Is Your Mail Safe?
Jesse Richards - August 28, 1998

Ever since the Drew Mailroom switched hands and was outsourced over a year ago, neither The Acorn nor myself personally has had any problems receiving our mail. We were skeptical at first, since we had lost tremendous amounts of money due to unreceived ads the previous year. However, the new company seemed competent, friendly, and as the year went on, we continued to receive our mail in a timely fashion. The mailroom even started calling me personally every time there was a FedEx package to poick up, which was a great help in receiving our ads, packages, and other mail.

All this changed when I went home for the summer, thanks to the mysterious process known as forwarding mail. Though I receive many pieces of mail every day for the Acorn, that mail was picked up over the summer with all of the paper's mail by our editor-in-chief, Myles Helfand, who never goes home. So I only had to forward my own personal mail. And, since most of the people I correspond with knew I was home, there wasn't much mail to forward - only a few magazine subscriptions. Little did I suspect what a large problem this would cause.

I left school on May 23, after graduation. I had filled out a forwarding card a week earlier. When I got home, I didn't expect any mail. From past years, I knew it took a few weeks. That was okay - I didn't really know why it should take so long, but it was consistent. But I didn't receive any mail forwarded from Drew until early July. Then I received a few random pieces of mail along with my June issues of two magazines I subscribed to. Late, but no real problem. What I was really concerned about was Entertainment Weekly, which I had a subscription to. While at school, I looked forward to an issue every Monday. At home, I didn't rewceive any issues until the first week in July when I got that week's issue on a Wednesday. The following week, the next issue came. So it would seem that it only took two days to forward the issues.

But then I never received any June issues at all. And after the two July issues, I didn't receive any more. So I called Drew. As usual, the mailroom was courteous and helpful. They said that when a forwarding card is filed out, they tape over the mailbox, so that all the mail is forwarded immediately, to the Madison Post Office. So I called them. They said the same thing, placing the blame on Drew and citing their own professsionalism and years of experience handling a larger volume of mail.

I was more inclined to believe Madison, based on The Acorn's problems with Drew Mail Services in the past. But then the most unbelievable part happened. I stopped by Drew the last week of July to visit, and checked my mail just from habit, knowing the box would be empty since it was taped off. But no, it was filled - some magazines, letters and other mail. Still no Entertainment from June, but newer stuff, which means the mailroom was wrong when they siad the box was taped off. So I sent them a nasty letter, they actually taped the box off, and even called my home to apologize. That should have been the end of it. But I only received one more issue of Entertainment, for the third week of August. When I got back to school, I complained, and the mailroom very politely claimed to have forwarded everything, and pointed the finger at my home town's post office.

This raises many questions. Why does normal forwarding take two weeks if it can seemingly be done in two days, as evidenced by the few issues I received in July? Why was my mailbox not taped off? Were other students' mailboxes not taped off? And if my mailbox was never taped off, why did I receive some things forwarded? After I complained, the mailroom made a concerted effort to get me my mail, but I still didn't receive much. This makes the blame shift to Madison or home, but we've never had problems with other mail at home. And mail goes through Madison before Drew, and that's not a problem, since I and The Acorn have had no problems while at school. I also believe I have received all of my mail except for these magazines.

So the real question becomes, what is it about magazines (and cds from cd clubs, which, based on student complaints, are the other shipments most often mishandled by mailrooms) that make them so hard for the post office to handle? True, the aren't standard mail size, I guess, but millions of magazines are shipped out all the time. They are not abnormal. And though Drew's new mail service has had a pretty good record so far, why is it that no one can really seem to master forwarding? I only live about an hour away from Drew - they aren't being forwarded to another state, or, heaven forbid, another country. And the idea of a post office just throwing mail out or stealing it goes against our fundamental trust and belief in our mail system. Why would someone steal a magazine anyway? Why not just read it yourself and send it out late? Actually, that'd be fine with me - I'd still get my issues. So where could those magazines be? Perhaps the only helpful advice I've received was from a friend who said she simply calls her magazines and has them change her address when she goes home for break. It's certainly what I'm planning to do in the future.