When I heard that everyone’s favorite 800-pound online retail gorilla just introduced a new service called Amazon Key, which promises to deliver packages inside your door without your having to be there, I was intrigued. No more leaving boxes to be stolen from my front stoop or to be soaked by the sprinklers? Sounds great—but isn’t it kind of shifty to let someone else inside my house when I’m not home? I got one of the first installs to test it out.
So, this sounds like another Amazon urban legend like instant drone delivery. Not at all. This is a real service that enables in-home delivery of packages when no one’s home.
How does it work, exactly? First off, it’s only offered to Amazon Prime members. You order the company’s little white security camera, the Cloud Cam, and set it up facing your door on a table or mounted on a wall. You also install one of several compatible smart locks—my door is sort of old, so I had a locksmith install it, but you could also install it yourself, like any lock. Then you pull up the Amazon Key app on your phone, push a few buttons syncing everything together and you’re ready to get deliveries. The whole thing took about an hour.
Wait a minute, does the delivery person have a master key? No. How it works is that when you order something, there’s an option to have it delivered using Amazon Key for no extra charge. Then, when the courier arrives, they hold a handheld device up to your lock and Amazon authorizes entry (then re-locks the door when they leave). In my case, I was napping in a back bedroom and didn’t even hear the delivery happening, but when I woke up, I watched a video of the delivery guy opening my door just wide enough to slide my package in while announcing softly, “Amazon delivery.” Frankly, I was a little disappointed he didn’t even glance around my entryway to admire my wallpaper.
So the whole thing is videotaped? That’s what’s so cool. The Cloud Cam lets you watch deliveries in real time, or via playback. While I’ve heard that people are skeeved out by having a stranger in their home, when I used it, it was way more like a glorified mail delivery than a home invasion.
Did anything surprise you? Well, the smart lock I chose has a keypad, so frankly I haven’t even been using my key since it was installed, just punching in a number. And since the smart lock and app let you assign a different code for each family member, and notifies you each time the door is locked and unlocked, I’ve been able to keep track of when my tween gets home from school. Also, the Cloud Cam has two-way audio and a 24/7 live feed, so I can call out nagging mom things like, “Hey, no snacks before dinner,” to my son, or “Honey, can you pick up some milk?” to my husband. You know, if I happen to be spying on watching them.
And what about letting in other people? The app lets you assign temporary entrance codes, too, so you can give your neighborhood handyman a single-use entry code. Plus, by January, Amazon expects to have deals in place with housekeeping and dog-walking services, so you can have those time-sucking chores taken care of without your being home, too.
Anything else? When people first hear about Amazon Key, they’re like, “No way am I letting anyone in my house when I’m not there.” But hear me out: It’s super-convenient. Remember not too long ago when people were resistant about sharing a ride with someone they didn’t know or staying in a stranger’s home? Now we don’t think twice about Uber or Airbnb.
How much does all this cost? Well, you have to be an Amazon Prime user, so there’s that annual $99 fee. And on top of that, you have to buy the camera and a compatible lock ($250), but the installation is free. And once you have the camera set up, then it becomes added value to your home in the same way any prestige appliance does.
Can you see any problems? Well, I was initially worried that my cat might run out the door, but after seeing how the delivery person opens the door just enough to put in the package, my rather slow and chubby kitty wouldn’t be able to squeeze through (though those with more agile pets are advised to opt out). And I was disappointed that I couldn’t order AmazonFresh groceries through this service. But these quibbles are pretty minor when compared with how I feel knowing I can order holiday gifts to my heart’s content and everyone’s presents will be safe inside my door.