Google Buys Shipping Lockbox Vendor BufferBox

BufferBox provides secure lockboxes where customers can pick up their goods from online merchants instead of having packages left at their doors.

Google is buying BufferBox, a Canadian startup that offers customers locked storage sites where they can pick up packages from online vendors instead of having the packages left on their porches by delivery workers.

BufferBox announced the acquisition in a Nov. 30 blog post on its Website.

"We are excited to announce that BufferBox has been acquired by Google!" said the post.

The BufferBox service, though, won't be a huge boon for Google right away. So far, BufferBox is in the midst of the first rollouts of its package lockboxes to its first 100 locations in Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, which are scheduled for deployment by the end of 2013.

That means it will likely be some time before Google and BufferBox could be a large-scale option for consumers who worry about having packages left outside their doors when ordering merchandise from online vendors.

The price tag for the transaction was not disclosed, but reported that Google paid $17 million for the almost 2-year-old company.

Amazon has a similar Amazon Lockers service as part of its online commerce platform, where consumers in a growing number of locations can have their Amazon purchases shipped to a secure Amazon Locker, where they can pick it up when it is convenient.

For the rest of the year, BufferBox said it will accept packages for customers at no charge.

A Google spokesman confirmed the purchase Dec. 3 and said the move is aimed at helping its customers. "We want to remove as much friction as possible from the shopping experience, while helping consumers save time and money, and we think the BufferBox team has a lot of great ideas around how to do that," the spokesman told eWEEK.

"Being a small company and a startup, there's obviously a lot of challenges," Mike McCauley, CEO of BufferBox, said in an interview with Canada's Financial Post. "So us being able to work very closely with someone like Google allows us to leverage their resources and share vision and combine thoughts and talent together to really make something a lot bigger than we ever would have imagined. We're really excited to be able to build out that vision quite a bit quicker than we otherwise would have without them onside."

The BufferBox service hopes to charge customers $3 to $4 per package in the future for accepting the parcels, according to the Financial Post story. When a package arrives at one of the lockers, the customer receives an email and then can pick it up at the self-service kiosk using a one-time code.

So far, BufferBox has been installing its package acceptance lockboxes in transit stations in its Ontario locations, according to the story. The company is also negotiating to expand its lockbox use in grocery and convenience stores.

The news of the Google BufferBox acquisition comes just a month after Amazon, the big gorilla in the consumer Internet retail sales marketplace, announced that it will expand its fledgling Amazon Lockers program inside Staples stores around the United States, according to a Nov. 2 story from Reuters.

By allowing customers to receive their packages at Staples stores, Amazon officials hope to remove some of the worries that online buyers have when ordering from online companies, according to the story. "With the service, Amazon sends customers an email with a pickup code, which is entered on a touch-screen to open the locker containing the package. Shoppers have three days from the delivery date to pick up the package."

Amazon will pay a small undisclosed fee to the Staples stores where the lockers will be located, the story reported.

Amazon customers can determine if there is a participating Amazon Locker location near them by going to Amazon's Website and entering their address or zip code, or when selecting their shipping address when placing an order, according to the company.

Radio Shack is also installing some Amazon Lockers, according to a story from Geekwire. "A search for Amazon Lockers in San Francisco and surrounding cities reveals more than a dozen RadioShack locations with Amazon Lockers available for receiving deliveries for Amazon customers," Geekwire recently reported. Some Albertsons grocery stores are also getting Amazon Lockers, according to Geekwire.