Among the many challenges of life on campus with COVID-19 restrictions, package delays have been an ongoing issue for students who rely on shipping for necessities.
The delays persist following the previous semester’s lags in package deliveries. Many students experienced longer than anticipated delivery times for prescriptions from nearby pharmacies amid the ongoing health crisis of COVID-19.
Months later, many questions remain about the reasons behind the delays.
Haylee Backs ’22 recently went to great lengths to get her textbooks and school supplies from Amazon. On Tuesday, Feb. 16, Amazon sent Backs three emails within 30 minutes alerting her that USPS had attempted and failed to deliver her three packages. Delivery failures are most common during weekends, as the Mailroom and Central Receiving are closed to students.
“I got no explanation for why my packages were not accepted,” Backs said. USPS delivered two of her three packages the next day. But Backs had to wait until Feb. 23 for the last package, a week after the first attempt at delivery.
Backs explained that because students get emails from the delivery company when packages are not delivered, it is easy to tell whether the problem stems from Vassar or another party. She noted, “I think Vassar students get upset when the package is tracked as arrived and Vassar seemingly takes days to process it.”
For Backs, package delays amongst other delivery qualms are an ongoing issue. “I have had minor issues with package delivery, usually when a delivery is attempted after hours. Additionally, in the past I have waited for about a week after my package has arrived before Vassar processed it and I was able to pick it up,” she explained.
But unlike Backs, other students have had their delivery issues solved rather quickly. Schuyler Osgood ’21 was also alerted that there was a failed delivery with a book he ordered. It was delivered the next day. “I’ve never had any issues with package delivery or pickup,” Osgood explained. He continued, “I’ve actually only had positive experiences when I needed to interact with someone from the post office regarding questions or concerns of mine.”
He contacted Mailroom employees last year after students were sent home for the spring semester due to COVID-19 because he was worried about packages not being forwarded to his home correctly, “The person I contacted at the post office was incredibly helpful,” he said.
Olivia Feltus’s ’21 package was also delivered the day after the first attempt. On Feb. 17, Feltus posted on the “Vassar: The Virtual Version” Facebook page to see if anyone else was having problems with packages that day, and discovered others were, including Osgood and Backs.
“I’m pretty sure there was nobody there that morning to receive USPS packages because it was snowing and facilities opened late,” Feltus explained. Snow can often delay transportation and shipping services. “I know some people whose packages took longer to process,” Feltus added.
In a previous Miscellany News interview, Mailroom and Copy Center Manager Renee DeSantis explained that USPS’ delivery method to the college may be to blame for these lags.
Busy periods such as the start of school can also drive Vassar Mailroom processing delays. And tracked packages are marked ‘delivered’ when they arrive at the Arlington Post Office processing center, not when they make it to Vassar. That means Mailroom staff cannot confirm if a package is on campus grounds or not.
The Mailroom has not responded to a request for comment from The Miscellany News.
Delays also have occurred when there is no clear reason. While many resolve their delivery issues rather quickly, some students find themselves waiting for weeks with little guidance from the Mailroom. In 2019 Molly Canfield ’23 grew worried after a package from England took longer than anticipated to arrive, triggering her resolve to embark on a mission to find it.
“I went to the post office several times and asked the workers behind the desk if they possibly had my package, if there was somewhere they could look for it, [or] if it could have gotten lost in their system,” she said.
Almost three months later in Feb. 2020, Canfield received an email about the package. It had been in the Mailroom since November and needed to be picked up due to limited storage space in the Mailroom.
Lasting questions remain about these holes in the delivery system. In Canfield’s case, the answer to why she waited two months for her package is still unknown. “After so long, it was completely thrilling to finally receive it, but I also felt frustrated—who could I have contacted sooner to have gotten clearer information?” she wondered.