In the Media

Is this the future of the Post Office in the world of online shopping?

Canada Post
Canada Post/Promo image
TreeHugger
2018-08-07

By Lloyd Alter

Canada Post opens post offices where you can try on clothes and pick up packages.

In the USA, the Postal Service is a money pit; north of the border, Canada Post actually turns a profit. It was spun off from the government as a Crown Corporation (owned by the government but operated relatively independently) in 1981 and has been aggravating Canadians ever since with its “efficiencies” like cancelling Saturday delivery and limiting home delivery. It also makes a lot of money delivering online shopping.

In fact, it appears to be building its future around online shopping, judging by their new concept stores, and Canadians should wonder if this is the future we want. According to their press release,

“Canada Post delivers two out of every three parcels Canadians order online, which means we’re quickly becoming the trusted face of thousands of online retailers,” says Doug Ettinger, Canada Post’s chief commercial officer. “These new stores signify the importance we place on that relationship and the need to evolve to serve Canadians’ changing postal needs.”

Of course, it is a free-standing suburban drive-through because that is now how the majority of Canadians live-in the suburbs, in their SUVs. There are some futuristic features, “such as an on-site fitting room with full-length mirror where customers can try on online clothing purchases right away, and arrange to return whatever doesn’t fit.”

But mostly it is about picking up stuff. Since the last mile of delivery to individual homes is the most expensive, in the future people will may go to the post office instead.

For the ultimate in convenience, drive-thru parcel centres give customers the option of never having to get out of their car. Simply scan the barcode on your pickup notice at the welcome kiosk, then pull up to the pick-up window to collect your parcel. There’s even overhead protection from bad weather. If your item is heavy or bulky, our staff will place it in your vehicle.

It took a whole suburb full of designers to come up with this thing, from Alex Viau Créatif to OVE Brand to Reflect Architecture to Kearns Mancini. Apparently none of them could keep it from looking like a dog’s breakfast of arches and boxes and roofs, but the real problem is conceptual.

Theoretically, home delivery should actually have a smaller carbon footprint than driving to the store or post office. Anne Goodchild of the University of Washington told BuzzFeed that “broadly speaking, delivery services have the potential to dramatically reduce miles traveled.” The article is about the impact of Amazon Prime, which sends a lot of deliveries direct from depot to home.

In a 2013 study, Goodchild found that grocery delivery trucks emitted between 20% and 75% less carbon dioxide per customer on average than passenger vehicles driving to the stores around Seattle, but only if grocery stores could choose drop-off times and optimize delivery routes. When customers choose, the carbon savings are significantly smaller. “The benefit to a delivery being slower is that a company can consolidate more packages into fewer vehicles,” Goodchild explained.

The benefits are even greater if Canada Post delivers the goods in their shiny new Navistar all-electric trucks. You can deliver a lot of stuff within their hundred mile range if it is planned out well.

Instead, are we going to have a future where everyone is driving their pickup to the big box centre to pick up their Amazon loot, increasing the carbon footprint of online shipping even more? I wonder.

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