DHL Pays Urban Denizens With Coupons To Deliver Packages

DHL is trying out a new program called bring.Buddy where regular people can pick up and deliver packages along their daily route that they’d be traveling anyway. In return, the recruits earn free train tickets, coupons and carbon offset credits. And, of course, badges. The goal is to reduce costs and carbon emissions within dense urban environments.

It’s only a pilot test based on an idea pitched by design students at the Universitat Potsdam, but it’ll be very interesting to see what happens when you put it out in the real world. For instance, how will they deal with the inevitable flaking out or amateurs accidentally leaving a package somewhere? If you make it enough of a game, will people play? Are the rewards, both material and social, coupled with the risk of social sanction within your local community, enough to reinforce good behavior? Would this ever work in the USA?City dwellers enlisted & rewarded for delivering DHL packages [springwise]
bring.BUDDY at the Expo 2010 in Shanghai [D-School Blog] (Thanks to Bec!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. MutantMonkey says:

    Are they not concerned about people picking up a package to deliver and instead of delivering it to the correct person, they instead deliver it to their own home?

    • cardigan says:


      I think any program that relies on the idea that people are fundamentally good is doomed to fail.

    • Wombatish says:

      A train ticket…. or a brand new iPod Touch!

      Yeah…. I’d HOPE they’re at least testing it out with relatively low-value packages or something.

      As much as the idea is cool, I wouldn’t want my package to get stolen for a “cool idea”.

    • OSAM says:

      Just as in a chain of evidence within law enforcement, make it so that the delivery-person has to sign for it at the pickup point. That way, if the package goes undelivered the person having signed for it is responsible.

      Though that opens up an entirely new can of worms.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      I find that people who think that are people who think about doing it themselves.

      I would totally do this if I was going that way anyway, and not think about taking it. I take the Chuck Noland approach to package handling.

      • MutantMonkey says:

        Really? Can you post your findings because I would really like to see them.

        If you don’t think that a customer of DHL would have the same concern but instead, you would say that the concerned customer is actually a potential thief for having that concern then /boggle

        • MMD says:

          You keep demanding evidence, but provided none to support your own arguments on the receipt check thread yesterday.

          • MutantMonkey says:

            What are you talking about? I asked a question. I did not assert a baseless fact. You really need to relax man. If asking a simple question causes you to stalk someone, I would hate to see what would happen if I called you a d-bag.

            • MMD says:

              Name calling doesn’t change the fact that you and I both participated in a discussion yesterday in which you based your legal argument on your completely unsubstantiated “take” on when a customer takes ownership of purchased property. (If my memory of a thread that we both participated in makes me a “stalker”, then you must be “stalked” by everyone who remembers any interaction with you. I’m also not the only person who has commented on your comments from yesterday, if you read the rest of this thread).

              I also recall that you harangued people for citations to back up their assertions but provided none to back up yours. And you’re doing it again today, despite the fact that since today’s discussion is about a new idea, it is by its very nature speculative and can’t (and should have to) be substantiated that way a legal discussion should.

              I actually agree with your point as you initially stated it – this idea of DHL’s is open to all kinds of potential abuse. However, I don’t agree with the hypocritical way you’re comporting yourself on the board and have no problem calling you out on it. And can do so without resorting to name calling.

              • MutantMonkey says:

                Again I ask what I need to prove? I asked a question? Do you know what a question is and how they work?

                And you are correct, others from yesterdays conversation have popped in and I would say the same to them, for the most part.

                As for what I am doing again today, I ask another question and, again, asserted no facts.

                • MMD says:

                  Are you missing my point on purpose?

                  You were repeatedly asked to *prove* your assertions *yesterday*. You did not. You relied on “your take” on things. And yet you take others to task for not proving their assertions. Call it a “question” all you want, but your asking GetEn$teveDave to “post his findings” is asking him to do what you yourself did not. Most likely because you can’t. And because you can’t, you’ll find a passive aggressive way to avoid actually answering any point I or anyone else makes.

                  • MutantMonkey says:

                    I said my take because as far as I know there is no law on the books that proves it. I followed that by asking if anyone knew of any law that actually defined what that was about. How am I supposed to provide proof of something I am asking for proof of?

