Google is in the package receiving business with a service called Bufferbox. Find out what it is and why you might use it.
What is Bufferbox?
Bufferbox is a package receiving/storage service (not to be confused with an actual shipping service like FedEx). Recipients obtain the shipping address for a convenient Bufferbox location by signing into www.bufferbox.com with their Google account and selecting their desired destination.
For instance, let's say I work near Judah Street in San Francisco and would like the laptop I ordered to be shipped there. Bufferbox showed me the address information, hours, and reminders, as you can see in Figure A.
To ship my laptop to this Bufferbox location on Judah Street I can simply provide the Name and Address details as shown to the vendor when buying the laptop. Some retailer websites are even integrated with Bufferbox so you can pick this option when you pay for your wares; you will not have to sign into their site to manually retrieve the address information.
Deliveries are shipped to a centralized Bufferbox location and are transported then deposited into a secure box in a free-standing kiosk. Recipients are emailed an unlock code they can use to open the lockers and retrieve their packages (within three business days). It seems to be totally self-service and is a similar arrangement to Amazon Locker.
As the above reminder list shows, permitted package sizes are 25" x 17" x 22" or smaller, and the maximum package weight is approximately 65 lbs. However, if your package exceeds these limits you can pick it up from a Bufferbox warehouse.
Why would I use Bufferbox?
Well, that's the interesting question, isn't it? As a die-hard fan of the now-ended show "Breaking Bad," my first reaction was to guess that Walter White might have used Bufferbox to ship cash to his lawyer, Saul Goodman, for money laundering (note: not an endorsement of using Bufferbox for any such purposes). Actually, the Bufferbox FAQ provides a lengthy list of prohibited items, making it clear this is not a service to be abused for illegal purposes.
The attraction of Bufferbox is much less nefarious, but more likely commonplace: if you live in an apartment building with a small mailbox and aren't likely to be home when the postman arrives (or you're worried about theft), you can have online purchases shipped to Bufferbox. If your office mailroom is a Kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare which is prone to losing packages, you can use Bufferbox instead. Buying an anniversary gift for your spouse and you don't want them asking questions about the fancy box that arrived from such-and-such retailer? Bufferbox is the answer. Headed to a location where Bufferbox kiosks are available and you need some stuff sent there for your trip? Find a nearby Bufferbox location and get it there.
These uses also apply to any customers you may have with concerns about secure package delivery, of course - if you are a merchant you could recommend this service to help facilitate transactions.
There is one caveat: if you are receiving a package which requires a signature, Bufferbox is not the best option.
Where is it available?
Therein lies the rub at present. Bufferbox exists only in the Greater Toronto region (26 kiosks) and San Francisco (14 kiosks). This is similar to Google Fiber, which exists in Austin, TX, Kansas City and Provo, UT. More locations should be added down the road, however. Considering the fact Greater Toronto has a population over 5.5 million and San Francisco has over 825,000 people, that's nearly 6.5 million who could utilize Bufferbox services (not to mention travelers visiting these locations)
How much does it cost?
As of October, 2013 there is no cost associated with using Bufferbox. This is likely to change, but there will be a notification as such at least one month beforehand.
Where can I find out more?
The Bufferbox FAQ is the first place to start, and it contains all you need to know about this simple but effective solution. You can also check out an introductory (and funny) video and read the Bufferbox Blog.