junk mail

I’m not terribly ambitious about environmental action yet — i do a lot of ranting about how we’re all doomed, but i’ve so far made relatively few changes, and my current lifestyle puts me in the running for “world’s most hypocritical environmentalist”. I’d like to change that at least somewhat.

My current step is to try to reduce the amount of junk mail i receive. This takes some time in the short run, but has the advantage that getting less junk would make my life less annoying, in addition to generating less waste. I started with the set of advice at this page at ecocycle.org, about which i have a couple of comments so far. My overall strategy has been (1) sign up with the global marketing removal services, and (2) contact individually the companies/organizations with whom i do business, as i receive new junk mail from them, and ask them to tone down what they send me. I’m keeping a database of who i’ve contacted when and how long they told me removal would take, and i plan to follow up on a daily basis as long as i’m still getting junk mail on a daily basis.

First off, the DMA’s Mail Preference Service is not free (it costs a dollar, which is not a lot, but which makes me roll my eyes). I signed up for it anyway because, when i asked around, someone i know said it had been effective for them. In addition, when i called one of the charities from whose lists i wanted to be removed (a group to which i haven’t contributed in the past), they told me that the six-digit code in the lower right of the reply card they’d sent meant that they had gotten my address from the DMA, sent me mail, and then discarded the address. So the only way to avoid future mailings from them was registering with the DMA — good to know.

I have not had very good experience with optoutprescreen.com so far. I signed up with them around a year ago, and, as far as i can tell, the credit card and insurance offers continue unabated. It may be worth trying to opt out via phone rather than via e-mail. (I called their number, but it explicitly says that it is unattended by a human, so i can’t think of any way to check whether i’m on their list.) So i’m treating credit card offers as organizations, and phoning them individually. They’re not nearly as nice about it as charities, and i’ve had to sit through a couple of sales pitches and a certain amount of indirectness about what exactly i’m being removed from, but they do eventually agree to claim they’re doing something.

Catalog removals are easy, but they’re easier if you have the catalog handy, because there’s a customer code on the back which lets them look you up quickly in the database.

I want to finish by noting that almost everyone i’ve spoken to, particularly at the nonprofits, has been extremely polite and agreeable. A few of them are more comfortable if you give them explicit permission to contact you via e-mail, but most just look you up in the database and change some fields. So even the phone-phobic have little to worry about in doing this.

by cgolubi1


5 responses to “junk mail

  1. Thanks — this is really helpful. I guess I’ll suck up my indignation and pay that one dollar fee to the DMA.
    In the meantime, I’m saving a lot of my junkmail to convert to Christmas wrapping paper.

  2. I’ve asked my bank several times to stop sending me loan offers; I know I don’t want one, and it’s such a waste of paper. Every time I ask, they say they’ll stop, but they don’t! To make this even more irritating, this is the Co-operative Bank (UK) – they’re supposed to be ethical!

  3. Something I have been wondering in terms of junk mail is how effective it would be to simply return it all marked “not at this address” (in the UK, if you put something back in the post box with the address crossed out and something like “not at this address” written on it, then they will return it to the sender for no extra charge). The idea is that any organisation that cares about its costs will take you off its mailing list at this point. I don’t know how effective this really is, though, and it obviously doesn’t work for things that you can’t tell are junk mail without opening them.

  4. Kake: i have no idea, but i imagine phoning is more likely to be effective, since you’re talking to someone in real time who has the customer database at their fingertips. Of course, they can lie about whether they’re removing you, but it still seems to me like the best bet.

  5. The idea is that if you pretend you don’t exist (at that address) then it’s not worth their while spamming you. If you phone them up, then you’re verifying that you exist, and making your name/address even more valuable.

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