I tried one of Amazon’s new instant pickup locations. Here’s how it went.

I buy pretty much everything on Amazon.

So when I received an email promotion about two new Amazon locations that offer free same-day pickup just blocks from my home and not too far afield from my commute, I decided to try them in the name of research and future convenience.


Here’s how it went down:

I first tried to order baby wipes (I had my first little darling six months ago) at 3 p.m. on a weekday. No dice. You need to order before noon for same-day pickup.

The next morning, while on the train on my way into the office, I ordered my gear and selected same-day pickup. To add same-day pickup as an option, you need to log in to your Amazon account and add your chosen pickup location to your shipping addresses. I chose the new center near the DePaul University campus in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

advertisement

When checking out, you choose to have your item shipped to your pickup location.

Done. I received a confirmation email that my order would be available for pick up later that day.

Here’s where we hit a snag.

About five hours later, I received another email saying the order wouldn’t be available until the next day. Bummer. I was low on baby wipes. I had ordered plenty early (about 8:45 a.m.) before the noon cutoff time. Then, later that evening, at about 7 p.m. after I was home, I received another email informing me that my items were ready.

I decided to try and order something again a few days later, and this time went more smoothly.

advertisement

I again ordered well before the noon cutoff and the email stating that my order was ready to be picked up, which I got later that day, contained a button to tap to retrieve a pickup code. I tapped it to bring up a bar code I would scan at a storage unit to get my order. (If the bar code scanner doesn’t work, you can enter a numerical code on a touch pad at one of the lockers inside the Amazon location.) If you tap the button in the email too far ahead of your arrival at the pickup center (which I did), it expires. But all you need to do is tap the button again for the system to generate a new code. If you forget your phone, you can log in to your Amazon account at a kiosk in the center, pull up your order and show a staffer your ID. Your number in line then displays on an overhead screen and a staffer will retrieve your goods.

It was easy.

The location was clean, bright and airy—though fairly empty—with two helpful staffers happy to explain the process.

The centers don’t sell Amazon gear. That surprised me as I thought this might be another platform for the e-commerce giant to market such products as Kindle tablets and Echo speakers.

My location, which according to the promotional email I received just opened mid-October, receives about 200 packages per day for pickup, according to the store associate I chatted with. The packages are dropped off daily by UPS, U.S. Postal Service and Amazon trucks, the employee said.

advertisement

A few perks to the system:

  • If you opt for same-day pickup and wind up not being able to retrieve your order that day, the location will hold your items for 15 days.
  • The center accepts returns of Amazon orders. I didn’t do this, but another woman did while I was there, and it seemed to go smoothly. According to Amazon’s site: the locations “… accept returns of most items that are sold by Amazon.com. You can print your return label at home or use our self-service kiosk to print a label for your return. Select ‘Returns’ on the main screen to find options for starting or continuing a return process. If you need a box or tape, we are happy to provide them.” That’s a major bonus in my book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at my local post office and been forced to shell out $10 for a roll of tape and a box to return a package. You can only return items that come with a prepaid shipping label.
  • You don’t need to be a Prime member to use the service. But Prime customers get many items shipped free to the pickup locations. Non-Prime members would pay the same shipping fees they would for packages delivered to their homes.
  • You can ship almost any item that is sold by Amazon to these locations. I selected Amazon-branded Amazon Elements baby wipes. However, “items shipped directly from suppliers or that may be too large for us to accommodate aren’t eligible, but we’ll let you know before you select your shipping address,” Amazon says.
  • You can opt in to receive text notifications when your package arrives and is ready for pickup.
  • The pickup locations are open late-ish: My pickup location is open until 9 p.m. every day.

On its site, Amazon says eligible items will have a “Pick it up TODAY” message below the price on Amazon.com. You also can filter your Amazon.com search results to show only eligible items by selecting the “Free Same-Day Pickup” box in the upper left corner of the search results page. If you place your order after noon, look for a “Pick it up TOMORROW” message below the item price, Amazon says. I never saw this. I only was able to select the pickup location as my address at checkout after I had added it as a saved address.

29% of consumers said they would pay to pick up an online order in a store, but just 23% of retailers offer the service according to the 2017 State of Shipping in Commerce (United States) report from fulfillment software vendor Temando. When it comes to weekend and after-hours delivery, 34% of shoppers would pay for such a service but just 25% of retailers offer it. The gap is more striking for same-day and what Temando calls “hyperlocal” delivery, which is within one to three hours; 38% of consumers want this service but only 24% of retailers offer it.

Between Amazon’s two-day Prime shipping, Prime Now two-hour delivery and Pickup Locations—not to mention other programs such as Amazon Lockers that let shoppers fetch and return items in locations such as 7-Elevens—Amazon has all the aforementioned consumer wants covered and then some.

Amazon is the undisputed king of U.S. online retail. It took the throne by making shopping as efficient and easy as possible. One-click ordering is so easy, my six-month-old can do it. The Amazon Echo, powered by Alexa software,  means you can cook dinner and order the sage you just ran out of by speaking—never needing to pick up your phone or open your laptop.

advertisement

Aside from the few kinks that need to be worked out, the new pickup locations are just one more way I see Amazon securing its retail throne.

Favorite