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Will Amazon Enlist Ordinary People for Delivery Service?

In the tit-for-tat world of fast and cheap delivery, Amazon is reportedly set to challenge Uber’s attempt to offer a same-day service through its fleet of couriers and drivers by instead relying on the kindness of strangers to drop off packages as they go about their day.

Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the online behemoth is developing a mobile app called “On My Way” that would crowdsource and pay ordinary people to pick up and drop off packages on behalf of Amazon. Pricing and timing details were not disclosed.

While unnamed sources familiar with the matter said it’s possible Amazon won’t move forward with the service, it could help the company cut its shipping costs—which ballooned by more than 30 percent last year—or give them more room to negotiate better rates with the likes of UPS or FedEx.

If it does go ahead, Amazon would likely enlist traditional delivery services to drop off packages to brick-and-mortar retailers in urban areas that have agreed to store them for a fee, after which your average Joe or Jane will pick them up and deliver them to their final destination.

Experts are skeptical about how such a service would work. As Marc Wulfraat, president of the Montreal-based logistics consulting firm MWPLVL International Inc., put it, “What’s to stop these people from simply taking the packages for themselves instead of leaving it on someone’s porch?”

Amazon isn’t the only retailer testing the crowdsourced delivery route. Deliv partnered with Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Foot Locker last fall to pick up online orders from brick-and-mortar stores and deliver them that same day to customers in select markets across the U.S., while the aforementioned Uber is in talks with more than 400 merchants to offer an expedited service through UberRush bike couriers and Uber car drivers.