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How Do Pet Stores Handle Claims of Porch Piracy?

Indies share what they do when a customer says a package was never delivered.

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ONLINE SALES ARE averaging more than in-store sales lately, Evelyn thought as she scrolled through orders processed during the past week. Not only are regular customers placing orders for local delivery, but her store also has gained quite a few new customers since adding home delivery to its services.

ABOUT REAL DEAL

Real Deal is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual pet businesses and people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

NANCY GUINN is founder and president of Dog
Krazy Inc., an award-winning pet supply store in Virginia with six locations. Also a clinical pet nutritionist, she consults with veterinarians and pet parents alike. Nancy shares her life with business partner and husband Chris, and their pets Sushi, Pork Wonton, Stirfry Fatguy, Tala, Jimmy Dean and Max.

She looked at the order log to make sure all deliveries were marked as complete and that any upcoming deliveries were on the driver’s route for the following day. Evelyn had added many extra steps to ensure every order arrived quickly and safely.

As she scrolled, a message popped up from a customer whose package was delivered two days prior. It read, “I noticed my order shows it was delivered, but I have not received anything from your company. Please let me know when my items will arrive.”

Evelyn clicked on the customer’s name and saw that this was his first order. The billing and shipping addresses were correct, as her employees had marked the order as “called to confirm,” which they do with all first-time customers. She sent a quick text to her driver, Caden, to ask if he remembered delivering the package. Caden responded immediately and let her know that he did deliver the package and told her exactly where the customer lived. Caden also sent her a photo of the package sitting on the customer’s front doorstep. Due to porch piracy in the past, Evelyn had added taking photos of packages upon delivery as proof.

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This was a $150 sale that is now “missing,” Evelyn thought as she looked at the photo verifying that the address on the order matched the house number in the picture Caden sent. She looked at what the customer purchased and saw that not only was it a new and expensive order, it also included an item that she no longer had in stock. To get in another would take a week or more. There was no way she could quickly redeliver the order even if she wanted to.

Evelyn’s staff follow all necessary steps to ensure their customers receive what they order. She has proof that the package was delivered, but now the new customer is claiming it was never received.

The Big Questions

  • How can Evelyn figure out if the package was actually stolen or the customer is making a false claim?
  • How should she proceed with the customer in each of those scenarios?
  • Is there anything else Evelyn can do to protect her store from situations like this in the future?
Melody F.
Nescopeck, PA

Evelyn should provide proof of delivery and ask him to call the police. A customer who had an order stolen will be cooperative. A customer making a false claim will be hesitant to get police involved. If he is cooperative, I would — after the police have done their report — replace the order and give him the option of money back on the out-of-stock item. If he is not cooperative, she could try explaining the importance of reporting the theft and telling him she needs the report for a loss statement on her taxes. If he still is not cooperative, I would be hesitant to refund or replace. In the future, her contract should read “Proof of delivery ends responsibility of shipment received” or only deliver when a person is present to receive it.

Frank F.
Farmingdale, NJ

First, I would show the customer the photo of the package at the address to double-check that it was his house and to prove it was delivered. Next, I would apologize for the inconvenience and let him know that although we are currently out of the product, we will happily redeliver at our expense when we get the replacement in. Assuming it was left at the correct address, we would tell him that going forward, we would only be able to deliver product if someone were home to accept.

Angela P.
Stratford, CT

What a shame! A preventative measure would be to add to the order process a delivery window choice and ask if the recipient will be home. If they will not be home, state that a photo and text will be sent to act as proof of delivery. Then they have a choice to continue with the order or not. If the recipient will be home for the delivery, a ring to the doorbell and a socially distanced wave can occur at hand-off. As far as the new customer who may be dishonest, there is the choice to send the photo proof of delivery and say it’s a receipt. A bad review may ensue, which can easily be dismissed with the text/photo and explanation.

Jennifer T.
Lawrence, KS

Our website has a disclaimer that says we are not responsible for items left on the porch. Our deliveries are marked as delivered and customers immediately receive an email. Additionally, we do a contactless delivery, it’s the only option, but if there is a porch camera with doorbell, we do ring it. I would call and speak to this customer to gauge the situation. Regardless of my assessment, I would replace the items in this situation, but make him aware that we have other options for future orders like curbside pickup. If he does choose home delivery, I would ask that he order for a day or time that someone will be present to retrieve the order.

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Lorin G.
Redlands, CA

There’s really no way to know for certain if the package was stolen or the customer is lying. At this point, Eveylyn has to make the decision whether to replace the items or face potential negative reviews and bashing by the customer. Potential adjustments: 1) Use a professional outside delivery service and insure packages. 2) Make sure that clients agree to a policy that any shortages or problems be reported within a specified time and that no refunds will be given, only exact product replacement. 3) Require someone be present to accept and sign for the delivery or have a locked and secure receptacle within which to leave the delivery, especially for first-time clients. The same can apply to deliveries over a certain value.

Chris G.
Fredericksburg, VA

Evelyn has taken appropriate steps to protect her company. With first-time orders, you can get people trying to scam. The only other thing I would suggest is adding some sort of body cam that saves to the cloud. It’s extreme, but as online gets busier and busier, you will have more of these “porch pirates.” It was estimated that $5.4 billion was stolen in 2019 alone.

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