Tom Quinn and Mike Carlson have heard many stories about stolen packages.
Indeed, three out of 10 Americans who live in houses or townhomes have been victims of package theft, according to a 2017 survey commissioned by Xfinity Home, the home security business from Comcast. It’s a problem that could increase as more people buy online. The U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter this year is estimated to be up 13 percent to $146 billion from the same period a year ago, according to the Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce.
So about a year ago, Quinn and Carlson came up with a product idea for their Carlsbad-based CleverMade company. It’s a reinforced steel parcel lockbox that a delivery person can electronically open with a custom code. Costco began selling the $129.99 grey product in October in its stores nationwide. CleverMade sells a cream-colored version on its website for $199.99.
“With the increase of delivered packages, package lockboxes will be as ubiquitous as mailboxes,” Quinn said. “It will be part of everyday life.”
Quinn and Carlson, who were president and vice president of sales, respectively, for a sports training equipment company before they started CleverMade in 2013, anticipate the lockbox sales will help boost company revenue to about $35 million this year. Last year, sales for the privately held company were $22 million. The business, which has 16 employees, also sells collapsible products such as crates with lids, laundry baskets and totes.
Below Quinn, 57 and Carlson, 38, chat about why they created the lockbox, what questions are most asked by consumers and how to prevent someone from stealing the lockbox with the packages inside. The interview has been edited and condensed for length.
Q: Why did you create the lockbox?
Quinn: We want to stop porch pirates in their tracks and provide weather protection for packages. There are no shortages of videos of packages being stolen
Carlson: Ring will be our most powerful (marketing) tool for this item. The more we talked to friends and families about the product, the more stories surfaced from them about package theft. Online shopping is not slowing down. If we believe that, package theft will continue to be a problem unless there’s a solution to it.
There’s a certain amount of stress and worry when people know a package will be delivered but they won’t be home. The lockbox will alleviate that stress and anxiety. Also, some things are family heirlooms or gifts that can’t easily be replaced. We’re not just, for example, preventing paper towels from Amazon from being stolen.
Q. What’s to prevent someone from stealing the entire lockbox with the packages inside?
Quinn: That’s the second biggest question we get. “What keeps the person from taking the box?” The anchoring system. We provide the customer with a hybrid drill bit that can be used for wood or cement. We also provide four anchor screws. There’s also a detailed video on how you do it on our website: https://www.clevermade.com/pages/lockbox.
Q. What’s the most common question asked?
Carlson: How does my Amazon or UPS guy get the lockbox code?
Quinn: On the second address box, you can let them know the code. It’s Just like providing a code for a gate. Also, FedEx, UPS, the postal service and Amazon all have apps that allow you to give specific delivery instructions. For example, I don’t want it on my front porch. Put that package on the side of my house. It’s that interface that allows (our customers to provide their carriers with the lockbox code). On our website, there are step-by-step instructions on how to share the code. There’s also an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. customer service line for people who need help.
Q. How can customers get delivery folks to remember to put their packages inside the lockbox and not by the front door?
Quinn: We have two reminders. One is on the box that says: “Hey, please put the package in the box.” The other is a door hanger like a Do Not Disturb sign. The door hanger tells them to place the package inside the lockbox.
Q. What and how much will the lockbox fit?
Quinn: The box dimensions are about 18 by 18 by 23 inches. About 95 percent of boxes would fit inside the lockbox. That’s based on internal conversations with Amazon folks and the standard packages they sell.
Carlson: We have been testing it for six months. On some days, we were getting multiple packages. I was pleasantly surprised to find two or three or four packages that fit inside the lockbox.
Q. What were some of the challenges in making the lockbox?
Quinn: If you break down the product, it’s a metal box with a lock. As simple as that product seems, it’s actually a very complex product.
Our goal was to build something that took less than 30 minutes to put together and one tool: a regular Phillips screwdriver. If you have a power drill, you can build it in 15 minutes. The founder of IKEA would be proud of us. It’s another 15 minutes to anchor it.
We wanted a box that would open by itself. So you can work the box with one hand. So the lid won’t shut on you.
It has a glow-in-the dark release button from the inside. We created it for child safety. Any trunk of a car has the same function. We have replacement keys for people who lose them. We have a lock that lights up and long battery life.
Carlson: We knew customers would use this in the summers in Arizona and winters in Minnesota. Designing electronics is a challenge. Designing electronics that can sustain a number of different weather conditions is a whole different ball game.
Quinn: We built this product with quality in mind with a 10-year warranty that we stand behind. To build a quality product and bring it to market for under $200 is very challenging.
Hang Nguyen is a freelance writer for the U-T. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.