Rethinking Mail with SmartMail

Photo:William Selman

We’ve lived in our house for five years now. In that time, we’ve had all sorts of things come in the mail: boots, jeans, coffee makers, cameras, computers, watches, Christmas gifts from mom and dad, etc. Lots of stuff.

I suspect that we’ve had at least 40-50 packages delivered to our door in the last five years — that’s roughly ten per year or one per month or so. Of course, when I say “delivered” I don’t actually mean delivered. Only maybe 5 of the 50 packages were actually delivered. For all the rest, I’d receive a notification on the door that someone came by and tried and failed to deliver the package because we weren’t home, and we’d eventually go to the depot across town and pick it up.

This happens to you too. I don’t even know you, but I’m certain this happens to you. You’re at work all day, and the delivery people are out delivering your packages all day—of course you’re not home to receive them! You couldn’t think of a more absurd way of delivering mail than the system we have now. Trucks full of packages go around to homes with no one in them, dropping off stickers to tell the homeowner that their package was here earlier, but is now available at an inconvenient location across town. Just completely absurd!

A Better Mail System

Let’s rethink the mail system for a second. Not cable bills and birthday cards from you mom—that’s separate. Let’s just think about packages for a moment:

Imagine you order a new alarm clock online from Amazon. When you go through the checkout process, Amazon collects your email address. When they hand off the package to SmartMail, they hand off that email address as well. When your package arrives in your city, it gets delivered to a central depot where you can pick it up, and you get an email telling you it’s there. No more silly trucks driving around knocking on the doors of empty houses.

SmartMail, of course, has a few pros and cons:

Mail should be cheaper. SmartMail should be able to cut out door-to-door delivery trucks completely. This will save money on the trucks, the salaries of the people driving them, auto insurance, maintenance, etc.

It would just make sense. Email me when my package arrives, and I’ll pick it up. If I wanted the package delivered to the door, I could still select UPS or Canada Post or similar in the checkout options, but if I’m 100% sure I won’t be home when they try and deliver, it would be great to be able to choose the cheaper SmartMail.

Urban centres only. To avoid getting into the issue of having to deal with local carriers, SmartMail would probably have to be urban centre only. But not everyone lives in a big city!  I know. That’s why I’ve clearly listed this in the “Con” category.


Please note: I know nothing about the mail system. Literally nothing. The only thing I know is that I find the current system a bit silly and inefficient. That said, I think this could actually work. Just imagine a much, much smaller version of Canada Post that only sent packages, and only served urban centres. Each city would need a few depots, a few delivery trucks and a few staff in each depot. Compare that with the army of people required to run the current mail systems that exist, and I think you’ll agree that a new system could work.

Given the trouble that traditional mail companies are in right now, I think SmartMail could really work.

Update: Minutes after posting this, I was told about BufferBox. Oh well. Just when you think you’ve had an original idea.