are placed in nearby lockers, with more lockers being installed before the holidays. Oversized items can be picked up directly from the loading docks, said Herrera.

“Everyone comes in and says, ‘What’s going on here?’ But as soon as they find out what it’s for they are excited about it,” he said.

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Department manager Amanda Arriaga prepares items at the pickup tower Friday afternoon September 13, 2019 at the McHenry avenue Walmart in Modesto, Calif. New Walmart pickup towers allow guests to retrieve their online orders at fixed locations, instead of home delivery. Joan Barnett Lee jlee@modbee.com

I expect the tower to be hopping during the holidays, and a great alternative to the no-doubt even longer checkout lines. The McHenry Avenue Walmart is the only location in Stanislaus County, the next closest is in Stockton.

Much like Walmart’s Pickup Tower, Amazon’s Hub Lockers are automated pickup locations where people can get their deliveries at a secure site. The online mega-retailer has partnered with 7-Eleven and Rite Aid nationwide to place the lockers either inside or outside for convenient pickup.

The lockers began popping up in Modesto this summer. The rectangular bank of lockers, either brightly colored yellow or a more demure gray each with its own name like Bennie or Elisha, each have a touchscreen kiosk at its center.

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Amazon has installed new Hub Lockers in various locations in Modesto and the Central Valley. The locker outside of a 7-Eleven on McHenry Avenue pictures Sept. 12, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

You order online from Amazon like normal, then select locker pickup instead of home delivery. Once the package arrives, an Amazon delivery person loads it into one of the locker cubicles. Then an email is sent to say your package is ready for pickup that same day.

At the locker, you punch in the confirmation code from your email, then one of the locker doors will pop open and away you go. Amazon gives customers three days to pick up from the locker, then it will send it back for a refund.

Modesto has six Amazon Hub Lockers total, four of which are available 24 hours at the 7-Eleven sites and two open during business hours at the Rite Aid. Most are indoors, though the lockers at the 7-Eleven on McHenry And Woodrow avenues and Standiford Avenue and Prescott Road are outside.

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Amazon has installed new Hub Lockers in various locations in Modesto and the Central Valley. An Amazon delivery person brings packages to a locker inside of a Rite Aid on McHenry Avenue on Sept. 12, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

Turlock also has a Hub Locker available at the Rite Aid on Monte Vista Avenue across from Stanislaus State University.

But Amazon does have some restrictions on what can be delivered to its lockers. Items must be sold and fulfilled by Amazon and cannot weigh more than 10 pounds or be valued at over $5,000. Boxes can’t be larger than 16 inches long and no hazardous materials are allowed — but that’s probably a good rule of thumb all around when it comes to online shopping.

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Amazon has installed new Hub Lockers in various locations in Modesto and the Central Valley. The locker outside of a 7-Eleven on McHenry Avenue pictures Sept. 12, 2019. Marijke Rowland mrowland@modbee.com

If this all sounds a little like picking up from the post office the old-fashioned way, you’re not wrong. But still, for both Amazon and Walmart in Modesto, you can order from the comfort of your couch.

Now you’ll just be able to pick up safely at your own convenience. And package thieves will have to go find a new hobby.

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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