You may have received a notice about your community receiving a parcel locker or cluster box.
If you’re not familiar with parcel lockers, then you may wonder what they are, how they work, and what the benefits of using a parcel locker are.
Understanding what a parcel locker is can help you decide if you want to vote for your neighborhood to install a parcel locker or cluster box or against it.
Here’s what you need to know about parcel lockers, how they work, and the advantages and disadvantages of using one.
What Is A Parcel Locker?
A parcel locker is a locker in which the USPS and other carriers can deliver parcels.
The locker is sometimes attached to cluster boxes, a part of PO boxes, or in a designated retail store.
If a certain parcel can’t fit inside of a standard mailbox, then the carrier will put it in the parcel locker instead.
This ensures that the recipient can get their package without worrying about someone stealing it.
How Does A Parcel Locker Work?
If you saw that your neighborhood just installed a parcel locker, then you may wonder how it works.
Parcel lockers usually go in conjunction with cluster boxes in neighborhoods.
A cluster box is a collection of mailboxes.
It’s not unlike what you might find in an apartment complex.
A cluster box is usually outside and holds mail for a neighborhood or street or apartment complex.
When you get a package, you won’t find it in your mailbox or at your front door.
Instead, you’ll find a key inside your mailbox with a number on it.
The number corresponds to the number on the parcel locker that your package is in.
You simply use the key to unlock the locker, then retrieve your package.
Some parcel lockers will hold onto the key once you put it in, so you can’t take it back out.
The mail carrier will collect the key the next time they come by.
If the key doesn’t get stuck in the lock, then you need to leave it in the locker.
The mail carrier will pick up the key on their next visit.
Other locations with parcel lockers might have a collection box where you put the locker key.
Otherwise, you’re able to get your package and return home.
Where Are Parcel Lockers Located?
The location of your parcel locker depends on where you live.
Here are a few places where you might find your parcel locker.
1. Cluster Box
If you live in a big neighborhood and have a cluster box, then the parcel locker is probably going to be near the cluster box.
That’s because the cluster box helps the USPS save time.
Instead of going from house to house, the mail carrier is able to go to one place to deliver all the mail.
It wouldn’t make sense to have them have to go from house to house to deliver packages.
As such, they’ll put the parcel locker right next to the cluster box to make things easier for everyone.
Your cluster box is usually located at the end of the road.
If you live in an apartment complex and they use a cluster box for several units, then your cluster box might be outside in a common area by several apartments.
The parcel locker should be right by the cluster box.
If you live near a park, then there’s a chance that the cluster box and parcel locker might be near its entrance.
It all depends on the best possible place for cluster boxes to reside.
They need to be close to several homes while also being easily accessible by homeowners and mail carriers.
Regardless, if you have a cluster box, then you probably have a parcel locker right by it.
2. PO Boxes
If your neighborhood doesn’t have a cluster box, then it might be at your PO box if you have one.
PO boxes are useful for people who want a mailing address separate from their actual address.
It also ensures that their mail is safe even when they’re not at home to pick it up.
The problem with PO boxes is that they’re usually small.
While you can rent larger ones that can fit some packages in them, you may not want to spend the extra money if you only get a few packages now and then.
As such, most people use the parcel locker by the PO boxes.
You’ll usually find the parcel locker at the end of a row of PO boxes, but the USPS might also have an area entirely separated for parcel lockers.
Like with a cluster box, if you have a package in the parcel locker, you should find a key in your PO box.
This will let you open up the specific parcel locker to which the key belongs.
Having the PO boxes and parcel lockers close to one another is convenient because it allows an individual to pick up both their mail and their packages in one trip to the USPS.
It’s also ideal because it ensures the package is safely stored inside of the locker instead of remaining vulnerable outside of your front door.
3. Retail Stores
A final location where your parcel locker might be is a retail store.
Some retail stores partner with the USPS to hold their parcel lockers for them.
This is advantageous because some retail stores end up being open later than the post office.
If you’re someone who works late or doesn’t get home until late, then you may have a limited opportunity to access your mail and packages if they’re in the post office.
By having a parcel locker in a store, you have a wider window of time in which you can get your package.
This is also safer than having your package remain out in the open because the store has security cameras.
If anyone tampers with the locker your package is in, the camera will capture it.
A reason retail stores are happy to have parcel lockers in them is that it can encourage individuals to do a bit of shopping when they come to get their packages.
For example, if the store is a grocery store, then the individual might decide to pick up dinner or a few snacks from the store while they’re getting their package.
It’s convenient to do so.
Since it helps the store earn a bit more money, they’re happy to host the parcel lockers.
You can usually find out if your package is in a parcel locker in a store through a notification given to you by the USPS or carrier.
How Do You Send Outgoing Packages With A Parcel Locker?
One problem you may run into is being able to send out packages if you have a parcel locker.
You may not be sure how it works.
The good news is that it’s extremely easy to send out packages if you have a parcel locker or a cluster box.
In most cases, there should be an outgoing locker.
All you need to do is place your package in the outgoing locker.
It will usually slide down a chute into a safe place for storage.
When a mail carrier or package carrier comes to the area, they’ll take the packages from the outgoing locker and take them in for sorting.
