Amazon enrolls at SBU with trendy ‘pickup point’

You have mail: SBU students have a safe and secure place to receive their Amazon packages (and send returns) with the advent of the Amazon@StonyBrook "pickup point."
By GREGORY ZELLER //

Riding a high-tech trend toward convenience and cost-savings, Stony Brook University now has its very own Amazon “pickup location.”

Located on the lower level of SBU’s Frank Melville Jr. Library, Amazon@StonyBrook provides a safe and secure place for students to receive packages from Amazon.com and return items to the e-commerce stalwart. Stony Brook is the first college or university in New York State to host an Amazon pickup point and one of only 15 in the United States.

The innovative collaboration between the school and the titanic Internet retailer made perfect sense, according to Peter Baigent, SBU’s vice president for student affairs, who noted that Amazon – as of the Fall 2016 semester, SBU’s official bookstore – already processed roughly 40 percent of the university’s textbook orders “prior to receiving the bid.”

Peter Baigent: Observing trends, cutting costs, all for students.

Peter Baigent: Observing trends, cutting costs, all for students.

“The bid” refers to a months-long process wherein the university – recognizing current trends in textbook purchasing and the increasing use of electronic education resources – solicited pitches for the creation of a safe and affordable student product-delivery service.

“We got three bids from traditional, brick-and-mortar (retailers) and three bids from online services,” Baigent told Innovate LI. “The priorities were affordable books, textbooks and course materials, efficiency, superior service for students and the ability to have the SBU brand well-recognized, locally and nationally.

“At the end of the day, Amazon secured the bid.”

The “superior service” provided by Amazon@StonyBrook includes order fulfillment and returns and free one-day pickup on select items – including required textbooks – for students, faculty and the public at large, according to an Amazon spokesperson. Students and faculty receive free one-day shopping on required textbooks and course materials sold by Amazon or fulfilled by Amazon when shipped to the Amazon pickup point or to “campus-area ZIP codes,” Amazon said.

Users can utilize the service to pick up any Amazon.com-ordered item, with the exception of certain “oversized items,” according to Amazon.

When merchandise arrives on campus, students receive a text-message alert; when they’re ready to pick up, they alert Amazon@StonyBrook, where staffers place the items in a secure locker that can be opened by students via mobile tech.

The pickup point will operate from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. It will be staffed by Amazon employees, not university employees, but Baigent expects that staff will be comprised largely of SBU students.

Amazon@StonyBrook includes multiple lockers, located adjacent to one of three Barnes & Noble-operated campus stores. The Amazon pickup point will add a kiosk for end-of-semester textbook-buyback programs, Baigent added.

Amazon@StonyBrook kicks off Wednesday with an unofficial “soft launch” and officially opens Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, scheduled to include Baigent, Amazon university-relations Senior Manager Tony Caravano and other dignitaries representing SBU and Amazon.

But Stony Brook students have hardly waited for the pickup point to go live to make use of the leading e-commerce platform. The campus “mail room” has “become a misnomer,” Baigent noted – “They’re really box-receiving entities,” he said – and the SBU student body is no stranger to Amazon and its services.

“As I pass some of the mail rooms, you see boxes of all sizes,” the student affairs VP said. “Skis, refrigerators, automobile tires.”

Now, the mail rooms can go back to traditional mail and SBU students will have a protected place to receive their Amazon goodies. And the transformation of the Melville Library’s lower level isn’t done yet, Baigent added, with a Starbucks franchise slated to open there, alongside the Amazon and Barnes & Noble facilities, in February.

“This all reflects a trend in contemporary ways of purchasing products and services,” Baigent said Tuesday. “It’s certainly a cutting-edge approach for universities. And I think it shows that we are indeed trying to produce the most convenient cost-savings for students, while recognizing those contemporary trends.”