Guess what I got today?
Envelopes I’ll throw away
Pamphlets, brochures on clothes
Samples, tampons, nylon hose
Junk mail junk mail
From Junk Mail by Circle Jerks
Lately I’ve been getting back to basics with entries like this one that have tremendously useful (would you believe marginally useful?) ideas that actual people can apply. In real life even. Well this post takes that even further. I’ve gathered some information on how you can reduce your postal mail spam footprint. That’s right, postal mail. Snail mail. The stuff in that box outside your door. Nowadays pretty much everything I receive through the US Postal Service is some kind of junk mail. So I decided to share with you, dear readers, some stuff I learned from these great articles including this one in LifeHacker all about The Best Sites, Numbers, and Forms for Banishing Junk Mail and this one in Senior Brigade called How to Reduce Telemarketing Calls and Junk Mail.
Jacqui Cheng at the always informative Ars Technica has offered up four great starting points to hit the most egregious tree-choppers and mailbox stuffers:
Note that some of the sites mentioned above have offerings and rules are that are not terribly obvious, so check out the original Ars Technica article for additional details. They are pretty amusing as well as informative. In addition to those links the folks at LifeHacker and Senior Brigade have gathered some other sites to help reduce your junk mail that I’ve summarized here.
- Go straight to the junk mail source – The “We really aren’t intentionally annoying” section of the Direct Marketing Association is a Mail Preference Service. Sign in to opt out of catalogs and newsletters you don’t want. Your name will remain on this “delete file” for five years. Alternatively you can complete this form, or draft a letter including your name and address, and mail it to:
DMA Mail Preference Service
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale , NY 11735-9008
- Send mail for previous owners/occupants to the real-world bit bucket – Los Angeles County’s Dept. of Public Works suggests the following: “If the former residents of your house neglected to fill out a ‘Change of Address Form’ or it expired, you can fill one out for them. You must fill out a card for each unique last name. On the card write ‘Moved, Left No Forwarding Address’ as the new address. Sign your own name and write on the form ‘Form filled in by current resident of the house, (your name), agent for the above’. Once submitted, this information will be entered into the U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address (NCOA) database and remain active for a year and a half.”
- Slice up credit card offers – The Big Three credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax offer a toll-free number you can call to remove your home and identity from their third-party hand-outs: 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688). You can also visit http://www.optoutprescreen.com where you can choose to opt out for five years, or permanently. You can also call the same number or visit the same website to opt back in. Like that would ever happen.
- Filter out porn mail – The U.S. Postal Service gets real cranky when the stuff they deliver to your mailbox is sexually explicit. Just grab Form 1500, “Application for Listing and/or Prohibitory Order,” from the USPS’ PDF forms listing (Google Docs version here), fill it out, file it, and lose the nasty stuff.
- Just say no to coupon packs – Val-Pak, Carol Wright, and ADVO offer up the bundled packs of coupons that some folks really groove on. If you are not one of those folks, Obviously.com lists the big three coupon opt-out methods in their junkmail how-to, along with many more junkmail avoidance ideas.
- Be uncharitable to charity solicitations - Just because you gave once doesn’t mean you want to continue giving forever. Unfortunately very few charities have anything like opt-out forms on web pages. And almost all of them share donor information promiscuously. As do magazines and other subscription publications. Tell magazines to which you subscribe, and charities to which you donate, that you don’t want them to share your name with other businesses or charities. Request the same from mail order companies. The BBB Wise Giving Alliance recommends sending a letter informing the charities you do support that you don’t want your information given out and asking the other charities by mail to stop contacting you. Be sure to include the original mailing label, which often has information needed to process your request.
- Tell your bank to keep their junk out of your mailbox – Read the privacy policies of your credit card companies and banks. The policies must give you an “opt-out” option, by which you can tell the bank not to share your personal information with other companies. The bank may still be allowed to share your information with its “affiliate” companies. Weasels.
- Don’t play sucker games – Don’t enter sweepstakes and drawings. The main purpose of many contests is to compile mailing lists. If you enter one contest, you are likely to receive mailings from other contests.
There are more ideas on how to stop junk mail and telemarketing at the Federal Trade Commission
So now in addition to Inbox Zero maybe we can get to Mailbox Zero.