Every holiday season, at least one story is all but guaranteed to make headlines: packages being snatched from front porches by pernicious petty thieves. This year, a couple was spotted in Louisville following a postal truck, nabbing boxes from homes shortly after delivery, and an Erie man was arrested after being caught with $6,000 worth of goods suspected to have been stolen.
With the rise of online shopping that now stretches far beyond the Christmas season, opportunities for greedy grinches are only growing. Michele Van fleet sees opportunity in this environment, too: to stop the sticky-fingered Scrooges once and for all.
The appropriately named Van fleet launched PORCGO — short for Package Optimal Receiving Choices — earlier this year in Louisville to ensure the safe receipt and delivery of residents' precious parcels. We chatted with her to learn more about her plans:
1.) You're a pet sitter/walker (Van Fleet owns Teak Time Pet Services). Why get into the package protection business?
I have been a pet sitter for 15 years. For my clients, I would see packages on the porch and bring them in. Then I was noticing on local neighborhood pages of Facebook that people were reporting a lot about stolen packages. It's proof that cameras are not working and that there are not enough cameras or police to stop this from happening.
Amazon recently came out with package delivery in the home. A lot of people are really turned off by this, by letting unknown delivery drivers into your house. It really freaks them out.
And I thought, I've been going inside houses for 15 years taking care of pets. Why not let me deliver packages inside your home?
2.) How does PORCGO work?
We have an office, 608 Main St. in Louisville, that you can have your packages delivered to. There's always somebody there to receive packages. If it needs a signature, we'll take care of that.
Once packages are received, we text clients to let them know the package is here and this is the condition it's in and that we are doing in-home delivery. We also decided that might be intimidating to people, so we can do scheduled delivery at a time they'll be home, or deliver it to your office, to your car — just unlock it for a set time and we'll put it in the car.
For those wanting in-home delivery, we require a garage door code or a keyless door entry. We're not taking anybody's keys. During delivery, we will be wearing GoPro cameras and uploading the video of the delivery so clients can monitor what time we came, what time we left.
We're working with the UPS store in Superior to offer pickups for returns as well.
3.) Where is the service area?
We will serve Lafayette, Superior, Erie, Louisville and Boulder. Once it takes off, we have somebody that wants to do a branch in Littleton, too.
4.) How much does it cost?
The service starts at $28.50 per month, which allows a certain amount of deliveries. Then there'd be an additional fee if there's more deliveries. Unlimited deliveries cost $48.50 a month.
You can cancel at any time. The first 10 customers can get a free month.
5.) Do you see this as a seasonal business or one with year-round need?
I do believe people will be using this all year. There are people that use online shopping for everything, including paper towels and toilet paper. And there are so many subscription services for items that can be really expensive: Stitch Fix for clothes, Birchbox for makeup, food service delivery, wine of the month clubs. They're all branded on the boxes. Everyone that's driving by can see where this came from, that it's valuable.
My next step is to reach out to companies that do subscription services to see if we can offer this as an add-on service. PORCGO creates freedom for people. We say don't be a prisoner to the package. If it requires a signature, we'll take care of that for you.
We don't have anybody signed up yet. I think it's a very new service — even when you're marketing online, there's not a category for us. At one time, there were no such thing as dog walkers. I believe we are the first but we won't be the last. We're pioneering a new business model.