Delivery Services

Crowdsourced Delivery Concerns: Don’t Carry Drugs

Social shipping, or crowdsourced delivery, is a neat system that takes advantage of empty luggage space to get stuff from one place to another for cheap. I’ve done a number of deliveries over the past few years. They all involved me, or the person I was delivering to, ordering something online and having it shipped to my address. I’ve delivered shoes, card games, water bottles and more. The risk in this system is low because I know exactly what I’m carrying, and where it came from.

Recently I wrote about the potential risks of the Airmule business model, where they give you a suitcase full of stuff to carry.  A few weeks ago I got a request from someone in Bangkok on the PiggyBee platform.  She wants me to bring some homemade soaps back to the U.S. and then mail them to her friend in Florida. I immediately thought about the risk: how do I know these are really soaps? I could smell them. But I don’t know much about soap so I’d be easily fooled. 

Nonetheless, I decided to pursue this discussion on the assumption that this woman is really just sending her friend a present. We talked about shipping costs within the U.S., and her required timing, and how we might coordinate the pickup in Bangkok while I’m there.

And then she sent me an email saying her friend wants to send another parcel, also to Florida, and it’s Sidegra. Would I be willing to carry this back to the U.S. as well? I googled Sidegra and learned that it’s a Thai manufactured viagra substitute. I know nothing about the laws of importing pharmaceuticals, and I have no interest in learning them. Further, I’m concerned that this could be any drug; I wouldn’t know Sidegra from Opioids. Pills look like pills.

I immediately declined this addition to the shipment.  But I’m also pretty close to just declining the entire transaction. I’d earn some money for carrying these soaps. But the discussion is raising too many red flags. I can think of a perfectly reasonable explanation for both shipments: they are working with a reseller in the U.S. But even that raises customs issues.

To be fair, the original shipper responded to my message declining the Sidegra agreeing with me that her research suggested it might be a customs issue and I shouldn’t take it. So she still seems legit and above board.

I think in the future I will limit my delivery to items that I can verify (i.e. a sweater is really unlikely to be anything but a sweater) or items that are purchased and shipped to me from a known store (like Amazon).