NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Amazon (AMZN) is gearing up to make a big announcement on Wednesday that will showcase the e-retailer's own take on a streaming media device that will compete with Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Roku. But the company is also making news after The Wall Street Journal reported that it has been quietly rolling out a feature to allow customers to make returns through Amazon Locker service.
The service is an added feature to the lockers, which Amazon originally launched a few years ago as a way for urban dwellers to ensure their packages could be delivered even when they were at work, the Journal noted. The service isn't available everywhere or for all merchandise returns. In fact, a quick search in metro New York turned up several dozen lockers, which are located in a variety of stores like Dunkin' Donuts and 7-Eleven, among other places, but none in Long Island.
In fact, Amazon actually started rolling out the return service for customers last summer, a spokeswoman told TheStreet, noting that "customers like the added convenience of the Locker option." She declined to share Amazon's future locker expansion plans with TheStreet.
But it's safe to say that the service is another piece of the jigsaw puzzle as Amazon seeks to contain -- and control -- shipping and fuel costs. The Journal article noted that up to one-third of all online purchases are returned, which is a costly measure for merchants that pay for shipping in both directions. Amazon last month said it would raise the price of Amazon Prime, its two-day shipping subscription service, by $20 to $99 a year. A report by The Guardian last week also noted that Amazon has the option to purchase a stake in Yodel, a U.K. courier system, another example of Amazon furthering itself into the shipping and logistics industry, as it looks to cut its largest expense.
Amazon said that if the locker option is available in your area it will appear in the Online Returns Center when a customer submits a return request. If the option is available, customers will receive a locker drop off code via email. Customers then enter the code through a touch screen display and follow instructions accordingly. Customers must drop off returns within one business day. Packages should be smaller than 12x12x12 inches so that they fit in the locker.
--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.