wikiHow of the Week

17 Apr

As much as this pains me to post, it was the featured wikiHow.  My apologies to my pals at TAC.

How to Get Rid of Junk Mail

Is your mailbox running over, full of stuff you don’t want? Junk mail wastes tremendous amounts of paper. It also piles up on your table, wastes your time, and competes for your attention. With a small investment of time, you can stop the flow at its source. Here’s how.

Steps

  1. Write to the mail preference service (US) or the Mailing preference service (UK). These do-not-mail lists are maintained by the major marketing associations that maintain and distribute the major mailing lists, but they do work. The US mail preference service will charge you one dollar ($1) to add your name to their opt-out list.
  2. Get rid of credit card solicitations in the US, by phoning 1-888-5 OPT OUT (or 1-888-567-8688). It is an automated number. Listen to the options carefully. It’s well worth calling — the opt-out is good for 5 years, or you can request to be permanently removed from their lists. This one phone call tells all four major credit reporting agencies to stop sending credit card offers. You can also make the request (5-year and permanent) using their online form.
  3. Call your credit card companies and ask them to stop sending you cash advance checks. Even if they come (conveniently) with your bill each month, cash advances usually start accruing interest immediately, so it’s not a good idea to use them. If you do receive them and don’t plan to use them, you should destroy them.
  4. Call individual catalog companies and ask them to remove you from their mailing lists. Sometimes it will be the same toll-free number that you would call to make an order; sometimes it will be a separate “customer service” number. Look around on the back cover and the order form. Occasionally, the customer service people will ask why you want to be removed. Simply explain that you are not interested in the products offered. Do have the catalog, or at least the mailing label from it handy when you call. Often they will request a tracking number or other code printed there.

  5. Go after individual senders. Some items are sent in such bulk that they go to every resident on a postal route. These are addressed to “Resident,” “Our Friends At,” or some variant. Your postal carrier cannot, by law, determine what you consider “junk mail”. All “resident” mail must be delivered as addressed. You must contact individual mailers to have your address removed from their database. Look around on mailers for return addresses and phone numbers. Here are quick links to some common ones.
    • America Online: phone 1-800-605-4297.
    • ADVO (responsible for the blobs of sales circulars and the little card with the missing children): Follow the link.
    • Val-Pak coupons: follow the link.
    • Publisher’s Clearinghouse: phone 1-800-645-9242 or email mailto:service@pchmail.com with your full address and instructions to remove from mailing list.
    • American Family Sweepstakes: phone 1-800-237-2400.
    • Pennysaver or Potpurri: phone 1-800-422-4116 and leave a detailed message with the full address, including ZIP code, as it appears on the mailer.
  6. Stop all mail not addressed to you:
    • If you are getting first class mail for a former resident, you can write Return to Sender/Not at this address on the envelope and drop that envelope right in the mail box.
    • If you are getting bulk mail for a former resident, you may have to follow the above steps.
  7. Place a sign by your mailbox that reads “No Free Papers”:
    • Free Papers are another form of junk mail that often plagues our front lawns. Many of the people who deliver free papers will simply stop once the resident has placed a sign near their mailbox that that reads “No Free Papers”.

 

 Tips

  • It’s a good idea to perform the first two steps even if you don’t do the rest. They will stop the greatest amount of mail with the smallest investment of time. Besides, having credit card offers sitting in your mailbox invites identity theft. If you do decide someday to apply for a credit card, they’re not hard to find even without the junk mail.
  • Avoid placing your address on surveys, raffles, and product warranty cards. If you do write your address or phone number, write alongside it something like, “Please do not sell or distribute my information, nor add to mailing lists.”
  • When filling out forms online, read privacy policies and watch for opt-out boxes.
  • Mail-order businesses, especially printing houses that print checks, return address labels, and other stationery, often send other mail and sell the addresses of their customers. If you order from one of these places, clearly state your preference.
  • If you’re curious about how junk mail spreads, intentionally misspell a name on a survey form or something of that nature. You’ll get more junk mail, not less, but it’s a simple experiment to see who’s sharing your information. Keep a record of which misspelling you have given to which company, lest you forget.
  • It’s generally not necessary to send in warranty cards or “register” a warranty for the warranty to be valid, regardless of what the card may imply.
  • If you do receive junk mail, do one of two things about it. Recycle it immediately, or call or write somebody about getting off the list.
  • Keep a recycling bin or trash can by your mailbox or wherever you sort mail.
  • Recognize that most companies sending direct mail are happy to take disinterested people off their lists. It costs them money to send you a thick, shiny catalog.
  • You may be told that it could take a couple of mailing cycles for mail to stop coming. This is a standard disclaimer you should take at face value.
  • If you are too busy to do the above steps yourself, you can take a shortcut by hiring a service to do them for you. A service like greendimes.com will remove your name and others in your household from direct mail lists, unsolicited credit card offers, as well as the catalogs that you selectively choose to unsubscribe from. They will revisit the direct mailers to keep you off the lists and plant a tree for you every month. The cost of a Green Dimes membership is a dime a day or $36/year.
  • Request your name be eliminated from the county tax database. Many companies target specific areas based on neighborhood subdivisions or home values. By making your information confidential in the county and state databases you may eliminate quite a bit of junk mail.

 

 Warnings

  • You shouldn’t have to spend money to get rid of junk mail. The junk mail removal kits you may see for sale generally don’t offer anything you can’t do on your own.
  • Sending junk mail back in the reply envelope may feel good, but it is not a particularly effective way to get off mailing lists. It is better simply to request to be removed.
  • Don’t be rude to the person who answers the phone, even if you’re mad about receiving something. He or she is paid to answer the phone (and is generally paid very little). This person is not personally responsible for your receiving it. But do, if necessary, be persistent, in addition to being kind.
  • Any offer that looks too good to be true, probably is. If something seems fishy, read the fine print, research it carefully, or simply pass it by. You may not really have won a million dollars, even if the magazine ordering materials make it seem as though you have.
  • Always make sure the mail “is” junk.

 

 

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