                    • MMD says:

                      And at your insistence, people posted like a half dozen links to legal opinions. You ignored them, arguing instead that property isn’t owned untill you leave the store -an assertion that has no basis in fact. So it seems that it’s ok for you to make claims with no citation, Insist that you’re right even when presented with evidence to the contrary and harass GetEmSteveDave and others in yesterday’s thread who would do the same.

                      I won’t be holding my breath waiting for you to actually acknowledge your double standard.

                    • MutantMonkey says:

                      This is why I stopped responding to the posts in that thread. I will say this one more time and if you insist on not listening to it, I am going to stop responding about this again.

                      I was NOT talking about purchased products. The legal references were about the products. Products were never in question.

                      Please let that sink in before you respond again.

                    • MMD says:

                      Your hair-splitting about the bag vs. the products was irrelevant and made no sense whatsoever. You also could not back it up with any sort of fact, even though you repeatedly and belligerently asked people to provide facts to back up their assertions. The fact that you refuse to address this double standard in your behavior can only mean you can not defend it.

                      Thank you for proving my point.

                    • MMD says:

                      P.S. I teach writing classes and frequently use examples from Consumerist discussion boards in class. Your comments from the receipt check were yesterday’s in-class example of a poorly made argument that can not be supported with clear outside information. Thank you! My class got a big kick out of the corner you painted yourself into!

          • Shadowfax says:

            Well, as much of a boob as he made of himself yesterday, I have to say I agree with the Mutant on this one. The end result is going to be unhappy consumers, because if the package fails to arrive or arrives broken, DHL will blame the courier, and the courier will blame DHL.

            And even if the person doesn’t have actual criminal intent, people can be absent-minded. The courier might forget about that package he picked up earlier that day.

            I’m afraid I wouldn’t do this. DHL is charging customers for a delivery that they then schlub off on to volunteers in exchange for low-value trinkets (that iPod touch or a train ticket would require, I have no doubt, enough deliveries to translate into you working for pennies an hour).

            I would want my package to be in the hands of the delivery company from the time I sent it until the time it arrives. Makes it much easier to find the entity responsible for screwing up if only 1 company laid its hands on the goods. I’m already annoyed that several shippers are shipping to post offices for secondary delivery by the mail man. I’ve already had a couple instances where a package didn’t arrive as scheduled. UPS blamed the post office, and the post office blamed UPS. Who’s right?

        • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

          Post my own findings? Yes, yes I can. Since they are all in my head, I just thought of them. Did you get it?

          But Seriously. Do you know why the best people to catch card cheats are former card cheaters? Or the best way to protect yourself from fraud is hiring the company of one of the most prolific confidence men in history? Because they are people who have done it in the past, and know what to look for because they know the tricks.

          • MutantMonkey says:

            By saying “I find”, it implies that you have some sort of tally on this issue. I am just curious what the numbers are and how you validated them.

            • JennQPublic says:

              I’m assuming he found it through life experience.

              SteveDave, in order to validate your life experience, we will need you to post it here, in its entirety. Go ahead, we’ll wait…

              • MutantMonkey says:

                Which would make his findings completely useless.

                • JennQPublic says:

                  I’m sorry your life experiences haven’t taught you to draw reasonable conclusions with less than 100% of the data. My life experience has given me something called ‘judgement’, which I use to form opinions in situations where there isn’t sufficient information to derive facts.

                  It would be lovely if everything in the world had a simple cut-and-dry explanation or solution, but they don’t. So I will continue to ‘find’ that some things are more likely than others, based on my experiences.

            • theduckay says:

              No, it doesn’t. Saying “I find that…”, to most people, would indicate that it is what the person has experienced or observed himself…and no, people’s experiences aren’t “useless”. There hasn’t been some official study done on every single topic out there.

      • Cry Havoc says:

        “I find that people who think that are people who think about doing it themselves.”

        I agree. That’s why I never lock my doors. I find the only people who do that are the ones who think about breaking into houses. /sarc

        What a silly comment. Acknowledging the evil I’ve seen in others and protecting myself from that does not mean I’m thinking of committing the same evil. It means I’m smart.

    • Murph1908 says:

      It’s not like they are giving it to random people who walk up any given day. You would have to sign up and provide identification.

      Then, as somone below indicated, you would sign out packages to deliver. You’d have to do this anyway to get the credit in the program.

      I see the threat of theft no greater for this program than the practice of leaving packages on porches when the recipient isn’t home.

