A day in the life of the Receiving Room

Posted on Sun, 03/01/2020 - 11:30am

By Tracy Poyser

Jessica It’s a weekday in December when Amazon’s in overdrive, residents are expecting furniture deliveries, and there’s a move and several construction projects underway in the building. Just imagine all of this happening without one of the essential nerve centers of our Malibu East village – our Receiving Room and its hardworking attendants. Veteran Norma Bolante, who started here almost 30 years ago, in January 1991, has the weekday shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Jessica Walendzinski handles the 1-7 p.m. shift, and often the Saturday hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Jess has been working with us for two years now.) And, you’ll often see Yanis, Joel or another maintenance staffer as backup for great continuity of service.

Among them, they are tasked to keep track of packages, accept returns, check in movers and construction crews, manage the loading dock traffic and security, all the while greeting everyone with a smile and staying focused on their tasks. But, it’s not just the staff that makes our Receiving Room function flawlessly – it also takes understanding from all of us as “customers” to avoid problems. Spending time recently with Norma and Jess to get insights into a typical day in the life of the Receiving Room sure opened my eyes, plus it reinforced the practical reasons for related condo rules.

When Norma gets to work a bit before 7 a.m., contractor vehicles, movers and construction vans are already in line to get first dibs for the best spots in our loading dock and its four bays, which have been roped off with chains. The first deliveries and movers get building/elevator access at 8 a.m. The two bays closest to the lake are reserved for movers and contractors working in the building that day, while the two closest to the entrance are reserved for short-term deliveries and pickups, with no other standing/parking allowed. Each bay accommodates two vehicles, one behind the other. Those who don’t make it in time for a spot need to unload their supplies/equipment while using street parking.

Norma checks everyone in, makes sure the freight elevator has been reserved, and verifies that contractors have been cleared by the Management Office as having a current business license and insurance certificate on file. Unless a resident has left written permission in advance, no one can use the freight elevator until Norma has reached the resident by phone and received access permission, so please be home and reachable by phone.

Security is of primary importance, together with making sure that we reserve the service elevator for any large-scale deliveries and moves. With 500 units in our building, that’s a lot of traffic, especially in the prime moving months from late March through the summer. All movers or contractors must leave their photo ID and cell phone number with the Receiving Room in return for a freight elevator fob. If they’re new, Norma walks them over to the freight elevator. But many of our remodeling and repair contractors are regulars in the building and know where to go.

While the loading dock rush is still underway, residents start picking up packages from the previous day’s alerts, and Norma starts dealing with the multifaceted “receiving” part of her duties. Between FedEx, UPS, USPS and the ubiquitous Amazon’s hold on e-commerce, there are about 4-6 truck deliveries a day, translating into about 150-175 packages on a normal weekday. But, in the ever-earlier pre-holiday season starting as early as mid-to-late November, that number has been growing to an avalanche of 400-600 packages daily. Norma remembers when she first started working in 1991 with the late Kathy Katz, it was so quiet that she could almost have read a paperback in two days. She could scan all the shelves in one glance, and logging the packages by hand in her famous ledger book was meticulous. I still remember Norma’s amazing memory for practically every entry, even from 10 days prior. And, she had to leave phone messages for each package, and fill out a slip for the mailboxes. She gladly shifted from manual to computer-based logging and tracking and automated notifications to residents by either email, text or phone, and she loves the new system.

With the Packagetrack.net software, our attendants enter the unit number, delivery method, sender, size of package, delivery method and other information such as “perishable.” And, for easier retrieval, a marker pen is used on a prominent spot on the package to enter the last name, unit number, “P” for perishable, and delivery method. With packages signed out on-screen by a resident or neighbor/relative when picking up, it’s very rare that items get misplaced, and Norma doesn’t recall an actual theft in her 29 years. She and Jess try everything in their power to track down any missing items and take special care with small ones or soft-sided envelopes that can slip off the shelves.

Norma generally has some last-minute deliveries from the previous day to process and keeps checking to make sure the shelves are easy to access, with the recipient ID on each package as visible as possible. That has become much easier since the Receiving Room was remodeled a few years ago, with more efficient use of the space, new shelving and reception countertops allowing more space for computers, plus better sight lines for security. The shelves are organized vertically by tier, and floor/unit numbers within each tier, with small- to medium-sized packages on the shelves, and big items in front. There’s a special area for perishables, and a locked safe for high-security items such as checkbooks or other valuables. But, with just one refrigerator, it’s important for us to pick up those nice fruit and cheese baskets right away; otherwise, Norma and Jess will eat them (just joking).

When Jessica arrives for her 1-7 p.m. shift, the two of them review the priorities and expected loading dock traffic for the rest of the day. The two-hour overlap between their shifts allows for a smoother early afternoon, especially on hectic days. Asked about the physical demands of a job that requires not just being on her feet all day, but bending, stretching, lifting and carrying, Norma tells me that she’s worked since she was 15 years old, and that working in the Receiving Room is better than a fitness club and has kept her healthy for 29 years.

Jessica’s afternoon is no less busy. After 3 p.m., she contacts the office for the next day’s moves or large deliveries. She gets especially busy during the Receiving Room’s own rush-hour traffic from about 5-7 p.m., when residents pick up packages on the way in from work, or realize they have almost missed the 7 p.m. closing. She needs to make sure that contractors and movers have checked out and no one’s blocking or remaining in the loading dock bays – construction hours close at 6 p.m. More often than not, there’s a last-minute Amazon package delivery just as she’s trying to close up. She needs to chain the four loading bays for the night, lock and bar the dock-side building entrance, and leave any special alerts for Norma in the morning. Jess also works many of the 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday shifts, and Sunday holiday hours during December.

Both Norma and Jess told me that getting to know our residents over time makes the job easier and more pleasurable. Norma especially has witnessed many happy and sad events in the life of our vertical village. That’s why they both hold discretion and confidentiality in very high regard. And, as with any people-focused service that may require dealing with unhappy or impatient people, they value a sense of diplomacy as well as humor.

Here are just a few things we can do to help our hardworking Receiving Room staff:

  • Pick up packages as soon as you can – especially perishables and oversized items.
  • No live animals, please – seriously, there have been snakes, birds and fish.
  • Damaged items will be reported to you right away, but it’s up to you to contact the sender.
  • Reserve the freight elevator as early as possible, for both moves and large deliveries.
  • Make sure that your contractors are registered with the Management Office.

Let’s show our appreciation to our hardworking Receiving Room staff with a thank you, a smile and maybe some of those perishables that may ruin your diet☺ – chocolate included. Norma and Jess can walk off the extra calories in no time.