You’ve got (so, so much) mail

By ARIADNE WILL

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The Mail Center received an award for efficiency after delivering 89,000 packages last year. Staff members pose with the award (above).

The Middlebury Student Mail Center received an award for efficiency in distribution from technology company Neopost in October after delivering over 89,000 packages in the 2018-19 school year. In comparison, Miami University, a public research university with around 24,000 students, received the same efficiency award for colleges and universities with more than 7,000 students. The university, in the 2018–19 school year, received 91,000 packages —  only 2,000 more than Middlebury.

To Jacki Galenkamp, mail center supervisor, the award signals what she had already noticed in the mail room.

“We’ve been receiving over 1,000 packages a day,” she said last week, adding that the Mail Center processed 99,600 packages in the 2019 calendar year. “We receive staff and faculty packages, but the majority of packages are student [packages].” Galenkamp added that she believes the rurality of the college has everything to do with the abundance of packages.

“We don’t have a lot of shopping [in town],” she said. “The options here are more limited than even [those in] Burlington, or those of any college in New Jersey or Connecticut.”

In accordance with reporting from fall 2018, Galenkamp said she does not believe that the increased package volume is a result of the online bookstore, alone.

“I don’t really see a huge increase [in books] since the college bookstore stopped carrying books and inventory—that’s been a question that’s been posed to us quite a bit,” Galenkamp said. 

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Packages pile up quickly in the Mail Center. “We receive staff and faculty packages, but the majority of packages are student [packages],” said Mail Center Supervisor Jacki Galenkamp.

The months that mark the start of each semester — February and September — are the busiest months in the mailroom, according to data from the Mail Center. Despite this observation, Galenkamp’s claim that the online bookstore is not the only factor in higher delivery rates is substantiated: the data shows a 4,000-package difference between the months of February and September, suggesting that the increase in packages may also be the result of students moving in and returning to campus.

Feb. 2019 saw the second-most packages by a narrow margin, the third-busiest month being Oct. 2019. Assuming students have ordered and received their books by the second month of the term, the idea that the online bookstore is solely responsible for the increase in packages seems unlikely.

Though the mail center staff is unsure which factors have led to this influx of packages, Galenkamp says that Neopost — the company that presented the Mail Center with the efficiency award — has been key in the expedient nature of the mailroom.

The cloud-based system enables package tracking within the College. It emails students an hour after their package is processed in a message that states the package’s type, tracking number and recipient’s name. When processed, this information is logged into the mailroom’s searchable database. This system allows packages to be tracked within the system, provided they have been processed.

Before Neopost, Galenkamp said that students received paper slips in their mailboxes upon a package’s arrival.

“[The paper slips] were really inefficient because many college students don’t ever even check their mailbox,” she said. “With the electronic system, they get an email as soon as the package is processed.”

Galenkamp told The Campus that this processing is something some students still do not understand. She said that many students arrive at the Mail Center as soon as they receive notification from the package’s sender that a package has been delivered. This, she said, causes problems — even with a system as slick as Neopost.

 “Frequently, we get students coming down and saying, ‘Amazon said my package is here.’ That’s great, but so are 1100 other [packages],” she said. “If you come down looking for a package before you’ve gotten an email saying it’s been processed, it makes processing come to a screeching halt and it takes longer for you to get your package.”

In a mailroom that often processes and delivers over a thousand packages in a single day, Galenkamp said that patience is important.

“As soon as it’s processed, you’ll get an email,” she said.

Note: Ariadne Will is a mail clerk at the Middlebury College Mail Center.