The same goes for mail.
If you have a cluster box, then you may wonder how to send out mail.
There should also be an outgoing locker for mail.
It may even be the same locker for packages.
You simply put your mail in the outgoing locker and a mail carrier will pick it up when they stop by.
What Are The Advantages Of Using A Parcel Locker?
If you’re on the fence as to whether or not you should use a parcel locker, then it’s worth knowing the benefits that cluster boxes and parcel lockers offer.
Here are some of the advantages of using a parcel locker.
One of the biggest advantages of using a parcel locker is that your packages are a lot safer.
These days, it’s more common than ever for people to steal packages right from your front door.
While cameras can help capture the thief, it doesn’t always mean that you get your package back.
By using a parcel locker, your packages are in a secure environment.
The only way to gain access to the locker is with a key.
Even if a thief were to try and steal the packages from inside a locker, they’d end up attracting a lot of attention to themselves.
Most thieves aren’t going to want to do that since they’ll be unable to take their spoils home.
They’ll just end up in jail.
If you have highly valuable packages, then it’s worth having them delivered to a parcel locker.
It gives you peace of mind instead of worrying about getting home in time to ensure you can get your package to safety.
It also means you don’t have to take time off from work to be at home to pick up the package.
If the package goes to a parcel locker, then it’s safely waiting for you until you arrive to pick it up.
Parcel lockers that are in post offices or retail stores are even safer.
They have an extra pair of eyes on them at all times.
2. Get Packages Faster
Another benefit of using a parcel locker is that it sometimes means your packages can arrive faster and sooner.
One of the reasons your package might get delayed is that you’re not at home to get it.
If a parcel needs a signature, they can’t deliver it until you’re home.
That isn’t always the case if it’s going to a parcel locker.
The USPS doesn’t expect you to be at your parcel locker to sign for the package.
Instead, they’re able to put it safely in a locker and notify you that it’s waiting for you.
This can prevent any possible delays that you might experience otherwise.
Another reason you might get your package sooner is that parcel lockers make things more convenient and efficient for mail carriers.
When they don’t have to go house-to-house to deliver mail or packages, mail carriers save a lot of time.
They simply deliver all the mail in one area.
Since they’re saving time, it means they’re able to get to other destinations a lot faster.
It could end up shaving down the time it takes to get your package because the mail carriers are able to spend more time doing other things.
They may be able to deliver more items in a single day.
They might be able to make two trips instead of one.
However it’s done, using parcel lockers and cluster boxes makes delivering mail a lot more efficient.
As such, you might get your packages a bit quicker.
3. Cut Down On Emissions
In addition to benefitting the USPS, parcel lockers also make their business more environmentally friendly.
When mail carriers don’t have to drive around as much, they’re cutting down on how much gas and oil they use.
Most mail carriers still use trucks that require fuel rather than electric vehicles.
They simply don’t have the budget to afford electric vehicles.
Since they’re using gas-fueled trucks, they’re adding a lot of emissions to the atmosphere.
Mail carriers also do a lot of driving every day.
They can cut back on their driving and the amount of pollution that they generate if more people used cluster boxes and parcel lockers.
This enables them to deliver to a few locations rather than a bunch of individual locations.
With less gas used, the USPS can be a lot more environmentally friendly.
That also means your area might have a bit clearer air than before.
If you’re someone who suffers from allergies or has respiratory problems, then any kind of relief could help reduce your suffering.
Using parcel lockers is beneficial because it can help reduce air pollution.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Using A Parcel Locker?
While there are many benefits of using a parcel locker, there are a few disadvantages you might encounter if you choose to use one.
Here are some of the disadvantages of using a parcel locker.
1. Not Always Accessible
Depending on the location of your parcel locker, you may not always be able to access the locker whenever you want.
If it’s in the post office, for example, then you can only access it when the post office is open.
That’s not ideal for people who work during standard post office hours of operation.
You may have to wait until the weekend or when you’re off to get your mail and packages.
The same goes for parcel lockers in a retail store.
If the store closes early, then you won’t be able to get your package.
The nice thing about having packages delivered to your home is that you don’t have to worry about the parcel locker’s location closing.
You’re always able to get your package.
While parcel lockers may be convenient for mail carriers, it isn’t always convenient for you.
If your locker is at the post office or in a retail store, that means you have to travel there to pick up your package.
Depending on how far the post office or store is from your home, it could be a longer trip than you want to take.
If you’re tired after a long day at work, the last thing you probably want to do is go to a busy store or post office to get your package.
Parcel lockers aren’t always great since you have to travel to get to them.
A final reason parcel lockers aren’t always that great is that they’re small.
While parcel lockers can hold pretty sizable boxes, they do have limits.
If you have a particularly large item, then it won’t be able to fit into the locker.
This means it will end up getting delivered to your home or remain at the post office for you to pick up yourself.
This can make having a parcel locker seem fruitless if you tend to get large packages frequently.
The small size of parcel lockers can sometimes make them unusable.
Parcel lockers are lockable boxes that can safely hold your package until you pick it up.
They’re perfect for keeping your packages safe and helping mail carriers save on time and money.
However, they also require you to travel to pick up your items which could be inconvenient for some people.