Building managers overwhelmed with packages turn to controversial app for help

Apartment managers were swimming in parcels before the pandemic hit, but now they’re drowning. One potential solution, however, has tenants sending a message to their landlords: “Stop trying to make Fetch a reality.”

Austin-based startup Fetch, which promises to handle offsite packages and deliver them to tenants in an efficient process, has grown into a tech company equipped to weather the deluge, serving about 1,000 communities in apartments in markets across the United States.

But some renters who had grown accustomed to Amazon’s next-day or same-day delivery became so frustrated with the service that they drove Fetch to a F-ranking of the Better Business Bureau, created a subreddit called r/EndFetch, and even threatened to organize against their landlords in buildings in DC and elsewhere.

The criticism, which stretches from Seattle from Texas to DC, questions the effectiveness of third-party solutions for package deliveries. And that could draw negative attention to buildings that use the service and potentially drive residents away from it.

“If they force us to go to Fetch, I don’t stay in the building. And a lot of other people have said that too,” said Jose Romero, a resident of Flats 130 in DC’s NoMa neighborhood who started using Fetch’s services last week.

Property managers have struggled with parcel volume for years, as e-commerce has made it easier for apartment renters to ship products of all kinds. As early as 2017, building managers were telling bisnow residents had gone from ordering one package per week to one package per day.

Initially, the developers began to increase the size of their parcel rooms in order to handle deliveries, which could range from groceries to a full-size kayak. But tech-centric solutions hit the market just as apartment managers were beginning to balk at the costs of extra labor and cutting out amenity spaces to devote more resources to deliveries.

Fetch Package Inc., founded in 2016, is one such solution. The service, which on its website claims to serve more than 300,000 units in 27 markets, asks its residents to route their packages to its warehouse, where it processes them. Residents can then either schedule a two-hour block for Fetch couriers to bring a delivery to their doorstep, or drive to the warehouse themselves to receive the package.

In the DC area, Fetch said it operates three warehouses, one in DC, one in Maryland and one in Virginia, serving more than 50 communities. Fetch declined to make CEO Michael Patton available for a phone interview, but in response to emailed questions through a spokesperson, he said Fetch is the only service to remove the burden of on-site package management by building management.

“Many communities don’t have the space or manpower to accommodate the volume and size of packages that are constantly coming in,” Patton wrote. “When you add in the labor shortages the multi-family industry is experiencing, you can see the problem is growing exponentially.”

Patton said the service, which allows residents to choose between requiring a signature or allowing couriers to leave a package at the door until 10 p.m., meets tenants’ expectations for “convenience and the highest level of service possible”.

The company touts an internal measure of “99% delivery satisfaction rate among DC-area residents” and says its BBB rating is misleading because it hasn’t paid for accreditation, adding that most major carriers have poor ratings.

But at the 643-apartment building Flats 130, residents have shared various concerns with both management company Bozzuto and with local media electrical outlets about the deployment of Fetch, including the timing of the change.

Reserved area

Courtesy of José Romero

Leaflets posted in the Flats 130 apartment complex by residents

Bozzuto first informed residents on August 29 that the building would start using Fetch in a few days and invited Flats 130 tenants to an information session with Fetch the next day.

In a follow-up email, Bozzuto said the Flats 130 office receives 100-200 packages every day and said he was switching to Fetch after “thorough research and consideration.”

“Over the past few years, we have continued to see an increase in the number of packages being delivered to our community,” said an email sent to tenants of Bozzuto’s Flats 130 email address and shared with bisnow. “Based on the growing volume of deliveries, it has become clear to us how important it is to provide a way to get packages to your front door more directly and at a time that is most convenient for you.”

But Romero, who runs a side business from his apartment selling enamel pins and other items from an Etsy shop, said the short notice gave him little time to adjust to the new service. Additionally, he said it violated an addendum to the rental agreement he signed with Bozzuto, stating that packages would be received by an agent from the real estate company and deliveries would be made free of charge.

Bozzuto did not respond to a request for comment on how his contract with Fetch fits into the terms of his rental agreements. In a statement, Bozzuto’s chief operating officer, JoLynn Scotch, said it has “deployed Fetch on a trial basis in select communities” and is seeking feedback from its residents.

Reserved area

The Flats 130 Apartments, located at 130 M St. NE in Washington, DC

Fetch, for its part, said it charges a service fee to the property management company, but it’s up to managers to pass that cost on to tenants. Some BBB complaints reported costs of $20 to $25 per month to have their packages delivered.

Romero first signed a lease with Bozzuto at Flats 130 in February 2021 and renewed a year later. He said for a time that the building was one of his favorite places he had lived.

“I love the building. It’s in a great location, I follow them on Instagram,” Romero said. “Literally two weeks before this Fetch thing, I posted, ‘I love this building, it’s great to live in.'”

But Romero said he was frustrated with the rollout of the service and had not been able to easily access the supplies he needed for his business. Fetch sent Romero’s packages to his warehouse in Alexandria, Va., Romero said, and he struggled to schedule a time to receive them without making a long drive himself.

Bozzuto isn’t the only DC-area homeowner using the service. Fetch said it currently serves more than 30,000 Market residents, including residents of The Louis on 14th Street NW. The Louis building manager Greystar declined to comment.

Complaints have also arisen in other markets. In Redmond, Washington, a resident of a building served by Fetch Told local TV channel KIRO 7 which he pays for Amazon Prime but has always received his packages two to eight days after delivery to Fetch. He said he “would love to get $10-15 back from them, just to know it’s a problem.”

Reserved area

The Parkside Apartments in Redmond, Washington

The Seattle-based station also reported visiting Fetch’s warehouse in Kirkland in August and seeing packages sitting “in the searing heat.”

Citing these reports and their own experiences, other tenants are beginning to organize against Fetch, and they’re sharing tips on how to do it online.

In a Publish to the r/EndFetch subreddit titled “How We (Partially) Got Rid of Fetch,” a user who said he lives in an apartment community in Portland, Oregon, explained how residents organized themselves in their building , sending letters to their landlord and eventually succeeding in making the service optional for tenants.

The user said that Fetch hosted a pizza party in the building and met with tenants, but ultimately failed to win the hearts and minds of residents.

“Good luck trying to send them packing,” u/mprover, the post’s author, wrote. “I would suggest putting as much pressure on your management and on Fetch as possible.”

The conflict between those who manage the packages – internal teams or third parties like Fetch – is only growing. Despite burning demand for e-commerce cool slightly this year, parcel carriers are bolstering their long-term capacity as some pandemic shopping habits look likely to be permanent.

For now, Fetch is optimistic about its ability to meet this long-term demand.

“We know e-commerce is growing at an alarming rate and shows no signs of stopping,” Patton said. “Package management should not be the responsibility of on-site teams. We remove that responsibility while providing apartment operators with a way to gain on-site efficiency, improve customer service and increase their bottom line operating profit. »