Mail Center On Track to Beat Package Record


Mail center employees processed almost 4,000 more packages this September than they processed in September 2017.

The number of packages that the mail center receives has grown steadily over the past decade. Yearly totals were in the fifty-thousands from 2009 to 2012, and then increased in 2013 to approximately 70,000 packages — a 24 percent jump. Between 2014 and 2017, totals climbed from about 80,000 to roughly 89,000. If this September is any indication, the 2018 annual total will easily surpass 90,000 packages.

Many Middlebury students, including some student mail center employees, attribute this semester’s surge in packages to the bookstore’s decision to contract with online bookseller MBS Direct instead of selling books in the physical store.

Jacki Galenkamp, the mail center supervisor, agreed that the influx of packages this September was partially due to an increased number of online book orders. 

How did you receive your books this year?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

“We were getting quite a few books that were meant for the bookstore,” she said. All United States Postal Service (USPS) shipments arrive at the mail center, Galenkamp explained, and since most books ordered after the start of the school year were sent through USPS, the mail center bore the brunt of the work.

“We processed them for about two weeks maximum and then I ended up calling the post office and having them sort out what was addressed to 58 Hepburn, the bookstore’s address,” Galenkamp said.

But Galenkamp does not believe the bookstore is solely responsible. 

“I can’t say with any kind of certainty say how much the bookstore affected us,” she said. “It definitely did affect the number, but I don’t know how much.”

All MBS Direct packages were delivered by USPS, and USPS packages accounted for only about 40 percent of this September’s 4,000-package increase. Because the bookstore no longer sells physical books on campus, students have started buying nearly all of their books online, whether from MBS Direct, Amazon or other sites.

“People order from ThriftBooks, Book Depository, Amazon rentals. There are so many companies,” said Nicole Duquette, one of the mail center’s two full-time mail clerks. 

The transition from a physical bookstore to the online bookstore just means that everyone and their mother’s uncle is trying to get their books from the mail center.”

— Rachael Salerno '18.5

“The transition from a physical bookstore to the online bookstore just means that everyone and their mother’s uncle is trying to get their books from the mail center,” joked Rachael Salerno ’18.5, a mail center employee.

The surge of packages made the last month a challenging time for mail center employees. 

“During September we were working seven days a week, we were staying late, we never closed the window until the last person was helped,” Galenkamp said. “And then after we closed we would stay for an hour, two hours, as late as our personal lives would allow.”

According to Galenkamp, employees were so swamped on some nights that they were unable to process everything despite staying late after work. 

“It was really hard for us to walk out the doors without having finished everything, and we would come in early the next day. That was a little bit of a struggle.”

The number of packages also made it harder for employees to find specific items during peak pickup times between regular morning classes. 

“We don’t want it to be a long and arduous process for students, but with the number of packages that are there all the time, it’s been increasingly difficult to find the number of packages right away,” said Mattea Preece ’19, another student employee. 

“It’s really hard because you’re trying to keep the students as happy as possible. Obviously you want to find each package, but sometimes you have to disappoint one student,” Preece said. 

This year is a record-breaking one for the college mail center.

For the most part, students were patient during the September package rush. 

“Students went out of their way to thank us and we really appreciate that,” Galenkamp said. “We worked non-stop, leaving at the end of the day and working weekends, and students were really understanding.”

“The good times definitely outweigh those bad and awkward encounters that you have,” Preece said. “I just think a lot of students aren’t used to having to wait for their packages. I have had a few students be rude to me, and I’ve heard stories from other employees as well, but I understand why people are frustrated.”

Students can help the mail center function quickly and efficiently by respecting the center’s policies. 

“One of the biggest things that students can do is not come down until they get an email from the mail center saying that their package has arrived,” Galenkamp said. “It wastes their time because they’re waiting in line, it wastes our time because we have to stop processing in order to tell them that their package hasn’t been processed yet.”

Galenkamp said it could be helpful for professors to consider switching to e-books, and employees have ideas for ways to redesign the mail center to maximize efficiency. 

“It would probably speed up the lines so much more if we had an extra window or if they just expanded the counter space. Then we could all be working together to make sure that we got the lines cut down,” Preece said.

Galenkamp’s ideal mail center would be bigger and able to accommodate oversized items with a larger window. However, she is unsure if it would be cost-effective to renovate the center only to cope with the three busiest weeks each year.  

“If you could convince the town to put in a Target, that would help us a lot,” Galenkamp laughed.