Long lines at Yale Station

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Oct. 1, 1900 was a momentous day for the Yale community.

The first day of fall term that year, it marked the grand opening of the Yale Post Office Sub-Station, which occupied a basement corridor in the now-extinct North College dormitory. It also marked the beginning of a long and impatient relationship between students and the U.S. Postal Service.

Students wait at Yale Station’s Parcel Call Window, yellow slips in hand, to pick up packages. Line lengths vary.
Jeanne Snow
Students wait at Yale Station’s Parcel Call Window, yellow slips in hand, to pick up packages. Line lengths vary.

With 500 state-of-the-art lockboxes, the office was hailed in the New York Times as an exciting “innovation” over Yale’s “old-time institution,” in which the college postman would hand-deliver letters to rooms. By its 15th anniversary, the station’s business had increased 500 percent. By its 68th, it was so “perpetually overloaded and overcrowded,” as the News reported in November 1968, that Yale considered a proposal to eliminate all post-office boxes and make large, unsorted deliveries to different areas of campus instead.

But the Yale’s post office survived, of course. Today’s outpost of the U.S. Postal Service, now called Yale Station, occupies the basement of Lanman-Wright Hall on Old Campus — and has metal, not wooden lockboxes. But some things never change: The office still suffers everyday from both overloading and overcrowding, especially at the beginning of every academic year and around the holidays.

Students stopping by Yale Station on their way back to their rooms after morning classes often find long lines, stretching from the main counter, up the stairs, to the entrance. The parcel line can start from the other corner of the basement and goes to the main counter line up. The post office, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, typically swells with customers between class hours and before closing.

There are usually two employees at each area, with others sorting mail in the back room. Although they are helpful and professional, students interviewed said, the postal workers are certainly not motivated by a sense of urgency — a longtime trend, if a 1978 News story is any indication. “Quite efficient — a letter from Hartford will never take more than three weeks to get to you,” the writer quipped in a June freshman issue.

“The only time I haven’t seen a long line in there is, like, 8 a.m. on a Friday morning,” Jonathan Koch ’12 said.

But postal service representatives defended the wait times at Yale Station. In a 2006 “mystery shopper” evaluation study performed by Maritz Research, a marketing research firm based in Missouri, six out of eight wait times at Yale Station were less than five minutes, said Maureen Marion, the spokeswoman for the Connecticut district of the U.S. Postal Service.

The average wait time was only three minutes and 26 seconds, according to the firm’s report.

Koch, for his part, said lines were particularly long at the beginning of this semester, when students were receiving packages for moving in to their rooms and ordering textbooks for classes.

He said he remembered a time standing in a queue with five other students at the beginning of the year, one of whom asked if she could check for her package in the back. The postal worker at the parcel window shrugged, saying there were six bins full of packages waiting to be sorted through.

“They just seemed frustrated,” Koch said. “They had so much stuff to sort through, so they weren’t very appreciative of people coming to check on packages.”

The supervisor of Yale Station, who asked not to be identified for this story because she is not allowed to speak to the press, acknowledged that the post office’s total eight workers could be overwhelmed, but said backlogs are usually limited to certain times of the year.

“Pretty much when the students come and go it’ll be busy, as a general rule, for the post office,” she said. Around Christmas and April 15, when customers are mailing in their income tax returns, she added, the volume of traffic increases as well.

Part of the problem may be that the Post Service no longer operates an office downtown on Orange Street, causing more New Haven residents to come to Yale Station for the counter service, the supervisor said. When the Orange Street office closed down last year, local community members flooded the campus post office, causing long delays. The other closest post offices, located in Trolley Square, Washington Avenue and Brewery Street, are almost a mile away.

So why doesn’t Yale Station hire more employees, lightening the workload on each employee and shrinking lines?

The supervisor said her office has “nothing to do with hiring,” since hiring decisions are centralized at Postal Service headquarters in North Carolina. However, she added, they may try to hire more workers for the busy holiday season.

Besides, more manpower may not be needed most of the time anyway. Two other students interviewed said they usually did not have to wait in long lines at Yale Station, depending on what time they went there.

Meaghan Watters ’12 said she never had much of a problem with long lines. She said she receives packages about once a week and usually checks her mail every weekday around 1 or 2 p.m. But after brunch on Saturdays, the lines are consistently much longer, she said.

“It depends what time you go,” agreed Ginger Jiang ’12. “I walk through and there are long lines, but I’ve never actually had to stand in one.”

Still, the postal workers are doing the best they can, the supervisor said.

“We try to move personnel where they’re needed to ensure that everybody’s not waiting,” she said. “That’s a prime target for us, that people don’t wait. And we try to do our best to alleviate that.”