      • Wombatish says:

        Yes, but even if you know who took it the hassle of recovering the package/going back to the merchant to get a replacement and telling them it’s “Joe Bob’s fault, talk to DHL” etc etc is still to be considered.

    • jesusofcool says:

      yeah, I wouldn’t trust this. I have a hard enough time getting mail/packages from the professionals…

  2. HoJu says:

    Carbon credits! Oh lordy….. I haven’t heard that stupid term in a while.

  3. Bort says:

    it is an excellent idea, however its a perfect example of a problem where theory hits reality

  4. humphrmi says:

    Badges???? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

  5. UnicornMaster says:

    I think the goal is to reduce the employees of DHL. But not a bad use of crowdsourcing.

  6. crazedhare says:

    Honestly, my office used DHL for awhile and it was a complete mess. I cannot imagine that these amateurs in this system will lose, steal or damage packages as often as seemed to happen with the DHL professionals.

    • Daverson says:

      DHL: Drop, Hurl, Lose

    • eddieck says:

      This is the German side. I would hope they’re much better than what the US side used to be.

      • MMD says:

        Maybe they’re better, maybe not…I don’t know. But the brand is irreparably damaged in my mind due to the terrible experience my former workplace had with them. I’m not sure why they used DHL for as long as they did – maybe it was cheaper? But I’m fairly certain that the money lost in canceled sales due to lost or late deliveries ate into any savings on shipping.

        • Platypi {Redacted} says:

          Agreed, DHL was HORRENDOUS when we used them at our company. Never so happy to see Fedex and UPS back on the approved vendor list!

    • Brie says:

      Completely agree. This piece had me wondering “Hmm, who could do a better job finding my house: DHL who presumably has GPS and Google Maps, and is a company that failed repeatedly in finding my house when given an address and delivering packages to that address?

      Or the tweakers that already live here?”

  7. CharlesFarley says:

    This will make for very interesting chain of custody issues when claims are filed for missing or damaged packages.

    • Murph1908 says:

      How so?

      Package recieved from shipper.
      Package arrived at destination hub.
      Package picked up for delivery by Urban Assistant 10294204
      Delivery Exception.

      The package was obviously picked up and not delivered by 10294204, who you have their name, address, and photo on file.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I don’t think there’s enough at stake for them to feel more than a modicum of responsibility for someone else’s stuff.

        I can see how if you’re on your way to a park for some frisbee golf that you think it’s a great idea to pick up a package to deliver on the way, but what recourse is there if you’re going to be late to your location? People will sometimes put their own desires above the small amount of responsibility they’ve taken on, and what happens to my package if the person decides that fast food coupon isn’t worth being late to frisbee golf? At least couriers who do it as a real job have something at stake if they don’t do their job properly.

        • Murph1908 says:

          Differnet issue. Comment not related to thread.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            It is related. I’m asking what recourse do you have when the person who is supposed to deliver a package doesn’t fulfill that obligation. At the very least, that person is stranger off the street. At the very most, that person is a contract employee of DHL. Since this entire venture is based on people accessing an app, seeing where there might be a package that is on their route somewhere, and picking it up for delivery on the way in exchange for coupons or other perks, I can see how DHL wouldn’t exactly take responsibility if the package went missing. Money speaks to people. Paying people a wage is a more effective method to instill a sense of responsibility to complete a task, like delivering a package.

      • CharlesFarley says:

        Package turned over to transporation company.
        Package delivered to destination site by transporation company.
        Package given to non-employee to deliver to destination address.
        Package doesn’t arrive.

        What recourse over the non-employee does DHL have? As the customer, I buy your product not your problems, you tell me my parcel is being transported by someone who is not accountable? HA!

        Just wait until a non-employee delivery person holds someone elses package hostage for better perks. I can see that happening in France.

        • Murph1908 says:

          What recourse?

          Prosecution for theft, for one. Civil liability for the value of the package for two.

          Not saying I would go for this type of delivery method myself. But many of the arguments against it don’t hold water.

          • CharlesFarley says:

            Yes, DHL is going to invest in a legal response to a non-employee not delivering a package without a specific insurance rider attached to it.

            Not going to happen.

      • Griking says:

        The issues that I see;

        Package recieved from shipper.
        Package arrived at destination hub.
        Package picked up for delivery by Urban Assistant 10294204
        Package put into back seat of car with two kids and a dog.
        Package arrives at buyers home crushed, covered with dog hair and slobber as well as crumbs from the chips the kids were eating.

