Getting Answers About the Package Center

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The line at the package center earlier today

Bwog must wait in lines at the package center like everyone else.  And, as everyone else has surely noticed, the package center lines are still horrendous, a month into the semester. As a result, Alex Jones donned his investigative journalist hat and did a little digging…

And found basically nothing. It seems like there is nothing to conclusively report, but Bwog wanted to share its findings because we care!

Package Center:

  • claims that package volume has been “much higher” than in any other January.
  • insists that if students come at times other than right after class, then it really isn’t a problem.

“So why is the volume of packages higher?” Bwog wondered. Perhaps Amazon Prime is the culprit?  If that is so, then students would be buying fewer books from other traditional sources.

Book Culture:

  • The owner claims that sales during the January textbook sales season are “about the same as always.  There is no noticeable difference.”
  • Additionally, Book Culture maintains that they are price competitive with Amazon, so there should be no shift in business.

CU Book Store:

  • Official policy not to discuss sales.

Amazon Prime offers prices that are hard to beat, despite the claims of Book Culture.  So it would make sense that people get their books from the cheapest source.  However, if the volume of the package center was really that much inflated, then Book Culture would have seen some kind of dip in business, and it seems implausible that Amazon traded off with only the CU Bookstore.

Bwog’s Conclusion:

  • Something sinister is going on here.
  • Did anyone else’s Economist get bounced as undeliverable??

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  1. tired senior  

    typical helpful CU book store response to any question.

  2. yes!  

    my new yorker subscription was marked as undeliverable as well. what is that about? how bout a little more investigative journalism to solve that mystery, bwog?

    alternately, i will be going sometime tomorrow to talk to the mail/mole people in charge to see if i can get a straight answer. not that i really have the time or patience to read an entire new yorker article...

  3. Book Culture  

    sells every course book at the list price. There is absolutely no way they could legitimately claim to be "price competitive" with Amazon, unless by "price competitive" they mean that they decisively lose.

    I think the problem with the package center is not books, but ridiculous large items that take a long time for the package center staff to retrieve. Maybe the 5 speaker surround sound home stereo system can wait a few months?

  4. Anonymous

    "Book Culture maintains that they are price competitive with Amazon, so there should be no shift in business."


  5. ..  

    book culture, in my opinion, is overpriced. amazon prime ftw.

  6. gay

    There's one package center guys with a shaved head and a really fine ass. A 30 min wait is worth it.

  7. $

    I bought every book this semester initially at book culture like I always have done. Then I got smart, went on Amazon and returned and repurchased all but a couple of books that with shipping were the same price and saved over 500 bones, bought me a new iphone with the savings, courtesy of Amazon.

  8. ...  

    The main problem with the package center is they don't have enough people working there. A lot of times you go and there are one or two people working with about 10-15 students in line. The workers look up the order on the computer, then spend 5 minutes looking for the box on the shelf, while everyone else in line is just sitting there twiddling their thumbs.

    there's an easy answer to this; hire some students to assist the package center guys during high volume periods. This would greatly increase the efficiency of the center and it would not cost very much. Students already work in other parts of the Lerner Mail Center so it's not unprecedented.

  9. Anonymous

    Economist got bounced! but other magazines come... I think it has to do with the mailbox filling over breaks and stuff...

  10. Anonymous  

    Does anyone know how long it takes for envelope-style packages to get scanned into the system?

  11. ...  

    Amazon Prime can be used on more than just textbooks. Book Culture can be selling exactly as many textbooks as always, if people are ordering food, clothes, movies, etc once a week off Amazon there will still be more traffic.

  12. Anonymous  

    The mail centre lost my valentines card from my mom last year. I am still sour about that.
    They also lost a letter from a (now ex-)boyfriend. That, I can forgive.

  13. hmmm  

    One reason that Amazon Prime may be ramping up the number of packages in the package center is that many packages get sent in separate shipments. I went to the package center a month ago and picked up THIRTEEN packages. 12 of them were books all ordered from Amazon in the same order, but that were all shipped separately. (Yes, some of them were from 3rd parties, but certainly not all.) I can't complain, with the prices available, but still.

    Also, I think this piece ignores the question I've been longing to ask the package center people: why is the Carman 2nd floor package overflow not open? It's been used at the beginning of every semester I've been here, but I've seen nothing of it this semester. Is Carman 2 being used for something else, or is it just empty, because I would imagine it substantially relieves package center issues.

  14. Anonymous  

    As a Netflix subscriber, I've asked mailroom staff if they know any better solution for regular but over-sized-for-mailboxes packages. I used to subscribe to magazines, and if I recall correctly, they were rolled up and delivered to my mailbox. Perhaps Columbia should look at somehow expanding or reengineering their steel mailboxes to accomodate the increasing demand for media mail (ie. DVD/Bluray).

    • Anonymous

      Though I definitely agree that the organizational and workflow system needs to be relooked at, isn't it kind've "a long walk for a short drink of water" to remodel all of the mailboxes so that they can hold things just slightly bigger than usual?

      I'm just saying I think there are better solutions. That'd take a whole bunch of time and money, and in the end solve very little.

    • Don't think...  

