Commons mail room

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Mail is the lifeblood of the modern college campus and is the vessel through which most recruiting, fundraising, business dealings, and informational communication efforts flow. (Imagine the consequences if the mail was not sent/received in a timely, efficient, and safe manner!) About the Mail Center

Students depending on the mail room at RPI are given a first-hand demonstration of such an absurd malfunction of mail delivery. Clearly, the mail room exists to ease the distribution of unwanted advertisements and prevent or delay students from receiving packages. The above definition of mail provided by RPI's mail services clearly omits food packages from mom, online purchases, and countless other parcels commonly received by college students. This omission is intentional.

The End of the Package Slip Era

Beginning in the fall semester of 2004, the mail room stopped using package slips and instead sends an E-mail for each package that is received. Otherwise, nothing has changed. The following is the way it used to be.

E-Mail Notification

This is what the E-mail notifications look like.

Subject: Your package has arrived!                                              
Date: 08 Feb 2005 10:35:50 -0500                                                
Your Parcel has arrived at R.P.I.!                                              
Students: Remember to bring your student ID card to pick up your package!       
Student Mail Ctr hours are:                                                     
Mon-Fri * 8:00 - 12:30pm  1:00- 4:15pm                                          
Saturday * 9:00 - 1:00pm                                                        
Sunday = CLOSED                                                                 
Thank you.                                                                      
We have received a package matching your alert criteria.                        
DATE / TIME: 2/8/2005 9:16:23 AM                                                
TRACKING NO: 1212341234123412341234                                             
CARRIER: FEXG                                                                   
PKG Condition:                                                                  

These messages are merely taunts indicating that the mail room has your package, but that you can not yet pick it up. Apparently it takes around an hour for to send out an ordinary batch of the notifications, and during this time they can not distribute any packages.

Package Slips

Package slips provide an easy way for packages to be misplaced and delayed. In theory when the mail room receives a package, the package is stored away, and a slip of paper identifying the recipient that the package has arrived is placed in his or her mailbox. Mail room staff have found numerous games that can be played with this sysytem.

  • two packages on one slip: The mail room staff receives two packages for an individual and takes a shortcut by writing only one packages slip for both packages. The student finds the packages slip, produces it to the staff, and receives one package. The other package is successfully lost or delayed until it is rediscovered by the staff or discovered missing by the student.
  • necessity of the package slip: The package slip system has the automatic bonus that some students will misplace or not find the requisite package slip. A student picks up mail, including a package slip, for his or her roommate and brings it back to the room. The roommate goes to the mail room after a class to check for mail, but finding nothing heads back to the room. Finding the package slip, the roommate returns to the mail room to find it closed. Package successfully delayed one day.
  • package slip delivered late: A diligent student checks his or her mailbox for package slips in the late afternoon on the Thursday before a long weekend. Mail room staff places a package slip in this student's mailbox less than an hour before going home. Package successfully delayed until the following Monday.


Mail room hours have traditionally been clearly posted on signs where students can see them. Usually, these are located inside the mail room where they can be easily hidden when the mail room is closed. With recent rennovations to the Commons, hours are currently posted on several bulletin boards outside of the mail room, potentially allowing students who find the mail room closed to find when they will next be open and return at the appropriate time. This is remedied, at least for the summer, by closing the Commons when the mail room is closed but does pose the potential for hours being available when the Commons is open but the mail room closed during the fall and spring semesters.

The clever student might aquire positive information about when the mail room is open, by finding a sign providing the current hours through trickery or CreativeAquisition or by the process of remembering this classified information. Not to worry, there are methods used to combat that. The mail room staff apparently has the privilege of closing the mail room at their whim. This requires no warning and is only reported by a closed mail room or a sign indicating an excuse or the precise hours that the mail room is sure to not be open.

Combatting the Mail Room

There are a number of ways students can fight the mail room.

First, it is necessary to make it clear that the mail room staff are typically quite friendly. It is not expected that this is a ploy to lower students' guards and make them more susceptible to trickery, rather it is more likely that the mail room staff are simply pawns in a greater game, caught in a system where they do try to get packages to students but the overarching rules prevent it from happening in a decent manner.

Anticipate Packages

Make sure your parents provide warning when sending a package so that mail room staff can be interrogated if it is not discovered in sufficient time.

Use tracking numbers whenever possible to identify when a package has actually been delivered to the mail room, and make sure that the number of packages delivered to the mail room is the same number as received by the student.

Pick up packages personally

If a package is sitting at a FedEx or similar facility because they attempted to deliver the package to the mail room when it was closed, it may be possible to go to the delivery facility to pick up the package rather than waiting a week.

Leave package slips in the mailbox

A package slip is only useful at the mail room, which is in the center of all of the mailboxes. Do not remove a package slip from a mailbox for any reason than to retrieve a package, otherwise the risk of not having the package slip when it is needed increases dramatically.