Uber is expanding its peer-to-peer package delivery service, Uber Connect. Now customers who don’t want to schlep a package to the post office can request an Uber courier to do it for them with the new “Return a Package” feature.
Uber couriers can pick up five packages at a time to be delivered at your local post office, UPS or FedEx, according to Uber. The packages have to be prepaid and sealed, an important caveat that makes me wonder if Uber is introducing this feature in part to pivot away from its peer-to-peer service, introduced in 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns.
As the service stands today, there really isn’t a mechanism to ensure that Uber couriers aren’t being used as drug mules, something others have reported on and is a regular source of amusement/concern on Reddit.
Despite these concerns, an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch the Return a Package feature is not meant to replace Uber Connect’s peer-to-peer service, but rather build on it.
Regardless, Uber’s not the first company to think of package drop-offs. DoorDash introduced its branded Package Pickup product in January. The services from Uber and DoorDash cost the same — either a $5 flat fee or $3 if you’re an Uber One or DashPass member.
And of course, the carriers themselves offer package pickup services. With the United States Postal Service, pickup is free — your letter carrier will pick it up when regular mail is delivered — but the pickup needs to be scheduled. UPS charges $13 for same-day pickup and $8 for future pickups. FedEx charges $4 per one-time express package pickup, but that hikes up to $16 on Saturdays. For one-time ground pickups, it’s $3 for each next-day or future package and $4 for same-day or return packages.
Uber said packages to be delivered should be under $100 in value and weigh less than 30 pounds. Customers can track their packages in real time in the Uber or Uber Eats app. A courier will send visual confirmation or a photo of the receipt when the package drop-off is complete, according to Uber.
This service will be available immediately in almost 5,000 cities and towns in the U.S., including Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas and San Francisco, with more to come.
Uber’s package delivery service is in line with the company’s Amazonification strategy — the company’s desire to create stickiness in the app by cross-selling products and services and generally touching on every aspect of transporting people and goods.
“At Uber, we’re investing in making more use cases as effortless as tapping a button to get a ride or ordering dinner to your doorstep,” said Wendy Lee, director of delivery product management, in a statement.