Editor’s note: Brian Kilcourse is managing partner at Retail Systems Research, San Francisco. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “Amazon, internet shopping and rural America.” 

The scene at the local U.S. Post Office was chaotic. Although three windows were open, two postal agents were somewhere in the back of the building searching for parcels, while Larry, the lone guy at the front window, was trying to deal with yet another irritated Amazon shopper who wanted to know why the USPS truck didn’t drop off the package “like UPS.” A line of similarly irritated locals snaked out through the door. Welcome to an Amazon Christmas 2019, rural America-style. 

Well, first things first. Amazon doesn’t give Prime shoppers a choice in how a package gets delivered. I don’t know how Amazon decides to ship a package via UPS, USPS or via its own network of trucks, but I do know that the shopper can’t decide. A July 2019 column on Business Insider pointed out that in the years 2013-2018, Amazon shipments via UPS dropped significantly from 49% to 22%, while USPS shipments rose from 33% to 44%, and Amazon truck deliveries rose from nothing to 26%. 

Secondly, what’s up with USPS deliveries to rural shoppers? Well, according to the U.S. Postal Service’s General Guidelines and Policies for Rural Delivery:

Mailbox must be in the rural carrier's line of travel

For Accountable mail items and oversized parcels (not postage due), the carrier must try to gain the attention of the recipient, which includes honking their horn, in order to get them to come to the vehicle. If the customer doesn't come out and the house/delivery point is within 1/2 mile of the line of travel AND has a passable road, the carrier should attempt to deliver it. Otherwise, the carrier will leave PS Form 3849 and the customer will have to make arrangements to obtain the item.

In other words, Ama...