Some Austin shipping stores asking customers to open boxes

AUSTIN (KXAN) - If you head to Parcel Plus in northwest Austin off of US 183, you'll come across longtime owner, Panna Patel.  

"I love it," said Patel. "Every day I come here and spend 10 hours here and I love it."

Patel has owned the shipping store for 13 years and says she prides herself on being able to provide her customers the option of sending or receiving mail from various top carriers.

"We work with FedEx, UPS, DHL and USPS," she said. 

However, with the recent deadly explosions involving packages in Austin, Patel says she has had to take extra safety measures and has been keeping a closer eye on what comes into her store. 

"When I heard this morning, I was like, 'Oh OK, this is it. I have to be careful,'" said Patel. "I am going to ask my customers to open the box before I print the labels and ship them out." 

She's making sure she knows exactly what's being shipped out because the contents of a box haven't always been disclosed in the past.

"I have found drugs," she said. "I have found guns."

On Monday, Patel's store's parent company, Annex Brands, sent out a memo to select Pak Mail, Postal Annex+ and Parcel Plus stores asking to hold up to three packages per day per customer so that packages could be delivered there instead of customers' front doors.

Annex Brands officials say this was done in an effort to ease fears of receiving packages for customers, but after the package that exploded in Schertz at a mail carrier's facility Tuesday morning, the company decided to cancel the "receive and hold" program.

Parcel Plus customer Todd Kenna stops by the store two to three times a month and says he can't understand the recent bombings.

"I drop boxes off and [Patel] just says, 'Put them back there,' and I say, 'Hello,' and I walk out and you don't think that something bad could happen here or anywhere," he said. 

Kenna says he has never thought much about handling packages before because it's become a part of his normal routine. 

"Packages show up on our doorstep every day, you take them inside you open them," said Kenna. "It's scary, everybody uses mail, I get packages from Amazon, my parents, all the time."

For now, Patel says there's nothing else she can do but remain vigilant.

"When a customer brings a package in I have to ask the customer to open the boxes so I can see what is inside the package," she said.

Patel had this advice for others in her position handling mail every day.

"Be careful," she said. "Because sometimes people do lie." 

Annex Brands confirms it is recommending all 12 of its Austin franchisees ask customers to open any sealed package before they send it out.

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