The issues plaguing package services – long lines, lost or stolen packages and slow delivery of both packages and mail – are well-known to the students forced to depend on the center. The University, for its part, understands that problems persist and acknowledged that fact by proposing a modification to the package center’s layout that might alleviate some of the lines. Even so, the problems that students cite most frequently will not be mitigated through a package center facelift. The University must address systemic breakdowns that prevent the smooth and efficient delivery of student packages.
For the most part, University officials blame poor service by package services on a variety of compounding factors. Most of all, the e-mail system that alerts a student to the receipt of a package is a point of contention. Package service officials argue that over-quota student e-mail boxes and a lack of student diligence in checking their e-mail causes delays. They also note that most students come to the package center at the same time each day, causing the infamously long lines.
Listening to a package services employee might make anyone think that the inefficacy of the center is due to a large number of externalities. It seems everyone is to blame except package services.
If all these external issues really are affecting the operation of package services, then administrators need to address and streamline the offending systems – mainly GW e-mail – that are preventing proper operation of the package center. It is more likely, however, that while external issues do affect package services, a poorly run or understaffed internal operation is the main catalyst behind these issues.
Pitney-Bowes, the outside contractor running package services, is a large corporation that should have the resources and expertise to effectively distribute packages to students. As is often the case with University contractors, there is not a great deal of incentive for Pitney-Bowes to improve its services. Contractors at GW, including Aramark, sign extended contracts and face little or no competition during renegotiation. They have captive markets of consumers – college students – required to pay the tuition that funds their operations. It is no surprise that Pitney-Bowes and Aramark consistently fail to provide a high level of customer service, simply because they can not be held to any type of standard by their main customers: students.
Many students already circumvent package services by having packages delivered to their place of work or to retail package centers. Without any type of market pressure on package services, however, having parcels delivered to alternate locations does not place any pressure on the package center to improve its services.
It is incumbent on the GW administrators in charge of the package services contract to place pressure for improvement, or to rethink contract with Pitney-Bowes.