Amazon is launching a better version of the post office in cities around the country -- here's what they're like to use (AMZN)

  • Amazon has been opening retail locations meant specifically for picking up and returning items.
  • The retailer has opened nearly 30 of these stand-alone locations.
  • We used one in the Los Angeles area to see what they're like.

Customers can only do two things at Amazon pickup locations: pick up packages and returning them. That's all these locations are built for.

Luckily, Amazon being the online-shopping powerhouse it is, those are two very important purposes.

The locations function a lot like a post office, but just for Amazon packages. Get them sent to the building's address, and they'll be there when the customer is ready to pick them up. Packages can be kept there for up to two weeks.

Need to return an item? The service is completely free since it doesn't actually need to go through the mail.

The pickup locations work a lot like Amazon's Locker system, which offer a place in convenience and grocery stores for customers to pick up packages. But by setting a time limit, the pickup location solves the problem of customers forgetting or neglecting to pick up their packages, which renders the lockers unusable until some space is freed.

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Amazon won't say exactly how many of these locations exist in the United States, but the number is at least 30 and growing. It just opened its first in the company's hometown of Seattle, to a surprising bit of fanfare for such a utilitarian device.

I visited the pickup location in Westwood, Los Angeles, a stone's throw from UCLA, to see what they're like to use. True to Amazon's ethos, it's simple and basic, but it works extremely efficiently.

It's perfect for a college student without a permanent address or a tourist like me. One of the benefits for Prime members is that they can order some items for same-day or next-day pickup. 

Here's what it's like to use an Amazon pickup location:

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Inside Amazon pick-up locations

Amazon@Westwood is Amazon's pickup center in the downtown area of Westwood, Los Angeles. It's just a stone's throw from UCLA.

The locations are staffed with an employee waiting behind a desk to help customers with whatever they may need.

I'm not really sure what you'd need help with, though. You can only do two things here: pick up orders and drop off returns. Both require virtually no assistance.

Ordering something to be delivered to an Amazon pickup center is easy.

Just select it on the ordering page when Amazon asks for your address.

Upon first walking in, the kiosks are available to call up your order.

I decided to use the Amazon app instead. When you arrive, you press the "I'm here" button. Then you wait about a minute for a person in the backroom to put your order in the locker. The app tells you how long you need to wait, when it is ready, and where it is.

The pickup lockers are much like a typical Amazon Locker, but they're hollow in the back to allow them to be stuffed with goods.

They also have advertising on them — it was for Fila fragrances when I visited.

Scanning my phone was a cinch.

All of the sudden, a door popped open. There was my package.

Immediately opposite, there's a space to rip open your package and a place to recycle the packaging. Why is it necessary to use the packaging to get items delivered here? That's just one of the many mysteries of the Amazon pickup center.

I ripped open the package and revealed my classic of American literature. I found it weird, and possibly wasteful, that the book was packed in a normal Amazon envelope considering it would've come from its own fulfillment center.

For boxes, there was a handy opener available.

The real value of the pickup location? Dropping off returns. Throw it in one of the provided plastic bags, label it ...

... and drop it in the bin. This is one of the few times that returns on Amazon are consistently free.

The store was very close to UCLA's Westwood campus, and it was clearly marketed toward the college student.

Overall, Amazon's pickup location is convenient, easy, and efficient. There are a few benefits for certain shoppers to picking up orders and dropping off returns.


Prime members can also place orders for free same-day or next-day pickup as long as the item is sold by Amazon, not oversized, and picked up within 15 days. Still, most Amazon shoppers will likely never need to visit one of these pickup locations.

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