New service lets Amazon couriers into your home

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If you’re concerned that “porch pirates” will steal delivered packages from your doorstep, Amazon.com has a solution—let its couriers enter your home to deliver the packages while you’re away.

The new service is called Amazon Key, and it’s offered exclusively to members of Amazon Prime. According to reports, it will start Nov. 8, 2017.

Consumers start the service by purchasing an Amazon Key in-home kit, which consists of the Amazon Cloud Cam indoor-security camera and a smart lock by Kwikset or Yale. The starting price is $250, and the camera is installed so it faces the door that includes the smart lock. (Prime members pay an annual membership fee of $99.)

After you select free in-home delivery of your purchase at Amazon, on the day when your package is to be delivered, Amazon will give you a 4-hour window for the delivery. When the courier arrives, Amazon authorizes the delivery, turns on the camera and unlocks the door through the use of a one-time code that the courier types in. Amazon says the courier will knock first before entering your home. After the package is delivered, Amazon will relock your door, and you’ll receive confirmation of the delivery. You can view the delivery—live via streaming video or later via a video clip—through the Amazon Key mobile app.

Further, Amazon says the service eventually will work with a few other service providers, such as house cleaners or dog walkers. It will be available in 37 metropolitan areas to start.

If you decide that you’re uncomfortable with the idea of letting a stranger into your home, Amazon says you may block access through the app at any time until delivery; the courier then will follow the standard delivery process. According to reports, the code that unlocks the door is good for only 5 minutes, although the reports didn’t indicate what happens after the 5 minutes.

Amazon points out a few important caveats. It recommends against using Amazon Key if you have a pet, and it notes that the service requires you to disarm your home-security system on the day of delivery, because the service is incompatible with such systems. (It also is incompatible with any smart lock that isn’t certified for the program.)

According to reports, Amazon says the service works only with couriers that Amazon uses directly in its Logistics system, not FedEx, UPS or the U.S. Postal Service.

Amazon says it vets its couriers “thoroughly,” including via “comprehensive background checks and motor-vehicle records reviews.” However, the company ignored our request to answer questions about the specifics of its vetting process as well as questions that we had regarding whether any problems were encountered when it tested the service.