Many years ago, I worked as an office assistant in my college dorm. One of the responsibilities was letting residents know if they had received a UPS package. Anything sent via regular mail went to the campus post office where we were all assigned a box. Since UPS couldn’t deliver to the post office box, it came to the dorm where someone would get around to writing out a paper form so the student could be notified. It wasn’t a particularly efficient process, but once you got past the start of the school year, there weren’t too many packages to deal with.
But times have changed! The Daily Campus (of the University of Connecticut) reports that UConn’s mailrooms are getting overwhelmed (Mailroom backup continues as officials search for solutions, Oct 5).
The number of packages received by the university for residential students has been increasing drastically in recent years, in large part due to the rise in online purchases, Assistant Director of Building Services Tracy, told The Daily Campus in an earlier article. As a result, there is a growing need to find long-term solutions beyond hiring more staff.
According to Cree, more than 100 student workers are involved in work related to the residential mailrooms.
In order to fix some immediate problems, plans have been made to modify existing mailrooms in the next few weeks. These alterations are intended to allow packages to be processed much more efficiently. …
In addition to these immediate changes that are to be put in place, UConn is also considering other ways to efficiently deal with the influx of packages and alter the current infrastructure to better reflect the needs of students. …
“We have been discussing the possibility of creating central locations for sorting, but also discussing distribution systems to get the packages delivered sooner,” [executive director of Building Services Logan] Trimble said.
The earlier article referenced above claims that UConn is receiving 3,000 packages per day. The Business Insider article on UConn’s mailroom woes notes that the school has about 31,000 students. Some of those presumably live off campus and have their Amazon sent to their apartments so we are probably looking at over 10% of on-campus students getting packages every day. I am glad my dorm assistant days are behind.
To my mind, the real problem here is that basic process of receiving packages, letting students know, and then doling them out hasn’t changed much since I was an undergrad. It is largely manual and does not scale well.
Would moving to central location make a difference? It would certainly allow for more space and (presumably) smoother workflow. It is unclear whether a digital solution would be feasible. For example, it should be theoretically possible to scan the recipient’s name and send an email to their university account that a package is waiting. That might be tough with random care packages from home, but it should be possible to link packages from Amazon and other large online retailers to the email address that placed the order. But all that would take hardware and possibly some cooperation from the shipping firms.
That said, there are clearly a couple of players who should love having a central location, namely the delivery firms. Density simplifies delivery; UPS and FedEx would love to be able to roll a truck to one location on campus and offload as much as possible.