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Princeton’s mail services should be more transparent

People sit on benches underneath trees that are turning orange and yellow in the Fall.
A fall day on Nassau Street.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

“My package says it was delivered to Frist … Will I get it in three days? Four days?”

“Why don’t I receive an email when I receive a letter?”

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“How long will it take before my packages for move-in arrive?”

These questions, and many more, come to students’ minds as we interact with Princeton’s mail system, one of the most unintuitive and inefficient processes on campus.

The most lamented issue with the campus mail system is the excessively long and varying processing times for packages. After packages are delivered to the building, they can easily take three or more days to be processed by Frist staff and made available for pick-up. When students need to receive their packages in a timely manner, slow and inconsistent processing times can add an unnecessary burden.

Packages take even longer during the weekend that upperclass students move into their dorms, a critical period for students to receive essential items and supplies needed for class. The problem is only likely to get worse, as package mail deliveries have been rapidly increasing: over the past five years, package mail has increased by 22 percent. The trends that are likely driving this will not stop soon: the student body is continuing to expand and reliance on delivery is continuing to increase.  

Optimizing the package pickup system to ensure the processing time remains within a fixed and disclosed timeframe (e.g., one to two business days) would provide students with greater peace of mind and certainty about when they can obtain their packages from Frist.

Secondly, among the jarring experiences of a Princeton student’s first year is the discovery that Frist does not notify students when they have received paper mail. In fact, the majority of first-years I spoke to this year had not been made aware of this, even several weeks into the semester. The fact that students don’t know that they won’t receive notifications about paper mail is a problem in itself, but the ultimate solution is simply to make the system more intuitive: Frist should notify us about our mail, just like they notify us about our packages.

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Currently, first-years learn on their own that they must go to Frist and ask about their mailbox to find out if any mail has been delivered. This inquiry-based, rather than notification-based, system is especially problematic when students unexpectedly receive important mail and makes it likely that this kind of mail is missed. 

Even expected mail can slip through the cracks without notification. For instance, many college students request mail-in ballots to vote from outside their home state, and many do not know when those ballots will arrive. This leaves students to either visit Frist repeatedly to ask whether their ballot has been delivered or potentially to forget about their ballot, because they aren’t notified when it is. This system isn’t just inefficient for students, but also for mail workers employed by the University. Remedying this problem would not be difficult: Simply install a system that emails the student when they receive paper mail, so they can go collect it.

The Princeton mail system is currently confusing, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Most of the issues with the system seem to be easy fixes, especially notifying students when they receive paper mail or sticking to a set number of days to process students’ packages. Some problems, like decreasing processing time, may be more difficult, but likely doable with the help of additional staff or optimization of the present system.

Davis Hobley is a member of the Class of 2027 and intends to major in neuroscience. He hails from Rochester, Mich. and can be reached through his email (dh2172@princeton.edu) and personal Instagram (@davis_20.23)

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