Packstation is the name of an automated booth for package delivery and collection, operated by DHL in cities across Germany. Started as a pilot project in 2001, by 2007 there were already a total of 900 Packstations in Germany open 24 hours a day. Only parcels sent via the postal company Deutsche Post/DHL can be collected or delivered at a Packstation (with the exception of DHL-express deliveries from outside Germany).
A major market for the Packstations is the increasing number of time-poor professionals who purchase products online but are not normally at home in the day time to accept deliveries, or who do not have the time to deposit parcels at the post office during normal opening hours. There are currently 800,000 registered Packstation customers in Germany, and according to Deutsche Post their number is growing by 200,000 every year.
Deutsche Post is planning to set up a total of 2400 Packstations in Germany until 2009. Its aim is that eventually every customer should not need to travel more than 10 minutes to reach a Packstation.
The addressing system used for Packstations is slightly different from standard mail. A customer who wishes to pick up a delivery at a Packstation must specify its address according to the following scheme:
where, in the above example, "12345678" is the customer number, "123" is the Packstation number and "12345" is the traditional postal code. The customer number is permanently assigned to a recipient. Number and location of a Packstation can be looked up online prior to receiving a delivery.
When collecting deliveries, the customer is not tied to a particular Packstation, but is free to choose a different one for each delivery. As soon as the parcel arrives at the Packstation, the customer is notified by SMS and/or email. Using Packstations is free of charge both for private and business customers, however prior registration is required. Each customer obtains a customer card and PIN that can be used to unlock the Packstation compartment containing the delivery. The Packstation also accepts Maestro debit cards for pay-on-delivery services. If the Packstation is full the delivery is diverted for collection at the nearest post office.
Sending a parcel from a Packstation is €1.00 cheaper than from a post office, however the parcel may not exceed a certain size. Postage stamps must be affixed to the parcel and can purchased at the Packstation or in advance.
To send a delivery, the customer must log in with his/her customer card and PIN, and scan in the bar code on the postage stamp. After the parcel size is specified, a compartment opens where it can be placed. The maximum size for parcels is 60 × 35 × 35 cm.
Since January 2004 DHL offers in-house Packstations for large businesses (with more than 3000 employees). This service is especially attractive for businesses whose employees frequently receive private parcels at their work address. Although this practice isn't popular with employers, the Packstation can be a compromise solution that still allows employees to receive parcels without straining the company's resources. The first business to set up a Packstation in-house was SAP in Walldorf (number 801 and 803). Unlike public Packstations, the location of in-house Packstations is not published on the internet. BASF, Siemens, T-Mobile, and T-Online have also set up Packstations on their premises.
Public Packstations are often used by businesses to deliver spare sparts to service technicians working in the field, or on the way to the customer.
The user of a Packstation must agree to give up his/her right to decline acceptance of a delivery, when registering for the service. A traditional parcel delivery to a home address or for collection at a post office can be rejected by the customer if visible damage has occurred to the packaging, or if it is an unwanted delivery. However, customers have the option to file a complaint to the nearest post office. Wheelchair users have trouble using the Packstations because some of the compartments are too high for wheelchair access.
Österreichische Post, an Austrian postal company, has introduced a vitually identical service called Post.24-Station in November 2006. The booths are manufactured by the same company that makes the Packstations, Keba AG. Currently the service is only available in Vienna, where Stations have been erected in supermarkets, petrol stations, and post offices that can easily be reached by public transport.