  8. heismanpat says:

    “The goal is to reduce costs and carbon emissions within dense urban environments.”

    Eh…no. The goal is to convince people to work for free, thus reducing their existing workforce and maximizing DHL’s profits.

    • dr_drift says:

      How dare you, sir. How dare you.

    • XianZhuXuande says:

      No… people will be doing it in exchange for something. Either the rewards are viewed as compensation enough for the task, or they’re getting something else out of it.

      • MMD says:

        Maybe, but that something is almost certainly not equivalent to the wage a DHL employee would be receiving.

        • Murph1908 says:

          But if you worked in a city, and on your normal walk to work could pick up a couple of packages a day and drop them off on the route, you wouldn’t do it for $20 a week?

          How about picking up the packages for your apartment/condo comples on your way home every day and giving them to the doorman? Would you do that for $5?

          • MMD says:

            Not saying it couldn’t be an easy way to pick up some extra cash. Or, one might do it out of a commitment to environmentalism. I like the concept and I actually could see myself doing this.

            But we can’t ignore that this probably also means a labor cost savings to DHL if it catches on and they can solve the potential liability problems it brings up. So it brings up other questions…what does it mean for a company to forgo trained professionals for cheaper, crowd-sourced labor? Is this where we’re headed – that no one is a professional and we all just scrape together part-time odd jobs because companies don’t want full-time employees?

            • Murph1908 says:

              This isn’t going to work in every business. I don’t think it’s a slippery slope.

              This, in fact, is sort-of going back to the way it was before. In the past, it was common for people to pick things up from stores and other places and drop them off at thier neighbor’s.

              A secondary consequence to this whole thing might be a renewed sense of community, if it takes off.

      • evnmorlo says:

        Probably less than minimum wage

      • heismanpat says:

        Perhaps I was too literal when I said they were getting free labor, but they are getting “practically free” labor. The cost of giving away train tickets or printing worthless pieces of paper touting “carbon offset credits” is significantly less than paying a regular employee to do the job. That level of compensation is only going to convince somebody that is desperate for some kind of work or is naive enough to believe they aren’t being used by DHL to save money under the false guise of caring about the environment.

        Anyone who thinks DHL is doing this because they’ve discovered a new love for the environment and not because it’s a cheap way to reduce their workforce is kidding themselves

  9. c!tizen says:

    Don’t ship via DHL… got it.

    • econobiker says:

      I have shipped by DHL.


      Sent 10 parcels of camping equipment from NE US to the SE US. Non breakable.

      Drop off was stupid. I offered to fill out paper work but person said I could just leave it with them.I could have walked the packages into their warehouse and they would have shipped them for free.
      Tracking was abysmal. Not even close to reality.
      Delivery was abysmal. Various stories. Delivered late. The actual delivery person was a great guy who said that the local center sent him for “the difficult jobs.” Hmmm 10 boxes of not too heavy material was a “difficult job”.

  10. JoeTheDragon says:

    I see alot of things that DHL can legally liable for under this?

    What if some gets hurt while doing this?

    What if it trun off DHL needs to pay min wage for the peopel doing this?

    What if something gets lost or broken?

    • shepd says:

      What if this works out to under minimum wage pay even if you were sprinting like Ben Johnson, and someone sues?

  11. JoeTheDragon says:

    I see alot of things that DHL can legally liable for under this?

    What if some gets hurt while doing this?

    What if it trun out DHL needs to pay min wage for the peopel doing this?

    What if something gets lost or broken?

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      I was thinking the same, but was thinking up a notch.

      -What if random guy delivery person decided to stalk (or worse) one of the customers?

      -What if random guy delivery person assaults a customer?

      -What if random guy delivery person causes some damager to the property (hitting mailbox, things like that) while delivering.

      Seems like this is a way for DHL to deliver things without having an employee they are responsible for (or even have to pay). And I thought DHL’s service was bad already…

      This is such a bad idea, my mind boggles. It’s like going to pick up a pizza and the store says they’ll give you a dollar off your price if you deliver someone else’s pizza on your way home.

  12. jrwn says:

    I’m willing to do this, but for boxes marked Dell or IBM, or Kays..

