By Brenda Owen
The postal service calls it bulk business mail. Advertisers call it direct mail. But consumers, whose mailboxes are constantly clogged with the brochures, flyers, catalogs, magazines, and assurances that they’ve won $10 million, may call it by a more definitive term junk mail.
“About 60 percent of the mail we deliver is bulk business mail,” said Blue Springs postmaster Gloria High.
Not all direct bulk business mail is junk, of course. For many, the mail is a good way to shop. It can save time, gas and money. Many people enjoy receiving catalogs, brochures and advertisements through the mail. The problem comes when junk mail, which is unwanted and unsolicited, magically appears in their mailbox with their name on it in ever-increasing volume.
According to the U. S. Postal Service statistics, every person in the U. S. receives about 250 pieces of third-class mail annually which represents about two percent of the annual waste filling municipal landfills. Of this almost two million tons of junk mail Americans receive daily, less than 50 percent is ever opened.
“We are not the people to complain to, though, if you’re getting mail you don’t won’t,” High said. “Companies buy and sell lists of names and addresses, so the thing to do is get your name off those mailing lists.”
High said it’s not an easy task. And, she’s right. According to the “Stop the Junk Mail¨ kit by Consumer Research Institute, “Virtually every time you buy anything, subscribe to a magazine, register to vote, fill out a product warranty, answer a questionnaire or donate to a charity, your name and address are added to a mailing list. Names are compiled then sold or rented for between $30 and $175 per thousand to parties wishing to solicit you by mail. In many cases, and especially if you’re classified as a “mail respondent,” your name and information are sold to thousands of companies.”
Striking a nerve
Nicholas Gepeto, vice-president of the Consumer Research Institute, developed a kit to help consumers stop receiving junk mail. Gepeto, himself a former junk mail copywriter, said in a recent telephone interview that he researched and developed the kit, along with partner LJ Stambuk, after finding 281 pieces of direct mail jamming his front door on his return from a two-week vacation. Response to the kit was overwhelming.
“It was clear to us that we had struck a nerve,” Gepeto said. “We had over 7,000 calls in the first two weeks. People are concerned about their privacy and are insulted by the tremendous waste of junk mail. They hate receiving things they don’t want and having to throw them away.”
By following 12 steps and completing a series of pre-addressed postcards, anybody sick and tired of junk mail can get their names taken off of America’s biggest junk mailing lists.
“The kit will also stop companies from renting your name and address, stop credit bureaus from selling your private financial information and stop all mail addressed to ‘resident’ and ‘occupant,'” Gepeto said.
Aside from just being annoyed by junk mail, many Americans worry about the impact of the advertising avalanche of throw-away trash on the environment. Statistics state more than 44 percent of the 62 billion pieces of junk mail filling mail boxes annually is thrown away unopened and unread. This equates to 345 million trees annually, or a tree and a half for every American, according to Melodie Moore, editor of Skinflint News based in Palm Harbor, Fla.
“If 100,000 families stopped unwanted junk mail 150,000 trees could be saved every year,” Moore said in a recent interview from her office. In her newsletter, she suggested a solution, “Next time you order a catalog or send a donation to a non-profit organization, ask them to please not sell your name to any other company. If you continue to get unwanted mail from one or two particular companies, call the toll-free number listed on the catalog and ask them to drop you off their mailing list. “
And, she said, if you really feel guilty about all the trees cut for junk mail, you can get a free seedling and plant a tree.
“Georgia Pacific will send you a free seedling if you call 1-800-522-2359, extension 3170,” she said. “This is one small thing that each of us can do to save our resources.”