Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching and love is in the air. Another thing that is also in the air is rampant consumerism, the barely-hidden reason for the holiday. And this means gifts upon gifts being delivered en masse to condominium and cooperative properties all over New York City. Given that packages arrive in this volume but a few times each year, such a deluge can catch boards, building staff and management off guard, and can cause much confusion if those in charge are ill-prepared. Devising a system preemptively so that an association is ready for the worst-case scenario can ensure that various lovebirds receive their assorted gifts with neither muss nor fuss.
One of the biggest hurdles on a holiday closely associated with fresh flowers and sweet treats is keeping everything in a cool environment until the intended recipient is available to receive them.
“Some of our properties offer cold storage options that are helpful for the holiday rushes, while others, unfortunately, don't do anything,” says Robert Ferrara, president and CEO of Ferrara Management based in New York City and Armonk, New York. “When there's a resident superintendent or concierge desk on hand, they'll have facilities that can store various items. And some properties will have refrigerators where they can preserve flowers, or even cakes, should those be delivered.”
Steve Gold, owner of the New York-based Hudson View Associates, Inc., says that residents themselves will occasionally take the initiative so that their building will not be caught off-guard. “In one of our properties, shareholders purchased two large, new refrigerators for their package room to handle food deliveries,” he relates. “We store flowers and other items there, and residents can pick them up or porters will deliver it.”
None of this is to understate the inherent difficulty of keeping things cool, especially if there are several shipments that need such treatment. “Many times, we're not equipped to deal with a rush of packages,” admits Edwin Lugo, vice president of FirstService Residential's South Florida high-rise division. “The refrigeration necessary to preserve perishables is difficult, so we do a lot of communicating. We request that residents and owners be mindful of our limitations, that they try to take advantage of our scheduled deliveries, be home when possible, or utilize a nanny, housekeeper or friend to retrieve their shipments.”
“We'll also send out email blasts or text alerts to let residents know that a package has arrived,” Lugo continues. “At some properties, we'll have a front desk agent place a personal phone call to residents, or we'll even bring someone in just for those high-volume delivery days to co-manage the front desk on overtime, such that their sole focus is receiving packages and alerting the respective owners of their deliveries.”
As Lugo briefly touched upon, technological developments can make the tracking, receiving and distribution of these packages significantly easier. “With the utilization of Building Link and valet services, we're able to accept and deliver packages in a timely fashion,” says Desi Ndreu, director of the special operations division with Charles H. Greenthal & Co, a property management company that serves New York City, Long Island and Westchester. “The influx of packages during the holidays has become a bigger issue and concern of ours. Most of our larger buildings accommodate by hiring additional staff members.”
Of course, not every association has ample storage space, or refrigeration, or a robust lobby, or an abundance of staff, etc. And in these scenarios, sometimes the best one can do is mitigate residents' expectations.
“In some cases, we'll issue waivers to let owners know that we simply have no way of accommodating their needs,” says Lugo. “Should they sign it, we will absolutely receive their package and notify them that it's arrived, but they cannot blame us if it spoils.”
But when the opportunity is available, providing owners and shareholders with a little extra consideration during Valentine's and other holiday rushes can help bolster a community. “It's a way for a board to be agreeable and neighborly; to make sure that they're giving services to residents,” says Ferrara. “From our standpoint, it's great for customer service for both the management team and the in-house staff.”
And Lugo has properties that truly go above and beyond. “Many are planning a Valentine's brunch for the weekend prior, or buying carnations or roses to be passed out to everyone in the building. They're altering the arrangements that are typically delivered by their florists for the common areas, changing lobby music in the corridors, that kind of thing.”
It's enough to make even a Valentine grinch's heart grow.
Mike Odenthal is a staff writer at The Cooperator.