Seeking efficiency, many post offices are placing the burden on apartment operators.
While many apartment communities and developers consider strategies for storing resident packages, perhaps the greater delivery challenge involves managers at garden-style apartments—those standing two, three or four stories—and having carriers bring those packages to residents’ doors.
Darby Development in North Charleston, S.C., is one of many such examples. “What is going on is random and varies by Postmaster and Carrier,” says Victoria Cowart, CPM, Vice President, Darby Development. “I’m being told in select communities that carriers won’t climb the stairs to deliver to our second-story apartments. Instead, they leave the packages in the office.
“They say they want a single drop-off spot. We might have 15 or more buildings within our overall community. Each one has an in-building set of mailboxes. But having those single locations per building—where one set of boxes serves four to eight apartments—is not good enough. The carriers want one centralized location for the entire community. They want the drop-off to be more convenient and efficient for them. I get it. Package volume is increasing with e-commerce growth, but us having to completely reconstruct our mailboxes is very costly.”
Cowart says that these centralized, one-property delivery points would require her company to remove the existing boxes and address the removal point through additional siding and repairs.
“That’s if we can even find a suitable centralized spot in our community where this could be constructed,” she says. “Then we have to include the necessary infrastructure such as concrete pads, sidewalks, curb cuts, lighting, covering, etc.”
Cowart says that in some cases, the carriers are offering the boxes free of charge.
“But I suspect they do not understand, and simply don’t want to understand the full depth of the project, its obstacles and costs in the face of their need for efficiency,” she says. “And as the Postal Service strives for its efficiencies, over the years they’ve taken to different pressure points to push the discussion, such as asserting that our existing equipment is dangerous—an assertion disproven by a joint inspection—that the Carriers have suffered harassment or even criminal assault (when the assault being mentioned wasn’t even in our community) and more.
“And time and again, they say that the centralized, one-per-community delivery point is the be-all-end-all solution to their varying needs and assertions. When truly, their one driving point is their need to create efficiencies for their carriers to compete in the delivery field. But as housing providers who serve our owners and investors and customers, it is tough for us to navigate between the competing interests and impossible for us to justify the additional costs—not to mention changing the location of our current boxes—which our customers appreciate—because what they have now is right outside their door and fully convenient for them.”
NAA/NMHC continue to work on postal reform to assist the industry in finding solutions. If you are willing to serve as a resource on mail/package delivery policy concerns, contact Jodie Applewhite, Manager of Public Policy. These connections will be helpful when we have an opportunity to provide more substantive feedback to Members of Congress. NAA encourages its members to reach out to members of their Congressional delegation directly as Members of Congress can inquire about issues at apartment communities as constituent casework.
NAA has released the first in a forthcoming suite of new white papers, “How to Effectively Manage Package Acceptance: Best Practices for Owners and Managers,” which outlines tried-and-true tactics and evaluates various management systems, to help operators reduce administrative time, increase revenue and protect liability. It is free for NAA members to download.