Adobe Stock

The holidays are quickly approaching. And for multifamily operators, that means the annual onslaught of package deliveries is almost here.

To be clear: The holidays have always come with an uptick in deliveries, but since the pandemic began—and as Americans have relied increasingly on Amazon and other e-commerce sites for shopping—that surge has only multiplied. In fact, according to Joe Muratore, co-CEO of Graceada Partners, he’s expecting a more than 75% jump in deliveries as the holiday season nears.

“Packages were crazy last year,” Muratore says. “We’re anticipating even more of an influx because no one is really going into malls and stores.”

That influx brings a whole host of challenges for building managers, and staff, space, and time constraints all come into play.

“One of the common problems for staff is the volume of work that they are typically not used to throughout the year,” Muratore says. “You have several delivery drivers that come in throughout the day. They have to log the package, make sure it’s received, and then put it on a shelf. Since this happens several times a day, you have to stop what you are doing. You have to locate the package and have the resident sign for the package. Plus, you have to be mindful that you’re only open for a certain period during the day.”

It’s a lot, Muratore says, but it’s worth the effort. “You’re still trying to provide excellent customer service.”

Devising a Solution

So how exactly are buildings rising to the challenge and ensuring happy tenants? It takes a multipronged approach, operators say—and, often, a custom-fit one, too.

“Each property is unique,” says Jaime Sikorski, vice president of management for AKAM. “It’s important to take the time to understand the needs of the building and its residents when planning solutions.”

One of those solutions is on-site package lockers. With these, Amazon, FedEx, UPS, and other delivery drivers can place packages in a safe, secure locker unit and then notify the tenant of its delivery. Residents typically get a code via text or email and can retrieve the package at their convenience.

Another option is a package scanning system, like what’s offered by BuildingLink. These allow on-site staffers to scan in packages and then alert the tenant via mobile app. In this case, the building would need a package room or designated package storage space, which can sometimes require some creativity, particularly in older buildings.

“Our buildings are in Manhattan, and they weren't built with package rooms,” says Daniel Wollman, CEO of Gumley Haft Property Management. “If you're in one of these pre-war buildings, there isn't a big package area near the front door. They're instead put in smaller spaces—sometimes in the basement or in a small, locked-off area.”

Relying on Staff for Help

Staffing is also critical in handling the wave of deliveries that come around the holidays, and many operators say they plan to hire temporary help to bridge the gap.

“Staffing up is one way to deal with it,” says Muratore. “If you don’t have the ability to have the lockers, you typically need to hire a part-time person for seasonal package orders to accommodate people coming in.”

But it’s not simply more staff that’s needed around the holidays. Proper training of that staff is also vital—not just for ensuring timely and excellent tenant service, but in preventing carrier-side mistakes too.

“Just as each building is overwhelmed with deliveries, the carriers themselves are inundated,” Sikorski says. “With carriers often staffed with seasonal employees, packages can be logged or delivered incorrectly. It is key for the staff to know buildings in the area that sometimes will unintentionally receive deliveries meant for their property.”

Back to Basics

At the end of the day, building managers say it’s a holistic approach that gets the job done during the holidays—one that’s proactive, property-specific, and, as always, tenant-focused.

“It’s important not to lose sight of the basics,” Sikorski says. “Organizing packages by unit number, effectively utilizing package areas, training staff on handling procedures, and communication with residents are still the foundations of successfully handling this excess load.”