Frequently Asked Questions about Junk Mail
Junk mail, aka unsolicited mail or direct mail, consists of all the credit card offers, catalogs, flyers, coupons, phone books, and other mailings you didn’t ask for and don’t want.
Junk mail comes at a huge cost to our quality of life. Sorting, reading, and recycling junk mail takes time away from your daily activities. Senders of junk mail endanger your privacy by sharing your name, address, and purchasing habits with marketers. Junk mail fills your mailbox with credit card offers and other mailings that could put your identity at risk if in the wrong hands. Junk mail also results in clutter, yet another blow against a simpler, less wasteful life. We have the power to reverse all of these negative impacts by simply choosing to receive only the mail we want.
Junk Mail Facts:
While digital marketing has no doubt exploded in recent decades, printed direct mail still accounts for billions spent in marketing dollars in the US. Here are some facts and statistics about the prevalence of printed direct mail in marketing today and its affect on our natural resources and climate.
In 2019, the United States Postal Service mailed 75.7 billion pieces of direct mail. Source: USPS Postal Facts
Catalogs mailed through the USPS amounted to 9.4 billion in 2017. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book
Junk mail is truly unwanted: In 2017, only 2.9 percent of prospective customers (i.e., those who had not yet purchased anything from the direct mailer) responded to direct mail sent via USPS. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book
The amount of junk mail sent via the USPS has increased by over 18 percent between 1990 and 2017. Source: DMA 2018 Statistical Fact Book
Junk mail continues to contribute to deforestation to this day. Source: Stand.Earth
The organization formerly known as the DMA (Data and Marketing Association), now known as ANA—the “largest and most influential advertising and marketing association in the world”—does not require the use of recycled content in the direct marketing materials of its members.Source: ANA
Many states are considering legislation to create “do not mail” registries similar to the current “do not call” lists. Find updates on proposed state “do not mail” registry bills.
Seattle, Washington, is the first US city to regulate the distribution of unwanted phone books. Residents and businesses can unsubscribe from phone books and distributors must honor these requests. Phone book distributors will pay the city 14 cents per book annually to cover the city’s costs for managing phone books, based on the product stewardship principle of holding manufacturers responsible for covering the costs to recycle their end-of-life products.
San Francisco, California, now requires phone bookscan only be delivered to residents and businesses who wish to receive the phone books, and prohibits the common practice of dropping unsolicited phone books on every doorstep in the city.
How to Stop the Telemarketing Phone Calls
Like junk mail, telemarketing calls can be both frustrating and time-consuming, and in the case of cell phones, costly. Fortunately, there is state and federal legislation meant to protect your right to privacy. Here are some tips to keep your digits out of the hands of telemarketers.
The Colorado No-Call List (for Colorado residents)
In 2001, the Colorado General Assembly passed legislation to protect residents from unwanted telemarketing calls. In 2003, wireless numbers were added to the list. To learn more about the Colorado No-Call list and to add your residential, wireless, or fax phone number, visit www.coloradonocall.com
The National Do Not Call Registry
This national registry is sponsored by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. You can register your personal phone numbers, including cell phones, by visiting www.donotcall.gov or calling 888-382-1222 (TTY:866-290-4236).
However, according to the Federal Trade Commission, do not call lists do not apply to all solicitations. Exempt from the regulations are calls or messages placed with the consumer's prior expressed permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization with whom the consumer has an established business relationship. An established business relationship exists if you have made an inquiry, application, purchase, or transaction regarding products or services offered by the person or entity involved.
Finally, be sure to take advantage of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It requires that telemarketers who call or fax you must put you on a "do not call" list– IF you ask. Keep a record of your request. If they call again within one year you can sue them in small claims court. One lawsuit netted an irate customer over $1,500 in damages.
How to Stop Junk Mail in 6 Easy Steps
Looking for a service to stop junk mail at your home or business? Try Catalog Choice
6 Steps to get off mailing lists to STOP Junk Mail
Step 1: Stop the Flow
Go to the source of the flood of mailings and turn off the faucet! Remove your name from mailing lists at http://www.dmachoice.org. It can take up to 90 days for the flow to stop since many mailings are already in print or production.
Please note: there is now a small fee of $2 to unsubscribe through DMA Choice.
Step 2: No More Credit Card Solicitations
If you've ever filled out a product warranty card, purchased a new home or vehicle, supplied your credit information to a lending institution, or simply carried a credit card, you can be sure your name and address are being circulated among an array of credit card companies hungry for your business. Don't despair -- there is help. To eliminate credit card promotional mailings, call 1-888-567-8688 (that's 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com. You will have the opportunity to choose either a five-year removal or a permanent removal. For your personal credit cards, ask the company to place you on their "in house" list that is not sold or traded to other companies.
