The inside scoop on stopping junk mail

In response to our post on junk mail, catalog merchant Colleen Connell (proprietor of GaelSong.com) wrote in with some advice on the best way to reduce unwanted mail. The answer, in a nutshell, is “all of the above.”

> I own a mail-order catalog company and have direct experience with both the DMA and Catalog Choice (as well as experience talking to people who want to be removed from our mailing list). If you just get a few catalogs that you don’t want, the most effective method is to contact those catalogs directly. But if you are being bombarded with loads of different unwanted catalogs, the best approach is to use both catalogchoice.org and dmachoice.org.

> I recommend catalogchoice.org over the DMA’s service, but if you want to be sure to have your opt-out request honored, you should use both sites.

> Also, whenever you place an order with a mail-order catalog company or subscribe to a magazine, you should request that they not rent or share your name with any other company.

> Catalogchoice.org allows you to choose which catalogs you don’t want to receive at all; it also allows you to choose the frequency of catalogs that you do like but that you may be receiving too frequently.

> Originally the DMA and many members of the catalog industry opposed Catalog Choice, but I am among a growing number of merchants who think that they are performing an extremely important role for consumers, the environment, and even for the catalog industry itself. Due to the DMA’s opposition, Catalog Choice got off to a slow and controversial start, but more and more merchants are cooperating with them every day.

> The DMA is finally starting (very reluctantly) to see the light and they have modified their opt-out site to be more like Catalog Choice. The problem is that only the merchants who are members of the DMA can access the list of people who have opted out of receiving their catalogs. So if you opt out on the DMA site but the cataloger is not a DMA member, they will not know that you requested to be off their list. Likewise, if you opt out on Catalog Choice’s site, only merchants who are cooperating with Catalog Choice get that data. As more and more people use catalogchoice.org, more merchants will use their service and it will become more effective.

> Also, please be aware that it really does take up to three months to get someone off a mailing list, so you need to be patient. The list for any given mailing is prepared weeks if not months in advance. If you are still getting unwanted catalogs after three months, I would recommend contacting the catalog directly and requesting again — and tell them to use the Catalog Choice and DMA Choice services!

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Chuck Teller from Catalogchoice.org also wrote in to emphasize that your contact info is safe if you use their service:

> At Catalogchoice we warrant in our license contract to only provide the names to the companies that the member has made a mail preference request for. We have developed an excellent Merchant License agreement that provides the framework for a working model right now.

Thanks to both for the extra info.

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And, finally, you can sign a petition in favor of a national Do Not Mail registry at donotmail.org. After you sign up, you’ll receive a thick monthly packet of information in the mail containing all sorts of green tips and coupons from affiliated retailers.

I kid! The Do Not Mail campaign is analogous to the Do Not Call registry that was created five years ago. The web site allows you to send an electronic petition to congressional leaders, and has a lot of good info on how to get involved in this issue. Needless to say, they don’t send you anything or even ask for your mailing address.

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  1. Jennifer - October 27, 2008

    The best step-by-step way to reduce personal and business junk mail that I’ve found is at http://www.globalstewards.org/junkmail.htm
    Jennifer Kaplan
    Greenhance LLC
    http://www.greenhance.com

  2. Will - October 28, 2008

    As I mentioned in the prior post, compliance on the part of the companies, and the ability and desire of the DMA to actually enforce customer requests, is in serious question. And the track record is spotty.
    A national Do Not Mail Registry would allow you to continue to receive mail from companies with which you have an ongoing relationship. In the 21st century, with so much shopping moving online, it makes sense to take a step back from deforestation, which constitutes 20% of all global carbon emissions. What better way to start addressing our carbon footprints than with junk mail?
    A registry offers a one-stop solution which guarantees that you aren’t receiving needless waste & deforestation in your mailbox.
    Sign the petition for a national Do Not Mail Registry at donotmail.org
    The solutions offered by dmachoice and other services suggests that our problems really aren’t all that serious.

  3. Adam Stein - October 28, 2008

    OK, I added a blurb about the Do Not Mail registry at the end of the post (and I signed the petition).

  4. Chuck Teller - October 28, 2008

    Adam:
    Great follow-up post. There are lots of people working on effective solutions in this area. As solutions are developed, the situation is improving. However, we still have a ways to go. This is a very big mountain to climb and we all feel that it is a serious issue to address.

  5. Barbara Crotty - October 29, 2008

    I have been using greendimes.com to stop my unwanted catalogs with fairly good results.

  6. Ann - October 29, 2008

    Another vote for greendimes from me -the great thing about greendimes is that they not only contact all the relevant agencies for you, they check monthly to make sure you don’t get re-added to mailing lists. You can select from 4500 catalogs as to which you want to receive and which you don’t. They also plant trees on your behalf. It’s not free (though if you’re willing to do the work yourself, they will provide all the info you need for free), but not expensive ($20/year), and well worth it in my view.
    I’m not affiliated with them, but I’ve recommended them to all my friends and family – they cut our mail by over 75%, and I’m very grateful!