5 On Your Side

Stopping the Junk Mail Deluge Can Be Done

Posted January 14, 2008

Junk mail, paper catalogs and unsolicited credit-card offers clog our mailboxes. Consumer Reports shows some ways to stop the mailbox deluge and get to the mail you need to read.

Homeowner Rachel Skinner said she cringes every time she takes a pile of catalogs out to be recycled. More than 53 million trees are used to produce paper catalogs each year.

"I can get close to 20 catalogs a day. I get furniture catalogs, lots of children's clothing catalogs. I get bed and bath catalogs," Skinner said. "I'll get four different catalogs from one company."

Consumer Reports, however, says it is possible to opt out and choose not to receive catalogs in the mail – and even to end those seemingly endless credit-card solicitations.

"The Direct Marketing Association, which includes companies that send you catalogs, must take you off of their mailing list if you sign up for their Mail Preference Service,'" Urvashi Rangan, with Consumer Reports, said. "This includes subscription offers sent by companies like Consumer Reports."

All it takes is $1 and a quick trip to DMAConsumers.org. Click on the button labeled "Remove My Name From Those Lists." It will direct you to a one-page form you need to fill out to cut off the flow.

One call can stop all those pre-approved credit card offers. Dial 1-888-567-8688.

"A few years ago, consumers started realizing that they could get telemarketers to stop invading their dinner hour by signing up for 'Do Not Call' lists," Rangan said. "Now, they're taking it to the next level and saying, 'Stop invading my mailbox, too.'"

The automated phone system asks callers questions about their names, addresses and Social Security numbers and can take about 7 minutes to get through. It can often take at least a month for the "opt-out" to take effect.

Those still waiting to get off the mailing lists could take a cue from Skinner, who found a creative use for many of her catalogs.

"I use some of the catalogs, so the kids can cut out and make collages," Skinner said.


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  • dang_skippy Jan 17, 2008

    For those wonderful credit card offers... SHRED the documents first, then send back in their own postage paid envelope. Give it a higher weight then their pre-paid envelope is allowed to carry (tape those puppies closed) and hit them again with it.

  • half-brit Jan 17, 2008

    do not like giving out my ssn. "return to sender, deceased" sometimes works.

  • hi_i_am_wade Jan 17, 2008

    I don't mind junk mail, because it is their dime. But I do mind junk e-mail because its my dime.

  • gopanthers Jan 17, 2008

    You know what I like to do? You know how you get all that junk mail for free offers or pre-approved credit cards/loans. They always send you a pre-paid envelope to respond. I take everything they sent to me including the original envelope and stuff it all into that pre-paid envelope and send it all right back to them. Then that way the company who sent you that junk is paying postage twice.

  • brassy Jan 15, 2008

    Don't give those credit reporting agencies any help. They think they're the FBI, only they'll sell your life history to any jerk who asks for $29.95.

  • NeverSurrender Jan 15, 2008

    "I like catalogs. Especially the ones for Victoria's Secret!"


    My favourite postman of all time used to dread the day that his truck would get the "poor man's Playboy" catalogues (JC Penney, Victoria's Secret). Even though he thoroughly enjoyed the contents on his breaks...those catalogues are HEAVY when aggregated over the average route!

    Poor guy was delivering apartments so it wasn't like he could just ride about in the truck and stuff them into a mailbox at the street...nope, he had to carry them to the common postal centre at the complex.

  • NeverSurrender Jan 15, 2008

    "I just wish the Post Office would charge THEM more to send junk mail- that might slow it down!"


    I wish the Post Office would implement a "do not carpet bomb my mailbox with crud" list like the National Do Not Call list and then require any business sending advertisements/catalogues to purge their mailing lists of any addresses found on that list.

    If they really wanted to hit the sweet spot, they could let use set the options for acceptable mail in the mailbox with the only mandatory delivery being bills, legal documents, and government mail for official purposes.

    Then let the local post office's sorting machine /dev/null the crud before it gets to the carrier's bag! :)

    Violators (either ignoring the wishes of the customers or falsely identifying the contents of their mailing) would be subject to fines and/or suspension of their mailing privileges.

    The DMA, whilst reasonably effective, only works for DMA members which isn't all of the people mailing stuff out there.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Jan 15, 2008

    I like catalogs. Especially the ones for Victoria's Secret!

  • busyb97 Jan 15, 2008

    http://www.optoutprescreen.com It is a joint-venture site with all the credit reporting agencies…so it is legit. You just fill out the info, and they will put your name on a list (info on website). But it DRASTICALLY reduces the credit offers I get. I've done it for awhile now and IT WORKS!!

    I also found a catalog site for the same thing- you can create an account, and then opt-out of various catalogs. www.catalogchoice.org I've only been using this a few weeks- so not sure yet how effective it will be, but they have a huge list of magazines, and more than 1/2 million folks have been using them - so it must be working somewhat. :)

    (and one thing that is fun to do, when you DO get the junk mail, send it back to them in their own postage paid envelope (just remove your name from it)…they then have to waste time and money not only paying for the mailing, but opening it.)

    I just wish the Post Office would charge THEM more to send junk mail- that might slow it down!

  • Timbo Jan 15, 2008

    Why do you have to give out your social security number??? That's nuts! No one needs that to turn off mail.