At the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, the second floor of the Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center was packed, not with returning students eager to spend time in the study areas, but with cardboard boxes and plastic mailers. Mail Services experienced an overwhelming amount of incoming mail this September as students were moving in, causing delays in processing and an overflow of packages throughout the campus center.
“I don’t think anyone expected us to have so many packages,” Mail Services employee Grace Griffin ’22 said. “We are working, basically, on the same staff size as we did last year, so we had more than double the work for the same amount of people.”
Griffin also explained that at the peak of the influx of mail, the office would receive around 600 Amazon packages a day, and on the day after Labor Day, the office received over 2,000. The number of packages, she said, has been one of the highest on record at the Mail Services office and far higher than the 2020-21 school year.
Bella Perreira ’24, another Mail Services employee, attributed this backup not only to the number of Amazon orders coming in but also to a misunderstanding in how packages could be mailed to dorms at the beginning of the year. Students were able to send large packages to a separate address through UPS to be delivered to dorm lobbies instead of Mail Services.
“They tried to send all the boxes to get delivered to their rooms … and they sent it to the wrong address, or they filled out the form wrong, or they used a different carrier, so they got sent here,” Perreira said. “So we had huge, massive boxes. I had to help someone carry them to Bates — like, over-200-pound boxes.”
Due to the large amount of incoming mail, Mail Services has taken outside help. According to Griffin, many students have volunteered their time to sort packages. This group included friends of Mail Services employees, students simply looking for their packages and members of College Government, whose space behind Mail Services was being used to store packages.
“We appreciate the assistance that we have received from the CG Cabinet students and everyone’s patience,” representatives from Mail Services wrote to The News in an email. They added that though students may receive package delivery notifications from a seller, they should not come to Lulu to pick them up until they receive an email from Mail Services.
In addition, one student worker, Kazu Shimada ’23, was temporarily moved from the Distribution Center to Mail Services to sort and label mail. Shimada is currently the only student employee at the College’s Copy Center and is normally tasked with scanning books for faculty members and making copies.
“[I’ve been] labeling packages, basically, for the past three weeks,” Shimada said. “Ryan’s been [giving] … me … a Sharpie [to] … label which dorm the people live in and sort them by dorm, and I just do that for 10 hours a week.”
Mail Services also delivered packages to students’ dorms to decrease the quantity of packages held at Lulu. According to Griffin, the load of packages is now low enough that they will no longer be delivering to dorms.
Perreira also stated that student reactions to the backups have been mixed. While most students, she says, have been understanding of the package delays, some have expressed frustration through public avenues.
“I know we might tweet or post stuff that we don’t think through fully, but it can be sucky to come back from work and just see shade being thrown at the mailroom,” Perreira said. “A lot of it is from people who have never worked a customer service job … I understand you’re frustrated, but it’s quite literally not our fault.”
In addition, both Perreira and Shimada recalled seeing students look through bins and piles of packages even as Mail Services put up signs and barriers around some piles to dissuade students from looking through them.
“People are anxious for their packages, but I sometimes get frustrated when people start rummaging through the packages that I’ve sorted,” Shimada said. “I’m just like, okay, those are in a specific order right now.”
Ultimately, Griffin and Perreira both stated that they enjoy their jobs at Mail Services, with Perreira commenting that she “jumped through a lot of hoops” to keep the job this year.
“I love working in Mail Services because the people are really funny and we get along great,” Griffin said. “We play music really loud and just go through [the mail], and sometimes we’re dancing as we’re going along, or singing along. And that’s kind of what makes it a good place to work.”