Makeover Monday: Please, Mr. Postman

Hanging out at my grandmother’s house (basically an in-law suite connected to my parent’s house), I’ve learned a lot about how these people live when I’m not around to watch them. One thing that amazes me is the enormous stack of mail they receive every single day. Mostly catalogs, but also product offers (free with $12.95 shipping and handling), bank card offers, solicitations from every lowbrow “charity” out there–they must be on every mailing list in existence. My father would like to see it reduced, especially the solicitations and bank card offers, so I decided to compile a list of things he can do to reduce their junk mail. I’ve already taken most of these steps, as well as one other, which I’ll get to later.

Tips for Reducing/Eliminating Junk Mail:

– Think twice before sending in a product warranty card. They’re not usually required for product support and are most often used to collection information about you for direct mail targeting.
– Whenever you do fill out a warranty card. write in large letters, “Please do not sell my name or address”. Most reputable companies will honor your request.
– Whenever you do business with a company or organization, write “Please do not sell my name or address” on your invoice or attach a note with your check.
– When you order via telephone, ask “Please mark my account so that my name is not traded or sold to other companies”.
– Avoid “contests” where you fill in a little entry blank. These are almost always fishing expeditions for names.
– To stop credit offers, call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT), or visit to have your name removed from the sell banks of Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis credit agencies. You will need to provide your address, your former address if you’ve moved within two years, and your social security number.
– To stop receiving catalogs, call the catalog company’s 800 number. You’ll need the catalog label. You can also try Catalog Choice to get off unwanted catalog mailing lists.
– For unsolicited first class mail, cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write “refused: return to sender” and drop it in any mail box.
– Check bulk mail for the phrase “address correction requested”. If you can find it on the label: circle it and treat like first class mail. Otherwise, there’s nothing to be done. The post office will not return bulk mail to the sender. (They like bulk mail over there.)
– Send 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”. This will stop mail from all member organizations that you have not specifically ordered products from. You can also opt-out online at DMA-Choice, but there may be a charge for doing so. (Consider who we’re dealing with here.) It can take up to six months to work through their system.

To avoid more junk mail in the future:
– If you move, don’t fill out a Post Office change of address form. Instead, contact everyone directly.
– Avoid participating in sweepstakes or contests unless you are given the opportunity to “opt out” of any mailing lists that are created.
– When unwanted mail comes with a postage paid envelope, use it to return the mailing label along with a written request to remove your name from the organization’s mailing list.
– When contacting a company that is already sending you unwanted mail, be sure to use the exact name and address on their correspondence to you.

To stop mail addressed to former residents:
I’ve lived in my house for five years and I’m STILL receiving mail for the previous owners. I recently learned that I can fill out a Post Office change of address card and mark it “Moved, Left No Forwarding Address” in the blank designated for the new address. I’m supposed to sign with my own name and indicate that I am the current resident at that address. I’ve heard it works. Let’s hope so. I’m being uninundated with staunchly conservative literature. My reputation is in jeopardy.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve taken an extra step in reducing my junk mail by using a service, They handled all of the contacting and monitoring for me for a fee, a portion of which they assured me was donated to a worthwhile organization. I can definitely tell a difference in the amount of junk mail I’m receiving.

Each year the USA sends 4 million TONS of junk mail. About half of it is tossed without being read. Recycling junk mail is good, but when you factor in the environmental costs of printing and delivery, it’s just plain crazy. Maybe these steps will help you get started in reducing your mailbox clutter, thus leaving more time for fun and fitness!

As always, if you have any tips, please share! Pretty please?

(photo by Dey via flickr)