I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Junk Mail

I spent about an hour this morning sorting through the weeks mail. Junk mail seems to get worse, like the traffic, it increases every year. Then there's the junk advertising in the Sunday paper and the junk they stuff in your screen door. You can't seem to lessen the amount of paper that clogs your life. How many trees die every year for all this paper? If that isn't bad enough, there's spam on your computer. I really hate it when some anonymous person puts advertising under my windshield wiper on the car. What's a person to do?

Your name, address, and buying habits are a commodity that is regularly sold & traded on the open market. These days organizations you deal with virtually all sell your name unless you specifically ask them to stop. Here are some general techniques:
Whenever you donate money, order a product or service, or fill out a warranty card, write in large letters, "Please do not sell my name or address". Most organizations will properly mark your name in the computer.

  • Product warranty cards are are often used to collection information on your habits and income, for the sole purpose of targeting direct mail. They are not required in most situations - avoid sending them.

  • On the telephone, ask "Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies".
  • Your credit card company probably sells your name the most often. Call them and ask them to stop.

  • "Contests" where you fill in a little entry blank are almost always fishing expeditions for names. If you fill one out at a football game, for example, expect to get a catalog of football merchandise within a few months. Avoid these if you don't want the mail.

To stop specific types of unwanted paper mail:

The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering -- some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened. Even if you recycle there are still enormous environmental costs in terms of ink, energy to produce deliver and recycle the paper, recycling inefficiencies and loss of virgin forest to create the high quality glossy paper much junk mail uses. There is a lot you can do to reduce the cost to the environment and your own time:
First class mail: Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write "refused: return to sender". Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.
Bulk mail: The post office throws away bulk mail it can't deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if "address correction requested" is written on the label: circle "address correction requested" and treat like first class mail.

Credit offers: The major credit agencies all sell aggregate credit information any bidder. Direct mail and credit companies generate mail based on demographics including zip code, income band and credit payment patterns. Stopping this is easy, you just need your address, former address within two years, and social security number. One call does it all for agencies Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis. Dial 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688) 24 hours a day.

Catalogs:Call the company's 800 number and have the label handy.Write your instructions on the mailing label and fax it to the company. Mark "ATTN: customer service".

AOL (America On-Line): You could pave the nation with the free discs these people send out, call 1-800-605-4297 (24 hours a day) to get off the list. Tell them your first name is "current", last name "resident".

Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes: You can get the Clearinghouse to stop clogging your mailbox by contacting customer service at 1-800-645-9242 (8:30 am to 8:30 EST), sending a fax to 1-800-453-0272, mailing to 101 Channel Drive, Port Washington, NY 11050, or you can send email to PCH will remove any number of names from a specific address, but you have to list each name exactly and insist nicely.

American Family Sweepstakes: Ed McMahon and Dick Clark will stop telling you "You have definitely won 11 million dollars (maybe) " if you call them at 1-800-237-2400.

ADVO (Mail comes with pictures of missing children). Call 1-860-285-6100 to get off the list. You may have to send a postcard to "ADVO Consumer Assistance, POB 249, Windsor CT 06095-4176".

Val-Pak Coupons: click the link and fill out the form - easy, but don't give them your email address.

Carol Wright Call 1-800-67-TARGET to get off the list.Your local newspaper & supermarket (look for a phone number on the piece).

Too much junk to deal with individually: Start by sending a postcard or letter to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 15012-0643 Include your complete name, address, zip code and a request to "activate the preference service". For up to five years, this will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from.
The Direct Marketing Association estimates that listing with their mail preference service will stop 75% of all national mailings. They process 50,000 requests a month and requests are kept active for five years. If you fill out the post office change of address form, the DMA will track the new address (you'll get a few months of mailings to the new address before they catch up to you). It can take up to six months for your request to be fully processed. You can also opt-out online, but they charge $5. The best way is to fill out their online form, then mail them a printout.

This is a great idea and it works:

If you rent you are probably familiar with receiving mail for a dozen or more former residents of your dwelling. Since you probably don't want any of the stuff, you can use two powerful techniques that might not be appropriate for yourself:
First class and some bulk mail: If the former residents neglected to fill out a Post Office change of address card, or it expired, you can fill one out for them. You must fill out one card for each unique last name. Write "Moved, Left No Forwarding Address" as the new address. Sign your own name and write "Form filled in by current resident of the house, [Your Name], agent for the above". You must write "agent for the above". Hand this form directly to your carrier, if possible, as your carrier must approve the form and see that it gets entered into the post service National Change of Address (NCOA) database. This is very effective.

