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Home delivery-related crimes causing anxiety for customers, headaches for workers

Employees of home delivery companies are facing a problem: many people pretend not to be home when a parcel first arrives, instead waiting to check the delivery ticket and rescheduling out of safety concerns, according to an investigation by the Mainichi Shimbun.

With cases of thieves posing as deliverymen and other related incidents recently, women living by themselves and the elderly have become more wary of home deliveries. While pretending not to be home when it is impossible to confirm who is at the door is a valid countermeasure for self-defense, it is an unfortunate problem for overworked delivery employees.

"I'm scared and don't want to answer the door if I don't know who it is," says a kindergarten teacher, 39, who lives alone in an apartment in Yokohama. Even if she is at home, she doesn't answer the intercom when it rings. "Especially at night, I don't answer," she says, always checking for the delivery slip in her mailbox before requesting the package be brought to her again. The Mainichi Shimbun also discovered cases where junior high school students alone at home were instructed by their parents to practice the same procedure.

"If I'm not expecting a post office or delivery service parcel, I pretend not to be home," writes one Twitter user. Another tweeted, "The intercom in my apartment doesn't have a video monitor, so there's nothing I can do. But I feel bad for the delivery worker."

The reality is that there have been cases of crimes connected to home delivery services. In October of last year, a man pretending to be a deliveryman forced his way into the home of a woman in her 80s in Tokyo's Suginami Ward, threatening her with a knife and stealing cash. In May last year, in the city of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture, two men calling themselves deliverymen assaulted a man in his 90s. Just this month in Aichi Prefecture, a deliveryman used the phone number written on the delivery ticket to privately contact a woman living by herself, receiving a warning from prefectural police for stalking. These incidents have not made the jobs of those in the home delivery industry any easier.

According to a questionnaire distributed by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism in August 2015, 1 percent of respondents answered, "I was home, but had reservations about opening the door for someone I don't know" as the reason for not receiving a package on the first delivery attempt. Among women, the percentage of those who pretended not to be home was reported to be higher.

One percent may not seem like a large number, but that means roughly 20 percent of the approximately 3.87 billion packages delivered last year were not received on the first attempt. One percent of those rescheduled packages accounts for 8 million delivery cases per year, or roughly 20,000 cases per day in which recipients pretended not to be home when delivery attempts were made. Each of those 20,000 cases had to be rescheduled and delivered again, adding to the workload of the employees.

Columnist and "living alone adviser" Maki Kawano has recommended the practice of pretending not to be home as a method for self-defense in the past, but still cautions, "We tend to think because it's just us doing it, we won't cause any trouble, but if everyone does it thinking the same thing, it becomes a big problem."

Meanwhile, it will be years before lockers where delivery personnel can leave parcels even when the recipients are not home, are installed at all residences.

A representative for delivery giant Yamato Transport Co. commented that since it was up to the customers, there was nothing that could be done about it. Sagawa Express Co., another major home delivery company, gave a similar answer. "We have no way of distinguishing between customers who are pretending to not be home and those who actually are not there to receive their packages," stated a representative. Both Yamato Transport and Sagawa Express said they are not taking any particular measures to deal with the phenomenon at this time.

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