Jennifer Escayg, a mother of two from Palm City, Florida, knows how to hide Christmas gifts from her snooping family. She shops on Amazon and then leaves the boxes in plain sight.
“They all think it's for me and don’t bother with it,” Escayg said. "It's perfect."
During the holiday season, we could all use a sled full of clever tricks to keep the magic of Christmas alive for that curious spouse or sleuthing kids who'd love to know what awaits them under the tree.
It's not just stashing gifts. More than 95% of consumers are buying half or more of their gifts online this year, according to a recent survey by Leanplum. So keeping it all a surprise – from placing the online order to having it delivered – is a tall order. And this need for in-home spy-proofing is in addition to the porch pirates to be on the lookout for.
“We all know someone who pokes around and tries to figure out what gift you bought them before the holidays come,” said Sara Skirboll, RetailMeNot shopping and trends expert. “While technology has made gift giving easier, it’s also easier for those who snoop to find what they’re looking for.”
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Before placing your order
Here's one way the holiday surprise can be instantly ruined: Some items aren't shipped in boxes or padded envelopes and come in the original packaging. Pay attention to this during checkout, and options are available to conceal the item box, including at Amazon.
Also, put pass codes on your apps and protect your holiday shopping list on your phone and computer with a password. “That way if someone does stumble upon it, whether intentionally or by accident, your list is hidden,” Skirboll said. “If you share an email account with a loved one, send all of your shopping receipts to a separate email. As a bonus, this will also help keep you organized.”
Monitor delivery notifications like a hawk. Sign up for email, text and app alerts. With Amazon delivery, you can see when the truck is 10 stops away to know when it's time to rush outside and intercept that package.
Use in-store pick up, Amazon Locker
Cathy Morrow Roberson, a shipping and delivery expert with Logistics Trends & Insights in Atlanta, said people are worried about theft and are choosing to pick up at stores, Amazon lockers and other alternatives.
“These alternative delivery options are great options to keep pirates at bay and to keep snooping family members from discovering their packages,” Morrow Roberson said. “You have to weigh your options. Do you want to pick it up at the store or a more secure delivery option?”
According to Shorr Packing Corp.’s 2019 package theft report, 24% of online shoppers surveyed had experienced package theft, and 78% of victims said they took preventative action in the future versus 46% of survey respondents who never experienced package theft.
A growing number of retailers are offering in-store pickup or ship to store as an option, said Rod Sides, retail leader for consulting firm Deloitte.
“When you think about how much we all spend online, anything you can do to protect that purchase, especially at this time of year is really important,” he said, noting it's also about convenience.
Almost all major retailers offer in-store pickup, including Target, Walmart, Kohl's, J.C. Penney, Macy's, Office Depot, Staples and Old Navy. Amazon Lockers are available in 900 cities, with locations ranging from 7-Eleven stores to GNC locations and some apartment lobbies.
Redirect to alternative locations
Many packages can be redirected to the delivery carrier including FedEx and UPS. They also can be sent to alternative locations such as stores.
FedEx packages can be picked up at FedEx locations and stores including Walgreens, Dollar General and Kroger. UPS packages can be directed to The UPS Store, CVS or Michaels.
Through Jan. 12, UPS is offering an incentive to pick up packages at your preferred UPS Access point location and the chance to earn up to a $15 Target gift card and up to six free months of UPS My Choice Premium service with upgraded delivery options. Learn more at www.ups.com/holidayrewards.
To reroute packages to retail locations of your choice, you'll need to log on to the delivery service's website or app. With your tracking number, you can request to have your package securely redirected to a convenient retail location of your choice.
Send to a friend, neighbor or the office
Louie Patterson, a content editor at Slickdeals.net, suggests sending packages to the work mail room, or ask friends or neighbors. But make sure it's not going to get you on the naughty list: Not all workplaces allow that.
Require a signature
You can set your delivery options with UPS, the U.S. Postal Service or another delivery carrier to require your signature before a package is delivered. This requires you to be home for the delivery or to request alternate delivery.
The FedEx and UPS websites or apps also are needed to schedule delivery days or time windows. "Contact the delivery service and have them reroute or reschedule deliveries if you’re afraid a family member might be at home to receive them," Patterson said.
Delivery inside your home or car
Use Amazon Key or August Access to control access to your front walkway, porch or living area so delivery workers can deposit packages inside where porch pirates can’t reach them. With Amazon, select cars allow delivery inside the trunk.
“That’s too freaky for me, although it’s all videotaped,” Morrow Roberson said. “I don’t know because I don’t want strange people looking at my refrigerator.”
Security cameras, video doorbell
Keep an eye out for thieves with home security cameras or a doorbell with video capabilities. Video doorbells can stream live video to your phone and/or automatically record who is on your doorstep with motion detection.
"These devices can notify you immediately when someone is at your door," said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.com. "That way, if you’re expecting a package on a given day and you’re scared of it going missing, you can either go home and put it indoors shortly after it's delivered or call a friendly neighbor and ask them to do it for you."
With some systems, you can scare your potential porch pirate with motion-detector lights on your porch or garage. Sides said it's not the best option, however: “The video surveillance only watches your package walk away. It doesn’t stop it.”
The packages are inside. Now what?
Whether the gifts came from an in-store shopping spree or online order, now that the gifts are safe, it’s time to hide them. And not Elf on the Shelf-style.
“Try to find unique hiding spots that the kids won’t snoop out like inside of a suitcase, beverage cooler or empty trash can with a lid,” Skirboll said.
Laundry basket and empty boxes are other options along with bringing to a friend’s house.
Contributing: Sarah Taddeo, USA TODAY Network