Sunday, May 3, 2015

Labeling boxes

This is for the regular carriers out there.  Take a few minutes one day and look at your route as if you've never done it before.  That can be tough, but it's important.  Since I'm fairly new on my route, I still remember the first few weeks trying to learn the case, delivery, special notices, all that stuff.  I'm lucky with all of my boxes being in NBU's it's a lot easier to figure out the addresses in the boxes on the street if they aren't marked well, at least you don't have to stop to open the box and look inside.  I know in some more rural areas the houses have sign posts at the end of the driveway so knowing you're at the right house is a little easier, but here in AZ you're just left to wonder sometimes.

If a box is not properly marked on the outside, what do you do?  I believe our management says we are not supposed to mark on the outside of the box.  Many times as a sub I had to stop and open the box to see if the address was on the inside of the door.  When you're new and don't know the route, the last thing you need slowing you down out there is un-numbered boxes.   

This Christmas I got caught out after dark a couple of times.  That's when I realized I needed to put in a little time and relabel all of my boxes.  I already had a hard time reading the faded labels that were already there in the daylight, and on some the numbers were written in sharpie, not always so legible.  I had one address written in sharpie, that looked a lot like 9925, which was really supposed to be 9905, every single day I would look twice at that number.  I also have a lot of duplicate numbers in the same NBU's.  Things got real difficult in the fading light and into darkness, especially the first night when I was unprepared and didn't have a flashlight.   

It took me about 6 weeks to do the labels in all of my 800+ boxes.  I tend to be a little over organized, so I came up with a plan first.  I started by making sure my edit book was up to date with the names, because I wanted to be able to take DPS to the street and have no question about forwards, holds, vacant and such.  (You could leave off the names if you're on a transient route where people move in and out all the time.)  Then I started collecting the white slips out of my DPS trays...I may have also harassed my fellow coworkers to collect theirs for me too. 

The other thing you'll need is those plastic sleeve stickers they use on the tubs/trays.  They have an adhesive backing so you can just stick them in the box.  You'll want to ask a supervisor, in my case I could only get 1 box of 100 each time, and then when I ran out I had to ask for more, they may need to order them.  I used a Clorox wipe to clean off the spot in the box before I stuck them down, so they would get a good adhesion.  

I went down the list of my edit book and copied down the addresses and names.  I put the name above the black line, and the address below.  I used a medium tip sharpie to write the numbers, and a pen to write the street name.  I also highlighted the first tag when each street name changed.  The main reason I used a pen for the street name is because it fits better with the finer tip and doesn't look cramped.

My route is somewhat seasonal, so I have quite a few rental houses, houses that stay "vacant" because they're vacation rentals, and I usually also have 10 or more people on hold at any given time.  I came up with a plan to mark these boxes with color coded cardstock to make it easier to see, and the whole route is uniform.  Vacant boxes and seasonal deliveries are marked with a bright green tag: (I've since found blue paper and started using that for temporary forwards.)
I found a multicolored pack of card stock with bright green, yellow, hot pink and bright orange.  I chose green because in the office we use green bars to note vacant houses, and I considered using the hot pink card stock for forwards, which would be fine, I honestly just got a little lazy and the green seems to work well for both.  Mainly the purpose  is to keep people from putting DPS and boxholders in empty boxes.  Most of the carriers use the green vacant cards, and just put them in the box when people leave, but the problem comes when the vacant cards blow out of the box on a windy day, or the customer checks the box before they leave for the season and either they take the card out of the box, or they think they're supposed to fill it out right then.  Also, one larger boxholder gets thrown on top of the card and it's not visible anymore.  
I also decided since I had the yellow cardstock it would be a great way to mark holds.  That way you don't have to carry around the hold cards to remind yourself to bring back the mail.  It also helps keep you from leaving packages and other things.  I tend to sort my parcels at my vehicle, so I don't always check them against the case.  

Every route also has problem boxes.  You know, duplicate numbers, dog warnings, and common misdelivery complaints.  My route has quite a few duplicate numbers and when I first took the route over the sub warned me about them.  I try to be diligent when casing, and double check the addresses, but I am still human.  I have the big red folder cards in the ones that are the worst, but I have so many duplicate numbers that it would be impossible to have those for every set.  What I decided to do was use the orange cardstock to make notices for these things, so that way it's bright and obvious, a good reminder to pay attention and double check the mail.  I also use the bright hot pink color for indicating forwards where someone new has moved in, I make a small piece and put just the name to forward on it, placing it vertically just inside the pocket so it doesn't block the current resident's name.

My labeling system has been in place for a few months now.  I love it.  I have had a lot of positive feedback from the subs who've done the route, and my customers have noticed the extra effort at customer service as well.  It's always nice to hear you're doing a good job from your customers, especially the ones who say they "used" to have delivery problems a lot in the past.

Here are some edited before and after pics:

Update:  I was able to get a list of supplies together for management and they have created a little supply station with all of the label pockets, tags, and colored paper if you'd like to use the color codes.  There are also a bunch of new red plastic divider cards as well, those things are great for marking things that are not so obvious or special instructions.  If you take a few minutes and print out a page with your route number, Apache Junction, and the zip code and put this on each card you have, they'll come back to you if put in the outgoing mail or something.  

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