Stories

The perils of online Christmas shopping

Illustration of a holiday gift covered in package delivery stamps with a gloved hand about to grab it
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More and more shoppers are getting their Christmas gifts delivered to their homes with just a click — but that comes with consequences.

The big picture: Around a quarter of Americans had packages stolen from their doorsteps last year. As online shopping keeps growing, the holidays have turned into a windfall for porch pirates.

By the numbers:

  • Holiday shopping online is becoming the norm. This past Cyber Monday was Amazon's biggest sales day in history. And FedEx delivered a record-breaking 33 million packages that day. UPS planned on shipping 32 million parcels each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Transport Topics.
  • At the same time, Google searches from “stolen package” have been steadily growing over the past decade, according to Google Trends data. Searches spike every December.
  • More than 90,000 packages are stolen every day in New York City, and 1.7 million packages throughout the country are stolen or go missing each day, per the New York Times.
  • An average of 26.2 packages per person are stolen in North Dakota — the highest package theft rate of any state, followed by Vermont, Alaska or New Mexico, according to a 2017 study by video security company Blink.
  • The average value of a stolen package in 2017 was $140, per research from Ring, Amazon’s doorstep surveillance company, as reported by Bloomberg.

Stolen parcels might make for a blue Christmas, but there are a host of hidden costs that come with the holiday online shopping rush. Retailers’ warehouse workers and drivers are up against extremely demanding workloads to get the orders out on time.

  • And there’s a steep environmental cost that comes with the planes, trucks and energy-draining warehouses it takes to ship gifts all over the country and world

What to watch: The thefts are creating new business opportunities for tech giants and startups alike.

  • Amazon advertises its entire smart home apparatus — including Ring — as a way to prevent thefts. One Axion even bought his mother a Ring doorbell as a Christmas present. (Although Ring has recently come under fire after its cameras were hacked by strangers who would speak to customers, their dogs or children.)
  • Amazon has also invested in lockers for package safekeeping.
  • And the thefts are giving rise to new startups aiming to help solve the problem, such as Pickups or Latch.

The bottom line: Santa might have been onto something with chimney delivery.