Old-school drop boxes make a comeback in COVID-19 era

Drop boxes are a low-tech solution that fell out of favor in the internet age. But the Facilities Management Division (FMD) resurrected these relics from the past to serve customers safely while King County buildings remain closed due to COVID-19. In spring 2020, FMD installed nine new drop boxes in collaboration with Treasury, Records and Licensing, Assessments, and Metro. The boxes typically average 100-150 parcels per week, and that number skyrockets up to 350 parcels a week during tax season.  

“Yes, people still conduct transactions via the internet; however, there were no means for people who do not have access to computers to conduct business with the county,” Chris Stenger, FMD building Operations Manager said. “[Drop boxes] keep employees working and provide a means to keep the revenue flow going.”

The Department of Assessments is one agency that has adopted drop boxes to help its customers do business with the County. Before the pandemic, dozens of daily visitors submitted critical documents at the department’s customer service counter. When the world changed in early March, the Assessor’s office reacted quickly to the new reality.

“It was immediately clear to us that we needed to find ways to protect our staff, while still serving the public,” John Wilson, Assessor said.  “The use of a document drop box has been one of our most valuable customer service tools.” 

Customers can use the drop box to submit applications for a property tax exemption and a wide variety of other documents such as building plans. Department staff check the box every day.

“There was no pandemic playbook for us to consult, so we had to innovate on the fly,” Wilson said.  “The world didn’t completely stop due to COVID; much of our business needed to continue. I am proud of the steps our team took, and the document drop box has been a huge success.”

Most agency-specific boxes are checked daily by department staff and by FMD to ensure all parcels are delivered quickly. Drop boxes are located at:

 “Overall, this re-introduction of drop boxes is a great story on how no matter how many modern conveniences we have; there may be a time when we as a society may need to rely on a simple practice from the past to get us through hard times,” Stenger from FMD said.