San Francisco company provides easy way to pick up packages

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Receiving a package in San Francisco can be a major headache if the customer isn't there to answer the door.

A local company has been working on a way around missed deliveries and, this week, they're expanding into a full-blown robotic post office.

When Nael Khalil heard about a service called Swapbox, he almost instantly agreed to host one inside his sandwich shop. "This system is really just an automated postal machine, really," Khalil said.

Swapbox co-founder Nitin Shantharam showed off the big machine, built by hand in the Bay Area. The result is a place to come get a package when it's convenient for the customer. It starts with a text message to let the person who ordered the package know it's there. All that is needed is a pin code, and the door then opens with the package inside.

Swapbox Vice President Ward Supplee acknowledges they're not the only ones in the game. Amazon ships their packages to a locker at a local store.

A startup called Hoard is working on a smaller box, designed to hand off keys to Airbnb renters. "The whole sharing economy is a real big market in San Francisco," Hoard co-founder Anthony Forsans said.

Swapbox has about two dozen boxes around San Francisco, most of them in convenience stores and places with long hours, but others are in places that are visited every day.

"Part of our retail strategy has always been to be part of the routines that people have in their day-to -day lives," Supplee said.

Now Swapbox is going a step further by letting people send packages from the same kiosk.

For people who don't have a box, they provide it as part of the $2 handling fee. A courier picks it up, packs it and takes it to the post office, Fedex, or UPS -- whatever is most convenient.
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