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Return to sender — Please!!

August 31, 2010
English: Royal Mail ... Junk Mail.

English: Royal Mail … Junk Mail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I might be dead but I’m still on the database.”

This line, uttered by the ghost character in the BBC America series, “Being Human,” nicely sums up a situation that is all too real for those of us who still have a pulse: we’re bombarded with junk mail.

When Annie, the ghost, made the database comment to Mitchell, her vampire roommate, she was thrilled to be getting mail — any mail — in the afterlife. Maybe I would be, too, if I were stuck indefinitely in some dreary way station between earth and eternity.

But for now, not so much. For years, I’ve been trying to get my name removed from catalog and brochure mailing lists in hopes of keeping the junk mail delivered to my mailbox to a minimum. Why? For these reasons:

  1. To save a few trees
  2. To free up time to devote to more important things (like shopping online)
  3. To avoid the temptation to order something — especially clothes and gadgets — merely because it’s on sale or because I’m momentarily convinced that my life would be better if I owned a particular sweater, bagel slicer or meditation DVD

It’s no surprise that all these product-pitching pages go from clogging our mailboxes to piling up in our landfills. As of 2008, paper and paperboard made up 31% of the trash generated in the U.S., according to the EPA.The agency says:

One way Americans can reduce paper consumption at home is by removing their names from bulk mailing lists. Entering a contest, making a donation, purchasing something, ordering a product by mail, or sending in a subscription often results in a new entry on someone’s mailing list. Americans can reduce unwanted mail by avoiding unnecessary warranty cards, returning unwanted mail, and by notifying mail-order catalog companies and mailing list brokers that they want their names removed from mailing databases.

I embarked on my name-removal mission about a decade ago, when I read that Americans spend an average of eight months of their lives sorting through junk mail. Although that figure still is widely quoted, I can’t vouch for its accuracy because I haven’t been able to track down its original source. But even if the stat is an exaggeration, it’s clear that handling junk mail takes a lot of time.

I do enjoy sitting back and flipping through glossy catalogs of clothes, gifts or household items on occasion. And looking at clear, accurate color photos in a catalog certainly beats shopping online at a poorly designed site where a forest green shirt looks navy blue. But I want to decide which catalogs to receive and not have to plead with companies to stop sending unwanted, unsolicited mailings to me (wasting their own money in the process).

As of now, I’ve managed to get my name purged from most mailing lists. But it took repeated calls and emails to customer service folks at several companies to get to this nearly catalog-free place. And in one recent case, I had to file a complaint with my state’s consumer affairs department (bless them!) before the recalcitrant company agreed to hit the “delete” key on my name.

My decluttering efforts got a big assist from Catalog Choice, a truly great (free) service that contacts companies on your behalf and asks them to remove your name from mailing lists for catalogs, phone books, coupons, etc.

I also registered with the mail preference service of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), asking that my name be dropped from the catalog mailing lists of its members. But as the group’s website explains, the DMA can remove your name only from the lists of companies that you’ve never done business with. Otherwise, you have to contact the company directly. If you want to sign up for the DMA’s service, you’ll find the information here.

Let me know if you find an “opt-in” category for those in the afterworld. Annie would be grateful.

© Janice Leary and My Point Exactly, 2010-2014. Unauthorized use of this material, including original photographs, without express and written permission from this blog’s author is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Janice Leary and My Point Exactly with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 2, 2010 11:05 pm

    Both my husband and I were widowed in our 30’s. Our spouses have been gone now for 7 and 10 years respectively. You would think they would stop getting mail. But no. They each get mail on a fairly regular basis. I laughed out loud the other week when my deceased husband got something for life insurance. Seriously. I almost wrote on the letter, “I don’t think he needs it. You were too late.” My current husband’s late wife got a catalog the other day. I’m pretty sure she is no longer interested in the back to school sales.
    Junk Mail. The mail for all eternity. Amen.

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