December is parcel time. That’s noticeable at the student residences in Wageningen too. Even more packages than usual are piling up in the hall. And even more packages than usual are getting lost or damaged. Resource went to investigate.
To test how package delivery is working (and in the hope of speaking to a delivery person), Resource ordered a package to be delivered to a Dijkgraaf flat. The package was due to be delivered by PostNL between 10:05 and 12:05, but after a two-hour wait outside without seeing any sign of a delivery driver, there came an email saying ‘left at the parcel delivery point’*.
The two hours spent at Dijkgraaf were not a waste of time, though. They provided a chance to ask residents about their experiences. Student of Plant Sciences Ruben Kuipers, for instance, says he only has parcels delivered here that will fit through the letterbox. Anything else he gets delivered to the nearest delivery point. “Chronically overworked and underpaid delivery drivers work under pressure and aren’t going to figure out how the extraordinary house-numbering system at Dijkgraaf works. So they just dump everything downstairs and then a package can disappear.’ He lost a charger that way. ‘According to the delivery service, the package was delivered, but I never received anything.’
As hard as possible
Biology student Maartje van der Linden lives at Dijkgraaf too. She finds some delivery services better than others. ‘PostNL often takes parcels straight to a delivery point, which is OK actually. But I get packages delivered by DHL sent to my parents’ house, because that often goes wrong here.’ In the Dijkgraaf Facebook group, Van der Linden sees a lot of posts about packages that have got lost or damaged. ‘Today there was someone whose parcel from Hunkemöller had been opened. Apparently, the person who did that didn’t think much of the contents and left the package where it was. How many of the packages that disappear are stolen or returned to a parcel point without notification, I don’t know.’
It’s as though the block was designed to make it as hard as possible for delivery drivers
Even when the delivery person does deliver the packages to the right place, it can still go wrong. Van der Linden: ‘The address system for this building is complicated. We all live at Dijkgraaf 4. The building has 18 floors, each with three wings – a, b and c – and then there are rooms in each wing. And that’s all got to fit on the address line. So a package addressed to Dijkgraaf 4-gang 4b kamer 12 is supposed to end up on the fourth floor in the B wing, but it might equally end up being left on the 12th floor.’ The lifts are not particularly handy for the delivery drivers either, says Van der Linden. ‘There are three lifts, but each of them goes to just one in three floors.’ When you look at it this way, it seems almost as though the block was designed to make it as hard as possible for delivery drivers. ‘Yes, I do get that idea sometimes.’
The driver’s perspective
Then through the grapevine we managed to talk to a delivery driver from an unnamed delivery service (name known to the editor). ‘In the student flats there is often a sticker saying: don’t leave anything in the hall. And below it is a pile of packages.’ The student residences are quite a source of frustration for delivery staff. ‘At Bornsesteeg you can’t ring a bell downstairs, so you have to go all the way up. If neither the person nor the neighbours are at home, then before you know it, you spend ten minutes on a parcel you can’t deliver.’ When she had just started as a delivery driver, she dutifully went to the different floors, but she doesn’t always do so anymore. ‘If I’ve had a long day and I’ve still got to deliver something to one of those flats, I leave the packages down in the hall. I do then add a note to the delivery notification saying that the parcel is in the hall.’ She also sometimes gets parcels addressed with only the name and the number of the building on them. ‘We can’t do anything with those.’
The delivery driver is sorry to hear that some parcels get damaged or stolen. ‘We prefer to hand the parcels over to the recipients. But that isn’t always feasible in these buildings. Perhaps parcel lockers could be installed? Or a central parcel point at each building?’
Idealis is aware of the situation, says spokesperson Hellen Albers. ‘Parcels are sometimes left unattended in the hall, where anyone can access them, despite a clear statement from us that this is not the idea. We do arrange with suppliers that they should not deposit the parcels in the hall but should hand them over in person to the recipient. Unfortunately, that’s not what always happens. Idealis regularly tells its tenants they are better off collecting their parcels from collection points whenever possible. And we are looking into affordable options for improving parcel delivery at the flat buildings.’
* Inquiries at PostNL revealed that this delivery service now only delivers letterbox parcels to some student flats in Wageningen. A spokesperson: ‘Because parcels haven’t always reached the right people, our delivery staff take larger parcels directly to a PostNL point nearby, so that that the addressee picks up the parcel themselves.’