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Just ship it to the office
By L.M. SIXEL Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
It could be books. Or ski clothes from New England. Or wine from the Wine of the Month Club.
As online shopping becomes more popular, more packages are getting delivered. And for employees, one of the best places to send the merchandise is to the office, where there is always someone in the mailroom or at the front desk to receive the parcels.
Self-described QVC addict Suzanne Chambers said she really appreciates the convenience.
Chambers, customer care manager for G&A Partners, a human resources outsourcing firm based in Houston, said that during the holidays she gets packages nearly every day, including perishables like food packed in dry ice. If she couldn't get them delivered to her at work, she'd have to wait until the weekend when she could retrieve them from the office of her apartment complex.
“It's a huge, huge service for me,” said Chambers, who regularly gets e-mail from the receptionist about a package arriving. She said she immediately goes to sign for it and takes it back to her desk.
Many employees have come to count on the ease of shipping personal packages to the office, and many companies are willing to accommodate that. But the volume can be overwhelming, so some organizations have put limits on what they will accept.
At G&A Partners, personal packages can be no more than 20 pounds and nothing bigger than a standard moving box, human resources manager Madonna Riley said.
Employees also have to pick up their packages from the receptionist by the end of the day because there is no room for storage, she said. The receptionist doesn't go around and deliver.
No furniture, please
Riley put the limits in place at the corporate headquarters in Houston, which has about 130 employees, to make the deliveries more manageable. And it also ensures that no beds or furniture show up at the office, she said, laughing.
“I believe employees like they can do it and know what to expect,” she said, adding that the policies have sped the flow of deliveries and have resulted in no lost packages.
Smaller companies have an easier time handing personal packages because it's not usually a big deal, said Kathy Fenninger, a longtime human resources executive in Houston who teaches a human resources class at Rice University's Institute for Human Resource Education. It's the larger companies that have the problem.
She recalled the time when she was working in human resources for a huge energy company, and an employee got really mad when a box of expensive designer chocolates melted before it got to him. It was a warm day, and the box was left sitting with other mail.
Nothing on the box indicated it was perishable, she said, yet the employee was angry that the delivery wasn't rushed to his desk.
Without policies in place, she said, the mailroom for a big company can easily become a distribution center for Santa Claus.
However, she cautions against getting too heavy-handed in setting rules or outright forbidding packages. Employees work long hours, and they have a limited amount of time they can accept packages at their own homes, she said. Outlawing personal deliveries essentially is telling employees to go shopping, she said.
“If it's not a big deal, why fight it? Why add more stress at this time of the year?”
Besides, Fenninger added, employees will probably do it whether they can or not.
Tough to measure
Several years ago the University of Houston tried to get a handle on how many personal packages were coming through its mailroom. But it abandoned the effort when it became clear that it was impossible to determine, said Sally Rowland-Ketley, director of the university's printing and postal services.
For example, most folks would assume packages from Victoria's Secret may be personal, but then it turned out that the theater department orders costumes and props from exotic places, she said.
The best thing she can figure is that personal items don't overwhelm the university's mailroom. Nor do personal packages get lost, said Rowland-Ketley, who said she can count on one hand the number of complaints she's had in the past dozen years.