Ordering movies and electronics online often saves you money — sometimes a lot of it — but it also requires a bit of patience. You always play the “does the local warehouse have it?” lottery, or hope that FedEx won’t sit on your box until the last possible minute, making a delivery from the next town over take three days (true story!). But what if you could have your precious online order now — right now — and without paying an extra $10 delivery charge?
Walmart thinks it may have a solution that includes trading store credits to you and your neighbors in exchange for local deliveries of in-stock items. No, seriously. Your next TV might be delivered by one of the People of Walmart.
Of course, crowd-sourced delivery of this sort would bring with it a plethora of legal issues that would have to be ironed out before Walmart could even consider actually going forward with it — the foremost being, “What happens if Joe-Bob down the street drives off with my TV?” Actually, though, there are some existing models to follow.
While Zipments started out with a pure crowd-sourcing approach, the company now does more screening of drivers before allowing them to be part of its delivery network, Chief Executive and co-Founder Garrick Pohl said in an interview. It now serves big cities including New York and Chicago.
Theft, fraud and late deliveries have never been a problem, but insurance and licenses were an obstacle, Pohl explained.
Drivers often need personal liability insurance to cover package delivery activities. Cargo insurance is also needed. Zipments self-insures this risk up to $250, but the firm encourages its couriers to buy additional coverage for higher-value packages, Pohl said.
So assuming that Walmart’s lawyers survive the mere suggestion of such a program, they might find some way to make it work. Of course, with a corporation this size, there will probably be so much red tape that FedEx shipping would probably end up being cheaper.
Best Buy probably got it right ten years ago when it bought a couple of VW Beetles for the Geek Squad. Because by the time Walmart’s volunteer delivery-customers cover their bases in terms of liability insurance, they may as well become full-time employees. Walmart could have a designated area store with a vehicle that can run the errands, and clear existing employees to perform the task, assuming it actually has any to spare.
Either way, the fact that the company is considering something like this at all is just downright kooky.