Michelle Worthington, CC ’14, once waited an hour last year to pick up a package from the package center in Lerner Hall.
Although she kept herself preoccupied by reading for classes, she remembers being very annoyed.
“The fact that they couldn’t expedite the process at the time just seemed absurd,” Worthington said.
In response to student complaints, Campus Services and Mail Services have implemented changes this year to reduce wait times and increase efficiency.
After anticipating a continuing trend in the increase of packages received, the package center introduced satellite locations to relieve some of the distribution stress in Lerner. More packages are now being sent for pickup in residence halls like Carman, Schapiro, and Wien.
Miguel Pagan, executive director of administrative services, said that the satellite locations have made a drastic difference in the efficiency of package pickup.
To further combat the chaos during the package spike at the beginning of the term this year, the package center added an overnight shift for employees to sort and process packages in preparation for the next distribution day. In addition to the 10 regular staff members employed at the package center, 20 other temporary staff members have been employed to work in three different shifts.
Last year, Mail Services also installed several kiosks in Lerner to help students pick up packages more quickly and even skip the long lines.
Scott Wright, vice president of campus services, estimated that this year, the number of students who use the kiosks has increased tenfold since the system has become more well-known.
“The big change after last year’s experience was that we felt like we did a really good job controlling the lines,” Pagan said.
The volume of packages has spiked only recently. Wright said that the influx of packages dramatically changed starting in 2011, when packages received at the center increased 41 percent—from 28,610 to 40,276 packages in the first two weeks of school—from 2010.
“Shipping became free for everything,” Wright said. “It’s totally changed the dynamic of online purchases.”
Because online services were providing more free shipping, Wright said that not only has volume increased, but also the bulkiness of objects delivered to the package center. Consequently, square footage in the 15-year-old Lerner Package Center has had difficulty accommodating all the packages.
The stress placed on the package center stems not only from the receiving end but also from the distributing end. From Aug. 25 to Sept. 6, the package center received 9,412 packages but only distributed 8,759 of them. Because reception outpaces distribution, Wright said that by Sept. 1, there was essentially very little space left.
Despite the efforts to make the package center more efficient, Wright and Pagan acknowledge that some problems still need to be fixed.
“The spot the kiosk is in is not a good spot for wireless in Lerner,” Pagan said. “We had to go and point the routers a little differently and work with CUIT. So that’s just one of those flukey things.”
One problem they can’t fix permanently, however, is the continuous increase in the volume of packages. Even with the increase in satellite locations, space is still finite, and Pagan understands how inconvenient it can be for students to pick up packages only to realize they are at the wrong location.
“With all the other stuff that students have going on, making them hunt for packages is not part of the plan, but it’s just how the world has changed since Alfred Lerner Hall was built,” he said. “We’ll adjust to it. We’re working on it.”
Jackie Ho, CC ’14, said that she appreciates the change she’s seen in the package center.
“I think it’s a good change,” she added. “It seemed really efficient that my package was waiting for me on the side and ready to go.”
Penn Gotfried, CC ’15, agreed.
“I think it’s much faster this year, and it actually went a lot better, the line’s much shorter,” he said. “They added more different centers so I think it’s a lot better but I think it’s pretty good.”