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Amazon leaves packages at the door, defying Japan's service culture

Drop-off service to be offered nationwide despite concerns over theft

Multiple delivery attempts in Japan mean shipping companies need about 90,000 additional workers a year.

TOKYO -- In a country where customer service is a point of pride, Amazon Japan is challenging the status quo by daring to leave packages at the door.

Amazon is aiming to offer the option nationwide next year through Japan's postal service, which operates 24,000 post stations across the country. The company has been testing the service since February in areas where it has its own delivery networks, allowing customers the option to have packages dropped off at their doors or garages.

Most packages in Japan need to be delivered in person, meaning about 20% require multiple attempts. This translates to about 90,000 additional workers a year -- a heavy burden in a nation reeling from labor shortages.

As part of the drop-off service, Japan Post will have deliverers take photos of the packages at their drop-off locations. They will then be sent to recipients through an app or email.

If packages are stolen or damaged after delivery, Amazon will issue a refund or a replacement item. The company will also work to allay customer concerns about drop-off deliveries, like the risk of theft and the visibility of shipping labels.

Amazon Japan wants to start leaving packages at the door across the country next year.

In New York, for example, 90,000 packages reportedly disappear every day, according to the New York Times. People are installing doorbell cameras and larger mailboxes that can fit boxes to prevent theft, while Amazon offers real-time tracking so recipients can be at home when packages arrive.

While drop-off deliveries are common in markets like the U.S. and China, they are still unusual in Japan. In March, Japan Post became the first big shipping company in the country to offer the option. But the service is struggling to gain traction over questions of who would be responsible in case of theft or damages.

About 4.3 billion packages were delivered in Japan for the year ended March 31, topping records for the fourth straight year as online shopping grows. Redeliveries are also on the rise. Sixteen percent of deliveries by the top three shipping companies -- Yamato Transport, Sagawa Express and Japan Post -- required multiple attempts in April. The figure is even higher at 18% in urban areas.

Amazon hopes to convince Yamato Transport to get on board with drop-off deliveries as well. The Yamato Holdings unit is encouraging customers to pick up packages at delivery lockers and convenience stores to cut down on redeliveries, but such shipments only account for 6% of the company's total.

The redelivery rate dropped to 10% from over 20% in a trial for drop-offs conducted by Japan Post and Amazon in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, last month. The option would also be more convenient for customers, who no longer have to be home to receive packages.

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