Comments

  • SY 06

    From what I remember, if someone tried to send you food in the mail it would arrive stale or rotten because of the amount of time it took to reach the PO Box. I think sorters at Yale Station also decided that magazines were not worth the trouble of delivering. I received my Sports Illustrated one out of every three months and then all of a sudden two of the three would appear at once. I complained and the supervisor put a special notice on my box so as to monitor when the magazines arrived but nothing changed. I ended up just cancelling my subscription because two month old sports news is obsolete. A bunch of my friends cancelled their subscriptions for the same reason.

  • L

    Last week, I found someone else's absentee ballot in my box. It clearly said "Do not fold" on the envelope, but the postal worker had practically crumpled it in order to fit it into my box, which also contained a catalogue. The sad thing is, this sort of thing is pretty common at Yale Station. I've heard all sorts of horror stories, including upperclassmen whose boxes have been given away in September despite their having paid for them for the next year. I have a friend who told me that her mother still gets mail sent to her New Haven address, even though she only had it forwarded temporarily.

    Another big problem is that mail tends to arrive anywhere from two days to three weeks after one thinks they can expect it. It's especially frustrating when this happens with Priority mail, for which the sender paid extra so it would arrive in a timely fashion.

    The problem with Yale Station isn't the long lines. Understaffing does seem to be an issue, but what's worse is that the staff they do have take no pride in a job well done.

  • barry

    since the nationalized post system works so well, let's try nationalized health care!

  • To #3

    Yes we can!

  • drug addict

    I swear to god one of the guy's who worked at Yale station earlier this year had a drug problem and/or had an anger problem. Did he get fired? I don't think I've seen him around recently…. if so, good move…

  • Joey -a clean -

    you definitely need to find the Post Office a new home. A building or storefront of its own -isolated, but on Campus.
    think …Post Office , Mailman

  • parent'10

    This fall, durning the first days of move in, I went to to the package window to pick up 2 boxes that our son had mailed to himself. Knowing that the staff would be very busy and stressed, I smiled and was over the top pleasant to the man behind the counter. This man was surly and hostile in passive aggressive sort of way. I was actual scared of him. Now I know the stories my son tells of Yale station are true. Very rude employees to say the least.

  • BR10

    What I like best about YaleStation is when you're standing in a long line and there's only one window open. But waddling around behind the counter are two or three lazy, unhurried employees, seeming to be doing nothing in particular. Especially that guy Ray. He is probably, and without exaggeration, the least happy person in America.

  • DB

    "The supervisor of Yale Station, who asked not to be identified for this story because she is not allowed to speak to the press, acknowledged…"
    I hope there is more than one supervisor, b/c if not, it's obvious s/he has talked to the press!

  • Annie

    I've been here for 6 years and the service has never been good at this post office. I've had international course materials be returned to sender because no one at the post office left a yellow slip in my mail box saying there were packages for me. When I ask them now to check for parcels the first thing they ask is whether I have a yellow slip, when I say no they argue with me that I should have received one. Two thirds of the time a parcel is there sans the yellow slip. I've also seen students (especially foreigners) almost in tears because the staff are so unhelpful and outright abusive. It's disgusting and Yale should provide better.

  • anon

    they seemed unable to deliver a weekly magazine i had subscribed to on time. i would often get it one week late, arriving when the next week's issue was supposed to come. i still live in new haven, but have the magazine delivered to my apt, where it comes regularly without a problem. clearly it's a problem with the Yale Station branch and not the USPS or New Haven.

    i know it may not be the most rewarding job in the world, but the employees' customer service is comically rude as well.

  • grad student

    The service here is abysmal. I miss my friendly hometown post office!

  • observ.dick

    Come over to Edwards St. and retrieve your mail please …oh hey ,what time are the hours there ,by the way ?
    If i have a Post Office box in there can i access it at any time ?
    Perhaps some of those employs are on the outside of the building also, downright frightening comments from the cote

  • Alum

    My favorite Yale Station story was the time I paid for certified return receipt. Later the same day, I found the signed return receipt in my mailbox. Evidently, it had fallen off the package being sent out in the back, so an employee had just signed it himself and shoved it in my mailbox…

  • H.

    My favorite Yale Station story:

    I ordered some winter clothing online last year and after a month the clothing still had not arrived. Of course, the parcel pickup staff were not helpful enough to do a thorough search in the back for me. So I called the company thinking they had sent the package to the wrong address or forgotten to send it at all, and they agreed, after some haggling, to resend my order to me. Next week when I found the yellow slip in my box, I went to the parcel window to be surprised with two packages of clothing. The original one which apparently had been sitting around in the back corner for a month, and the newer one recently sent by the company. Needless to say, I was happy to get free clothing, but I DID spend the beginning of winter without a coat because of the delays.

    On another note:

    Can someone from the YDN please write an article on the horrible quality of student medicine at UHS/DUH.

  • Anonymous

    And the inexplicable lack of DENTAL!?!? How's this for a policy just as logical as not covering dental: Yale Health Plan is no longer covering fractured arms because it's too expensive and requires expensive x-ray machines and specialists. Teeth are a part of your body!