In an effort to compete with Amazon, Walmart is reportedly considering crowdsourcing its online package delivery. While that might save the retail giant the cost of gas and maintenance for its own delivery fleet, it could also open up the mega-retailer to potential lawsuits and a ton of puzzling questions.
Reuters reports that the plan is still at “an early planning stage” as there are “numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles.” So don't expect to see anything for at least another year or two.
What we know about the plan so far, though, is this. Walmart customers could disclose their home addresses and then, while at a Walmart store, sign up to deliver packages to folks who live along their route home. The delivery recipients would be Walmart's online customers; the retailer is making a big push to deliver goods ordered online directly from its stores, hoping to do so more cheaply than Amazon.
These volunteer deliverypeople would get a discount on their Walmart purchases — enough, supposedly, to at least cover their gas costs.
So let's give Walmart some points for creativity, as this certainly isn't the sort of idea you'd normally expect to bubble up out of Bentonville. Still, the nightmare scenarios are easy to imagine. Let us enumerate a few:
What happens if the person delivering the package takes a shine to whoever the package was delivered to? Perhaps a future couple will meet this way, but so could a stalker and his or her unknowing stalkee.
Will there be a way to do background checks on who will be delivering your package to you? Would people be disqualified from delivering packages if they had a criminal record?
What prevents the designated delivery person from "losing" (i.e., keeping) a package instead of delivering it? Would Walmart have to track this thief down?
Would crowd-sourced delivery folks ask for tips? Will tipping the Walmart customer become as commonplace as tipping the pizza delivery boy?
Walmart hadn't responded to a request for comment by the time we published. We'll update if and when it does.
Update:Ashley Hardie, the senior manager of media relations at Walmart, writes in an email to ReadWrite "this is just an idea at this point. It was a casual mention about what could be possible in the future - no work has been done to even begin to explore this as an option."