The Biggest Waste of Money Is Getting My Packages Delivered Elsewhere

On the price we pay for convenience.

Photo: Tracey Adams

Getting packages delivered to my home is something that should be easy. Like everything else in New York, this task that most people consider convenient is actually very difficult.

My apartment has a door that opens to the mailboxes and a vestibule, then another door that opens to the stairs and the units in the building. I’ve lived in this building for six years and never thought it strange. Of course I should have to pass through two doors to get to my home. Yes, both those doors should have locks. While it would make perfect sense for there to be a buzzer on the outside of the building — this is where buzzers go, I’m told — mine is located underneath my mailbox, behind a locked door.

Getting anything sent to my house that does not fit in my mailbox is a nightmare. We leave notes on the front door and leave the front door unlocked. I put my name, apartment number and phone number on Post-Its with desperate pleas to the delivery person to call, throw a rock at the window or just break in. When I worked in an office building, I had my dumb Amazon things and shoes and eyeglasses sent there. Now that I work from home, I wait by the door.

“I’m staying home to wait for a package” is not an excuse; I’m literally staying at home to wait for this package so that I can sign for it, receive it, re-lock the front door and make sure that no one slips in unnoticed.

“Just get your packages delivered to the office place down the street,” my sister told me one day after gritting her teeth through a diatribe about the location of a package I had yet to receive. “They’ll just hold them there for you and you go pick them up. It’s easy.”

This simple solution was really just as easy as it sounds. The next thing I ordered online was a dress to wear to a wedding. I directed that dress to the office store down the street from my house, picked it up and discovered that it cost $4 per package, plus more if they held them for longer than five days.

Of course they should charge for this service and given the amount of packages I saw behind the counter, a lot of other people in my neighborhood pay for this, too. I pushed my debit card across the counter, grabbed a three pack of Post-Its to make the $8 minimum, threw in a pen for good measure and left.

Paying for a service that is ostensibly free for the sake of convenience is the very definition of throwing money at a problem. I have a mailbox! It works! If the door is open, the package should be left! But it rarely is and so I’m suckered every time into toddling down the street and giving these people my money. It’s not that the money is that significant or that I’m unable to pay — at the risk of sounding like a prig, it’s the principle. Paying money to make something just a little bit easier feels bad, but if $4 erases the particular stress I feel around packages and their timely delivery, than I guess it’s worth it.

What do you pay for that you shouldn’t, but do because it’s easy? What price will you pay for convenience?

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