Intel from behind the counter: what it’s like to work at Central Receiving

Courtesy of Mahlia Neely ’23

You check your email and see the subject line: “You have a Package @ Central Receiving.” After making the long trek to the southern side of campus, you walk through the two doors, wait in line and give the Receiving employee your box number. Then, all you have to do is wait for a minute as the person gathers your packages before thanking them and leaving with your new plant pot or Brita filter. To the typical student, it all seems like a pretty simple process. But at Central Receiving, there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes—or rather, behind the counter.

The Central Receiving community consists of eight people: six student workers and two employees of Vassar College. Their job requires constant interaction with students and faculty, so the Central Receiving employees have developed a routine to ensure efficiency and organization. Warehouse Clerk Assistant Rova Raveloson ’24 is on site as early as 9:15 a.m. When he arrives, his first task is to receive packages from various shipping trucks, including those from UPS, FEDEX, DHL and Amazon. Then, he and the other employees scan the packages, which not only secures the items into Central Receiving’s tracking system, but also sends an automated email to the recipient letting them know their package is ready to be collected. General Stores Receiving Assistant Miles Takiguchi ’23 elaborated on this part of the process. “After scanning, we place the packages in various locations around the warehouse, depending on the size of the package,” he explained. They also organize the packages alphabetically.

It’s important to collect, scan and organize the packages in a timely manner because, as Raveloson and Takiguchi both emphasized, Central Receiving’s primary concern is assisting the Vassar students and staff who come in to pick up their packages. Takiguchi detailed what exactly happens behind the counter when someone comes in to collect their items. “We ask for and enter their 4-digit box number into a computer database, which tells us where the package(s) are and how many,” he explained. “We then gather them, hand them over the counter, then enter them as ‘delivered’ in the computer system.” 

For the Central Receiving workers, the rest of the day involves grabbing packages for the people who come in, and sometimes personally delivering items to specific professors or departments. Fortunately, they do have some free time. “If there’s nobody at the counter and all the packages have been scanned in, I’ll take out my laptop and get some work done,” Takiguchi said. “There’s a decent amount of downtime,” he mentioned.

However, the Central Receiving employees did confirm what most Vassar students already know: there is a Central Receiving rush hour. Warehouse Clerk Ken Palmer, who joined the team in February 2021, revealed that the busiest time of day is the hour before closing at 4 p.m. Raveloson added that there are specific points during the week and even throughout the semester when things at Central Receiving are noticeably busier than usual: “Mondays, Halloween, and without a doubt, the beginning of each semester,” he stated. “At the start of semesters, the bulk of our work revolves around scanning in upwards of 1,000 packages a day at times, and so we really need everyone to pitch in to handle the line of students while the rest of the workers are scanning in packages.” Takiguchi seconded Raveloson and added the end of the semester to the list. “Students always order a ton of costumes for Halloween and get a lot of packages from friends and family before the end of the semester,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll be on my feet for nearly all of a three-hour shift.” 

The work at Central Receiving can prove challenging, especially when dealing with a complicated tracking system and logistical issues. “The hardest part of my job is trying to help students or staff that have a lost or missing package that they never received,” Takiguchi mentioned. “There’s usually not much I can do besides check the tracking in the system and look around the warehouse again. I feel bad for them, and they’re often not in a great mood.” 

The three employees all expressed how much they enjoy their job. When asked about his favorite part of working at Central Receiving, Raveloson responded concisely: “[The] ability to fully be myself in my work environment and have fun doing the things I like with some wonderful people.” For Palmer, it’s the simple, day-to-day, seemingly mundane tasks that make the job so enjoyable. “My favorite part of the job is just daily tasks, whether it’s filling orders for facilities, helping people at the counter, conversing with co-workers and student workers [or] conversing with the facilities workers as they pass through the hall as their shifts are beginning and ending.” While Takiguchi enjoys spending time with the other employees, he also highlighted his contentment in being able to assist the greater Vassar community. “My favorite part of the job is the fact that I get to be the final step in getting packages to students,” he said. “Most of them are in a pretty good mood, usually picking up stuff they ordered online or presents from family and they associate me with that good feeling, which is nice… I’m happy to actually be helping people, even if it’s a job most people could do.”

A final thing all three employees emphasized is this: A team effort is integral to Central Receiving and its operation. A job at Central Receiving is a big responsibility, as it deals with connecting students and faculty with their personal packages—and the employees recognize the significance of their roles. “It’s like Fort Knox here,” Palmer joked, poking fun at the quantity and quality of packages that come through Central Receiving every day. To ensure everything runs smoothly, all hands—whether scanning packages or handing them over the counter—must be on deck. 

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