Step 3: Put the Kibosh on Unwanted Phone Books and Catalogs
Go online to opt out of Dex. Once you've received a catalog in the mail that you don't want, call them to opt out. Oftentimes they're happy to take you off the list becuase it helps them save money by not printing unwanted catalogs.
Step 4: Contribute to Charities, Not Mailings
If you contribute once a year to a charitable organization, ask them to send you only one donation request per year. The American Institute on Philanthropy offers several tips on reducing junk mail and phone solicitations from charities at https://www.charitywatch.org/charitywatch-articles/seven-tips-for-reducing-unwanted-mail-and-phone-appeals/43
Step 5: Stop Junk Promo Products
If you've had it with companies sending you mailings or promo products you don't want, there is an option. First, look for any of the following phrases: return service requested, forwarding service requested, address service requested, or change service requested. If you find any of these phrases, write "refused, returned to sender" on the unopened envelope. Mail sent to "Resident," "Current Resident," or "Current Occupant" can be refused if it contains one of the above endorsements, or is sent First Class. When you receive unsolicited promo products, you can mark the envelope “Return to Sender” and put it back in the mail.
Step 6: Get Off the List of ALL Direct Marketers
There are several smaller list brokers and direct marketing firms in the U.S. besides the DMA. You’ll recognize a lot of them on the list below. Just as you did with the DMA in step one, send or phone in all the variations of your name and address to the list brokers and direct marketing firms listed below. Start saving the labels of all the variations of the names and addresses, which come to your mailbox. Every variation, no matter how small (or comical), is another name on a list, which gets sold to literally thousands of businesses, so include all variations! If you prefer to go the snail mail route in removal, cut and paste actual mailing labels onto a sheet, make copies, add your signature beside each name variation on each sheet, and send them off to each of the 5 addresses below. Indicate the following: "Please remove my name and address from your mailing lists and do not rent, sell or trade my name or address."
1 Valpak Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33716
Have the Valpak mailing label handy and fill in your information exactly as it is printed. If you like coupons but don’t want to receive all that mail, go to www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.
Valassis Direct Mail, Inc.
PO Box 249
Windsor , CT 06095
1-800-437-0479, between 8:30 and 5:00 EST
Unsubscribe from their RetailMeNot publication here:
Epsilon Data Services
Abacus Cooperative Databases
Send an email with “remove” in the subject line and your full name, including middle initial, and address in the message. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well.
More about junk mail:
Every day in the forest of northern Canada, majestic trees are cut to stumps—at a rate of 2 acres a minute, 24 hours a day—to produce junk mail and other paper products. These trees are not only critical in combating climate change by absorbing carbon from the earth’s atmosphere; they are also home to native peoples who watch helplessly as they lose everything they know to corporate paper company interests. Read more junk mail facts.
Stopping junk mail is one thing—keeping it at bay can be an additional challenge. Here are 4 tips for keeping junk mail out of your mailbox.
Our #1, must-practice tip: Use the magic words “Please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address”
These are the magic words you’ll want to use when you’re filling out forms such as warranty cards, subscriptions, raffles, customer information cards, credit card applications, memberships for an organization, or pretty much anytime you submit your name and address to anyone. Write them out next to your personal information, and repeat these words when making purchases over the phone or on the internet, and voilà, you’ll stay off mailing lists.
A note about warranties
Be advised that it is not necessary to fill out a warranty card to benefit from the warranty on your purchase. Warranty and registration cards are usually just a way to get consumer information from you which is then often sold to direct mailers. Read the fine print to see if you are required to return the card to validate the warranty.
Tip #2: Get on “in-house” credit card lists
Contact your personal credit card companies and ask them to place your name and information on their “in-house” list that is not sold or traded to other companies. This will prevent more credit card offers from being mailed to your home.
Tip #3: Prevent charity solicitations
If you contribute once a year to a charitable organization, ask them to send you only one donation request per year, or see if they can send you a paperless request via e-mail.
Tip #4: Watch out for contests and free offers
Their purpose is often to obtain your name for mailing lists or to sell you something. If you do sign up for one, be sure to use the magic words from tip #1.
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Email the Postmaster General's office in Washington to ask that they give us a choice not to be forced to receive bulk mailings and tell them you want better choices with your mail:firstname.lastname@example.org