Amazon opened a sleek, modern, brick-and-mortar store on the UC Berkeley campus Thursday and it promises to ease package delivery and return for students, faculty, staff and the community.
But Amazon hopes the store, located in the refurbished Martin Luther King Jr. building facing Sproul Plaza, will be more than that. There are couches and chairs scattered around the 3,500-square-foot space, as well as a large television screen for students to watch movies or play video games. A large table holds Kindle e-readers, Fire Tablets and Fire TV devices, creating “an interactive Amazon device experience,” according to a press release.
The idea is to be such an inviting environment that students “turn into lifelong customers,” said Ripley MacDonald, Amazon’s director of student programs.
Getting packages delivered can be a problem for students who live in some dorms or apartments. They can get stolen if left unattended. Now students have a secure place to get their goods, said MacDonald. It will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week.
“It’s easy, it’s safe, they don’t have to worry about their packages getting stolen,” said Joseph Greenwell, the associate vice chancellor of student affairs and the dean of students at UC Berkeley. “It’s convenient. It benefits everyone — professors on the campus, faculty and staff, as well as community members.”
To attract students, Amazon is offering its Prime service, which doesn’t charge for deliveries, to students for $49 instead of the usual $99. Students also get to use Prime for free for six months instead of the standard month.
To use the Amazon facility, people have to go to asucstudentunion.amazon.com and add the location to their consumer profile. Then they can ask that a package be delivered there. If Amazon Prime members order any of 2 million items before noon, they can pick up the package the same day, said MacDonald. If they order by 10 p.m. they get it the next day.
When the package arrives, Amazon will email or text the customer, who then clicks on the text to announce when he or she will arrive. An Amazon worker will put the package in a locker and send the customer a barcode with the locker location. All the customer has to do when he or she arrives is scan the barcode and the locker opens. The process takes under a minute.
The Berkeley store is Amazon’s fifth store on a college campus, said MacDonald. Two more should open by the end of the year.
MacDonald declined to state how many packages the store could handle a day but didn’t dispute a statement that it could be thousands, considering UC Berkeley has about 35,000 students. The heaviest traffic usually comes when students return to school and are ordering textbooks, he said.
Customers can also bring in packages to return. They just have to type in information into a kiosk, which spits out a label. The customer then hands the package to a clerk, eliminating return costs. Packaging materials are also available at the store.
The store was quiet on Thursday. Spring semester only begins on Jan. 19.
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