The Mail Center staff is switching to a more efficient and electronic approach. Michelle Hartung, Mail Center Assistant Manager, has had a major impact on the Mail Center’s transition. (Ziyi Zhuang/B&W staff)

Stamped with innovation: Mail Center staff discuss history, experience

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Mail Center assistant manager Michelle Hartung has been an integral part of Lehigh’s postal system for 23 years. She has assisted in the transition to a more efficient Mail Center. 

The Mail Center was formerly an official U.S. Post Office at 39 University Drive, where Grace Hall is currently located. 

Its relocation to Farrington Square has made it more accessible to students, with more options for parking. 

Hartung managed the Lehigh Post Office until the department was outsourced to Rico, where she became an assistant manager. 

In addition to its relocation, the Mail Center transitioned to a digital, automated approach.

“We introduced the package pick-up kiosks and a lot more notifications via email — whereas in the past there were instances where you may get a slip in a key-and-lock mailbox, have to come up to the counter and wait a lot longer,” Mail Center Manager Doug Snyder said. “The average wait time from the time you swipe your ID at that kiosk to when the package is in your hand is less than two minutes.”

Snyder said the biggest change is the high density mail solution. He said the process was more random, and now the staff scans bar codes, and students are directly notified.

Snyder said Amazon packages make up about 30-35 percent of package deliveries. 

Early in the semester, many students struggled to get their Amazon packages on time, due to negotiations of delivery policy between Amazon and Lehigh.

“I would get an email that my Amazon package had been delivered, but it wouldn’t be processed by the Mail Center for a few days,” Danny Smullen, ‘23, said. 

Snyder said Amazon wanted to do direct on-campus deliveries to students, but this would increase traffic on campus and put students’ safety at risk.

“For some reason, (Amazon) turned away everything that was out of their warehouse marked for Farrington Square, and it got sent back to the original senders, or put back into the U.S. Post Office mail stream,” Snyder said. 

While the issue is resolved, Snyder said students often forget it is not just their individual packages that are being processed, as around 1,200 packages are delivered each day. 

“I want the students to learn that to make us more efficient, (they should) put their box number on their mail,” Hartung said. “I can’t even tell you how much time it would save us.” 

She said when a piece of letter mail does not include the appropriate mailbox number, the mail gets put in a special “look-up” tub, and it takes the staff time to sit down and sort through each piece of mail. 

Hartung stressed the importance of putting “4 Farrington Square” as the mailing address. She said many students make the mistake of putting the address of their dorm, hall or chapter house instead.

Hartung said she enjoys working at the Mail Center, and her favorite part of her job is interacting with students.

“It’s a very social job,” she said. 

She has an especially good relationship with students who come in more frequently and who work in the Mail Center for work study positions.

“It has been a privilege to work with (students),” Hartung said. “They teach us so many things about student life.” 

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