  13. dolemite says:

    Well, I sort of like the idea, as I’m sure they will only hire trustworthy people but…

    Carbon Credits? Lol. You need to pay me cold hard cash if you want me to make deliveries with my car, even if it is on my way home. Not badges, not coupons, not fictional corporate mumbo jumbo concerning the environment.

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      Yes, I demand to be paid in fictional mumbo jumbo concerning the money supply instead!

    • faislebonchoix says:


      This reminds me of a lot of the online jobs you see online. You get paid but it’s way below minimum wage. I don’t see it catching on unless they let teens (who are bored and haven’t learned to expect decent pay) or illegal immigrants do it. Naïve people might participate to help the environment. Even if they did pay decently, it’s just the transition you see elsewhere of switching from employees to hired contractors (not sure how popular that is in Germany). I’d be fine with getting my packages delivered that way. I mean DHL drivers are real people too.

  14. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    People have been doing this (as paid couriers) with some success. The trick is how you could get rid of opportunists as MutantMonkey describes.

  15. TPA says:

    Not a fan of DHL to begin with. Half-witted ideas such as this would explain the poor delivery record I have with DHL.

  16. duncanblackthorne says:

    Wow, there’s a gigantic “what could POSSIBLY go wrong?” all over this idea.

  17. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    Sign me up! I will be happy to deliver packages to homes in the following areas:

    Cape Hatteras
    5th Ave. Manhattan
    The Castro – San Francisco
    The French Rivera
    The Hamptons

    My only fee will be that I get to randomly keep the contents of any boxes I deem interesting with replacement cost incumbent on the shipper.

    Screw the fargin’ carbon credits. Those are so 2008.

  18. framitz says:

    F A I L

    In 5

  19. stock2mal says:

    I like the chick in spandex who is running. Ahhh, there be my 2 TB hardrive. Thanks!

  20. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Sweet! I’ve been looking for a better way to move my weed and this could be the answer! USPS is always losing my packages, so that’s out. UPS takes forever to find the address, and when they finally deliver the stuff, the package is always much lighter than it was when I sent it.

  21. EverCynicalTHX says:

    This has fail written all over it, especially in a overly litigious society like the US.

  22. AT203 says:

    Interesting. You could cut down on theft of packages by couriers by data-mining their social graph, and only assigning delivery of packages to people they know. Of course, this is super creepy, and what happens when the identify of the package sender discloses that you are buying something embarrassing…

    On the other hand, what prevents the “professional” couriers from stealing packages? I doubt the delivery companies do serious background checks. Now with fine-grained tracking, you can better identify when a package goes missing, and maybe hold the courier accountable, but there must be gaps in such a system. Such as, “it went missing at the sorting facility” when it wasn’t in any particular persons custody, but in the warehouse or transport vehicle.

  23. exoxe says:

    Free train tickets? What am I going to do with those here in the United States?

  24. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This wouldn’t work in america. Europe, yes, because they’re more honest. But here? They’d steal them all and you’d find the shit on ebay.

  25. DanKelley98 says:

    Really DHL? Who’s going to trust their packages to you with this plan?

  26. haggis for the soul says:

    Oh, Bad Idea Jeans.

  27. Fuzzy_duffel_bag says:

    When I lived in Providence, I saw several different DHL drivers in different neighborhoods openly selling drugs, so maybe giving the packages to random people will put them in more trustworthy hands.

  28. Plasmafox says:

    This is really cool. I would gladly help out with this if it were in my area.

  29. adamwade says:

    DHL is a mess. I don’t do business with merchants who ship via them. Thankfully most have stopped due to their horrible service. This just confirms that I am correct in my belief that they are the worst of the “major” shippers.

  30. Frank From Virginia says:

    While I like the idea, if I want strangers touching my package, I’ll just go through TSA airport security.

  31. maztec says:

    I have actually been playing with the idea of a nonprofit business model for package and mail delivery centered around the concept of social networking. So you write down where the package is to go to and then it is put out and picked up and slowly delivered. No guarantees in how long it will take ot deliver a package, but allow tracking/etc all the way. I like how they integrated a cell phone app into this, smart!

  32. Rational says:

    That is a really cool way of thinking a bit outside the box.

    There’s alot of practical issues to solve, but there’s alot of potential benefits too. If they work around liability/trust issues, try to imagine being able to cut the cost for the consumer, add some benefits for people commuting anyways and being a bit greener doesn’t really hurt anyone.