We are all familiar with Amazon. Starting as an online bookseller, it has transformed commerce in the United States.

Going into all of the ways Amazon has changed our world is far too much for a short column, so this column is about a way I bumped into recently, yet haven’t seen any publicity on.

While dropping off one of my children at college recently, we were walking around the town and saw an Amazon storefront. Curious, we went inside.

In short, it’s an Amazon Post Office (my words, not Amazon’s). There’s a counter and what looks like P.O. boxes on the wall.

How it works is that in your Amazon account, you set up a recipient as the Amazon Post Office. You buy products on Amazon and send them to the Amazon Post Office. When the products arrive, you receive a text message.

When you’re ready to pick up the items, you click on a link in the text that tells the Amazon Post Office staff you’re on your way. You are given a bar code on your phone that you put in front of a scanner in the facility. A screen tells you what door your stuff is behind and the door pops open.

There behind the door is your merchandise. No shipping box. No packing bubbles. Just your merchandise in a plastic bag for you to carry away.

If you need to return something, simply bring it to the Amazon Post Office and one of the people there will take it from you and ship it for you. There’s no putting it in a cardboard box, printing out a shipping label, finding bubble wrap and packing tape or even buying postage.

It’s all handled at the Amazon Post Office by an Amazon employee.

Apparently, Amazon delivers many orders to these locations, and they wait until a customer tells them they’re on their way. When advised a customer is on their way, an Amazon employee puts the merchandise in the appropriate-sized mailbox so when the customer arrives, their merchandise is waiting for them.

With a child in college and the uncertainty of delivery services leaving boxes outside their apartment door, this is a great way to ensure items get into the hands of the correct people.

Not having to keep or find boxes and packing material when returns are necessary is also a big plus.

While the facility I saw is branded and run by Amazon, I would hope that UPS, FedEx and possibly even the U.S. Postal Service could provide similar services. As odd as that may have seemed even a few months ago, seeing it in real life makes it a lot less foreign.

Congratulations on Amazon continuing to innovate in ways most of us never considered. I look forward to seeing what else comes from Amazon.

Mark Mathias is a 35-plus-year information technology executive and a resident of Westport. His columns can be read at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwith

technology@mathias.org.