To stop specific types of unwanted telephone marketing calls

Federal law prohibits telemarketers from "Initiating an outbound telephone call to a person when that person previously has stated that he or she does not wish to receive an outbound telephone call made by or on behalf of the seller whose goods or services are being offered.". You may simply interrupt the telemarketer and say "Please permanently remove me from your calling list". Remember that they just interrupted you. If the same people call back, they are violating the law. Ask them for their company name, supervisor name and phone number.

If you wish to quote Federal law to the telemarketer, you may read it at Federal Trade Commission: Telemarketing Sales Rule.General Telemarketing calls: Send a postcard with your complete telephone number, area code, address, and names of people receiving calls to DMA Telephone Preference Service, PO Box 9014, Farmingdale NY 11735-9014.
To stop unwanted electronic mail ("SPAM")It is very hard to effectively combat junk electronic mail. It costs nothing to send out a few million email messages, so there is no disincentive for people to do so. Most SPAM mailers forge the headers, email return address and sending machine name because they are sick of reading the thousands of inevitable complaints. The offers to remove your name from a list are generally untrue, and often result in your name getting added to yet another list. Many internet providers have policies against SPAM, and will take action. Unfortunately some providers either don't care or are SPAM-friendly. There are ways you can reduce exposure and complain:Never never never reply to a SPAM email.
Stamp out Get Rich Quick schemes: If you suspect fraud, send a copy of the mail to the National Fraud Information Center. If it relates to selling stocks, send to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Use care with newsgroup postings: Post to a newgroup these days and you can be sure of getting both target SPAM (sports messages for posting in a sports group) and untargeted email. You can use an obviously false return address on postings: most news programs let you set this to whatever you want. Include your real email address in body of the message.

Complain to your Senator or Representative: Laws will be needed to regulate the eventual legitimate email advertising industry.

So now that I've learned some new techniques, I will be on the phone early tomorrow morning. I've already called the Do NOT Call list and warned Publisher's Clearing House to leave me alone. It's time to fight back.


Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

My goodness, that is sure a lot of information and you've done your homework very well.

I feel very badly for the trees that are cut down just so that we can throw out our junk mail. What a waste...a very sad waste of a healthy live tree.

Whenever I get junk mail and it has one of those prepaid return envelopes I simply open the mail and put EVERYTHING (including my name & address) back into the envelope and mail it back to them, at their expense.

October 08, 2006 7:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apropos junk... sometimes what you percieve as junk will be a goldmine..
At sites like you will finds some APPROVED "Get Rich" programs (and not the silly ones)

October 09, 2006 5:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather try to get rich online using more simple methods. Most people prejudge these methods as crap because they appear TOO SIMPLE, but I found these methods to be VERY profitable.
At sites like you will finds some APPROVED "Get Rich" programs (and not the silly ones)

October 09, 2006 5:56 AM  
Blogger DivaJood said...

What a terrific list of ways to get off these annoying lists! I am linking it back to my blog, because I think it is important! Thanks, and thanks for visiting today.

October 09, 2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger PEA said...

I hate junk or spam think of all the waste this causes is a sore spot with me!! I do exactly what Sandy does, putting everything in the return envelope and sending it back...that has actually helped making them stop sending their junk to me! Thank you for all the links of who to call or how to get in touch with them to get your name off their lists. Enough is enough!!

October 09, 2006 7:38 AM  
Blogger Big Dave T said...

Almost sounds like more work avoiding junk mail than just pitching it. You could just do what I do. Don't buy anything. Once they know MY buying habits, then I don't get bothered.

We do use some coupons in the Val-Pak envelope. I had no idea that was a nationwide outfit.

I wanted to answer your question on my blog about dinner at the Aquarium in Tennessee. It was average, though above average in price. I had a shrimp po boy sandwich, which was loaded with tiny fried shrimp but was surprisingly bland. My wife had the fish and chips. She said it was just okay. Obviously, the atmosphere with the aquarium is the reason people go.

October 09, 2006 9:17 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Great info! I think I'll start sending it back at their expense too. So much wasted paper. It's ridiculous.

October 09, 2006 10:21 PM  
Blogger Dawn said...

How right you are - the paper invasion is CRAZY! Thank you so much for these great ideas - you put so much time into this. I have printed it out and going to try some of your suggestions. Have a wonderful week. Chag Sameach.

October 10, 2006 1:15 AM  

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