      ...that would help anyway. I once had a replacement bank card sent to my mailbox in a letter envelope. It was supposed to get here in 5 business days and I called on a weekend in late October. I didn't get it until the week after Thanksgiving. I found out the bank switched the address lines, but it got to mail services without any redirection notices on the envelope. Unfortunately after 10 business days, I thought it was lost and had another card sent. The second card got here two weeks after the first card.

      The fact that the incorrectly addressed one still got to my box shows that they just were being slow. It's not that hard to figure out that 2920 Broadway, xxxx Lerner Hall is the same as xxxx Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway. The mail center is just plain slow and needs to be revamped. There are clearly weak parts to the system. Why should it take one of the workers 5 minutes to find my package in the first tub checked when his/her coworker found 5 large packages in the back room for two separate people in the same time? It's really just baffling and they need to realize that this is a major problem is so many people are complaining.

      • Anonymous

        "It’s not that hard to figure out that 2920 Broadway, xxxx Lerner Hall is the same as xxxx Lerner Hall, 2920 Broadway"

        Unfortunately, that may not be the case. From the perspective of the USPS, "Lerner Hall", though it's housed in the same physical location as "2920 Broadway", may as well be a whole other address. If you do a ZIP address lookup with Lerner Hall as the first line on the address, it gives a ZIP+4 of 10027-8385. "2920 Broadway" is an extraneous description. In fact, mail services for the longest time discouraged students from writing "2920 Broadway" on their Lerner addresses.

        However, if the first line is "2920 Broadway", it spits out a zip+4 of either 10027-7164 or 10027-7004.

        "2920 Broadway" is supposed to be the mail for the administrators. "Lerner Hall" is the student mail system. And since hardly anyone bothers to write the extra 4 digits of the zip code, what I think ends up happening is that when Columbia gets mail from the USPS, they get one pile for Lerner, one pile for administrators, and one big-ass pile that needs to be sorted out to figure out which letter goes where. And administrator mail is more important than student mail.

  15. Anonymous  

    The package center should hire work study students to make the lines go faster.

  16. Anonymous  

    My suggestion to remodel the physical mailboxes was based on the assumption that taking a stack of netflix envelopes and sorting them in bulk would be faster than making multiple trips back and forth. Isn't there a service window in between the mailboxes (at least on one of the floors) that handles letter mail, anyway? Even looking at cost factors, I still feel that a remodeling would be more cost effective than even hiring one more employee.

    Speaking from my own experience as a file clerk, I've come to realize that much more time is wasted in transit. Bulk-packaging as such may be applied to something as ubiquitous as Netflix and perhaps also magazine subscriptions. Otherwise Columbia is effectively hiring people to mostly ferry packages back and forth (a time-wasting strategy that corporate managers at my last job absolutely hated).

  17. Anonymous  

    insists that if students come at times other than right after class, then it really isn’t a problem.

    that above is not true. Every time I go there in the middle of class start/end times and even this past friday at a random time like 1:35PM there were lines up to the double doors

    I don't understand why they can't just open more days to handle higher volume packaging

  18. alum

    back in the day there used to be at least 6 staffers in the mail room - 3 at each terminal (one using the palm pilot back in the day), and 3 running packages back and forth.

    every year they have cut it down significantly.
    oops, maybe that was a bad idea.

    • Anonymous

      In 2002 (or was it 2001?), mail services, in an effort to deal with the amounts of mail they were getting, actually threw out non-1st class mail (magazines, newspapers, junk mail). They also threw out some 1st class mail.

      Seriously. It's in the Spec archives somewhere.

  19. yes!  

    my economist subscription never gets delivered either.

    ..i know talking about recaptcha is supposed to be lame, but... mine has an umlaut??

  20. Another modest proposal...  

    There are quite a few people here that live within the MoHi/UWS area right?

    I'm just saying, I would pay an few extra bucks to receive my books and other time-sensitive documents in two days instead of two weeks.

  21. ...  

    it's called "the ups store" and there's one on 115th.

  22. Anonymous  

    The package center has been outright ridiculous this year.

    Netflix has shown me just how much that place has slumped. I used to be able to get 2-3 dvds a week (sending dvds back the day after I got them) and it was a great system. Now I will get 1 a week IF I am lucky with most of them taking over a week to be processed by them. There really needs to be a new system for this because the mail center is obviously not competent enough to process the Netflix with any semblance of speed.

    What's even worse is getting a confirmation from UPS/USPS saying a package was delivered and the package center takes a long time. I got an email saying a package arrived Friday morning and it wasn't until 2 angry emails (with no response back!) and 4 days later that it was processed. When I came in to see what was going on with my package, I got a blank stare and was told it's too early and probably hasn't been processed (even though it had been 3 days already)! Gahhh, rage.

    Partial solution: Open mail center on Saturdays for the first month of each semester AND bring back the 3rd terminal. What a dumb move to take out the 3rd terminal.

  23. Don't think...  

    Yes, but it took both letters the same amount of time to get here. The first one was ordered 10 days before the second one, then I received it two weeks after, so I would say equal transit and processing time there including the break. I also checked my box almost three times a day some days between ordering the first one and the receiving the second, so it's not like I left it in the box for a week to fester.

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