According to the environmental organization 41pounds.org, the average person receives forty-one pounds of junk mail each year. Catalogs, credit card applications, donation requests, coupons, and other forms of direct mail marketing make up almost half of the mail delivered to customers each day by the United States Postal Service. Most people have unsolicited mail—or junk mail—in their mailbox every day, and a majority of people don’t want it. Unfortunately, because the USPS virtually stays afloat from direct mail marketing revenue, there is no end to junk mail in sight for Americans. In fact, the USPS has upped its efforts to entice businesses and direct mail marketers to advertise through the post office by offering deeper discounts than ever before. In a presentation last year, the postmaster general, Patrick R. Donahoe, touted the benefits of direct mail marketing for businesses noting, “Standard mail is the best way to reach your customer… You can advertise on Facebook, but I don’t see how you can trace the number of ‘likes’ to return on investment.” (Source: NYT)
While there are legislative initiatives that aim to protect citizens somewhat from having their personal information distributed to direct mail marketers (such as the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights), loopholes for junk mailers are numerous. Basically, it’s up to the junk mail recipients to take action in preventing unwanted mail. Fortunately, there are ways to greatly diminish the amount of unsolicited mail arriving in one’s mailbox.
1. Be selective of who receives your personal information. Do not fill out forms for contests, surveys, or even for product warranties. Save your receipt from your purchase and you should be covered under any warranty the manufacturer or retailer offers.
2. Place your name and address on “do-not-mail” lists. Both www.dmachoice.org and www.catalogchoice.org are organizations that offer to block unsolicited mail for free. These services may not completely eliminate your junk mail, but they should be effective in reducing it substantially.
3. To reduce solicitations from credit card companies, go to www.optoutprescreen.com. This service processes requests from consumers to opt in or out of receiving credit card offers, as well as offers from insurance and mortgage companies. You can opt out for five years or permanently, as well as opting in at any time.
4. It’s tedious and time-consuming, but contacting companies individually is another effective way to reduce junk mail. Most retailers offer privacy policies online that enable you to opt out of receiving catalogs and sales fliers. This is also the best way to reduce other forms of unwanted mail, such as free publications and fliers from insurance companies and local businesses.
While there is no end in sight to direct mail marketing as a means of advertising, citizens do have rights regarding junk mail. Along with the preceding suggestions to eliminate unwanted mail, consider contacting your elected federal government officials to express your concern and support for legislature that further protects your right to privacy.