You Have a Package at Reed Mail Services: An Interview with Ben Lund
Every time a student receives cookies from home, a book from Amazon, or new shoes, they receive an email from a mysterious man who spells his name with no capital letters. Who is the man of mystery working in the GCC’s basement? Why the cummings-esque lack of capitalization? Can the Postal Service help you convey a coconut across the country? Staff reporter Isabel Meigs found out in in this slightly edited and condensed interview.
Q: How long have you been working here at Reed?
A: This will be my twentieth year as a staff member and I worked here for four years as a student before that.
Q: So you’re a Reed alum?
A: Uh huh.
Q: That’s so cool!
Q: Do you send all the package emails?
A: Not personally, no, the computer back there does. I set it all up though, actually that’s what I’m working on right now [indicates computer] We used to just do package slips, but they can get put in the wrong boxes, or they did, and so having the emails was a second check to make sure everyone got notified, and also people seem to like it.
Q: Why is your name always in lower case when we get the package email?
A: Is it? I had no idea. I don’t know, I don’t see where the choice is for… this is the script right there that sends it…umm….The email system must have my name as a lower case as a default! I don’t know, that’s maybe some setting in my email? I have no clue.
Q: What is your official title?
A: I am a senior mail clerk, but I don’t know if there are any junior mail clerk.
Q: So you’re THE senior mail clerk…
A: I am one of three senior mail clerks.
Q: Is there anything you wish the Reed student body knew about Ben Lund that they don’t now?
A: No, not really. [Laughs.] I guess more about the packages, I mean, I know it’s stupid and boring but we try our hardest to overcome the impression that we mess up, or, people always blame us for the packages going wrong, and the whole email thing, our attempt to be accurate as possible. And it’s really difficult. We get about, I think it’s, 75,000 packages a year. You know, it’s a lot of packages! Everyone orders everything on the internet. It took us three hours today to log in all the packages. And so when people are coming in and being like, where’s my package? This and that. It takes quite a bit of work to keep it all organized. Our main problem at the moment is the people with the same last names and getting our student workers to make sure we’re package slipping to the right last name. Accuracy is difficult. But generally we do pretty good. And you know, people come in and say, “Well, you lost all my packages this semester,” or something. The number of packages we actually lose is very small. Along the lines of one per semester, actually, when it comes down to it. There’s a lot things where people get double package slips or the package never arrived here. I mean, there are a lot of situations that look like a lost package, but we usually resolve almost all of them. So, yeah, it’s something like one a semester. Which is relatively pretty good, I think, in the big scheme of things. Some people may feel like they have a different opinion on that [laughs]. We try our best, no, there’s not much about me that’s super interesting. I’ve been here for ages. I’ve been doing this for ages.
Q: To that point, what’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened in the Mailroom, or what’s the weirdest shaped package you’ve ever gotten through here…
A: People should experiment with that! You can send a lot of things through the postal service. We get coconuts…
Q: With the address written on them?
A: There’s some company in Hawaii that sells coconuts to send in the mail, and they’ve ground down one side of it so you can write the address right on the side of the coconut. Someone got like an inflatable exercise ball the other day. There’s a company that sells them, that you write the address right on the side. I thought that was pretty good. [Laughs.] That’s about as cool as it gets. [Laughs.]
Q: You were a student before you were an employee here at Reed. What did you major in?
A: I was a math major.
Q: Are people getting less mail these days?
A: People get a lot less mail. Like, we used to receive, average, five tubs of flats, and a tray and a half of letters a day. We now receive maybe two tubs of flats and half a tray of letters on average. But packages have probably quintupled in volume over the last five years.