Tame the Junk Mail Monster
by Swans

The City of Palo Alto (California) Recycling Program distributed the following information in order to help residents reduce junk mail. SWANS supports their efforts and is reproducing the recommendations put forth by this program. For information on stopping junk e-mail and telemarketers, visit this Web site.

"We all receive junk mail such as unsolicited advertisements and catalogs. Recycling junk mail helps in the short term, but it does not significantly reduce the amount of natural resources used to create that mail. Nor does it reduce the amount of money taxpayers have to spend to dispose of it whether it's recycled or deposited in a landfill.

It takes about 62 million trees and 25 billion gallons of water to produce one year of junk mail in the United States. Think of the natural resources that are wasted, not to mention the frustration and time spent dealing with your daily dose of junk mail.

Any time you invest in reducing the amount of junk mail you receive is time well spent. To help you with this challenge, some simple tips to prevent and reduce waste are included below. You can do a little or a lot to reduce the volume of junk mail you receive!

How Junk Mail Happens

When you subscribe to a publication, place a credit card order, mail order items through the mail, join an organization, donate to charity, or enter a sweepstakes, chances are you are being added to a mailing list of some kind. To reduce junk mail, you need to reduce access to your name and address so that it won't be traded, rented, or sold.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

When placing catalog orders, making charitable contributions, or subscribing to a magazine, ask that your name be placed on an "in-house" listing only. This will ensure that you will be contacted about upcoming events for that company only, and that your name will not be sold or traded to anyone else.

How to Stop Your Current Flow

The first step is to get in touch with organizations that already send you junk mail. Here are six ways to do that:

1. Write the organization and request that your name and address be removed from their mailing list (see below).

2. Some junk mail may be stamped: "address correction requested" or "return postage guaranteed". Return it unopened to the sender by writing "refused - return to sender" on the envelope. DO NOT write this on mail without that special notation; the post office will not return it to the sender.

3. If there is a postage-paid return envelope, attach the original label to one of the label notes supplied inside this brochure and mail it back to the sender. Do the same with a postage-paid return postcard by taping the original label to the card and asking that your name be deleted from their mailing list.

4. Most catalogs (and some junk mail) include an 800 number. If so, call and request that your name be removed from their mailing list.

5. If you receive unsolicited flyers in your yard or driveway, call the responsible company and request that delivery cease. You may want to mention that in Palo Alto it is illegal to put unsolicited commercial material at the doorstep or yard (Palo Alto Municipal Code 9.44.020). If you live outside Palo Alto, check with your city to see if there is a similar ordinance.

6. If you don't want unsolicited newspapers or advertising circulars, call the paper's subscription department and ask them to remove your name from their list. They will either refer you to their mailing company or will directly remove your name from the list.

The next step is to get in touch with large organizations that sell, trade, or rent mailing lists. Chances are your name is on one or more of their computer databases. To find out how to contact them, consult the information below.

Good luck with your efforts in reducing waste. Of course, some unwanted mail will undoubtedly get through, so please recycle it!

Seven Ways to Reduce Junk Mail!

Here are the seven ways to reduce junk mail in order of effectiveness. We recommend you take the first two steps at a minimum. Of course, the more you do, the less junk mail you will receive.

1) Catalogs: Many businesses and organizations subscribe to the Direct Marketing Association to market goods and services to consumers via direct mail. Write and ask that your name and address be place on a "delete file" through their Mail Preference Service. Be sure to include your name and address in all the ways they appear on your junk mail. This will remove your name from most, but not all mailing lists. Be patient, it may take three months or more for your request to take effect. Once you are in their "delete file" you will remain there for five years.

Mail Preference Service c/o Direct Marketing Association
P.O. Box 9008
Farmingdale NY 11735

2) List Brokers: Brokers are in the business of selling mailing lists to businesses and organizations. Write all of them and request that your name be removed from all their mailing and telemarketing lists.

The Polk Company
Name Deletion File
1155 Brewery Park Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48207
(800) 873-7655

Donnelly Marketing, Inc.
Data Base Operations
1235 N. Avenue
Nevada, IA 50201-1419
(515) 382-5441

Metromail Corporation
List Maintenance
949 West Bond
Lincoln NE 68521
(800) 228-4571

Database America
Compilation Department
100 Paragon Drive
Montvale, NJ 07645-0419
(201) 476-2000

3) Coupons, Ads, Product Samples: If you don't want to receive packets of ads and coupons, request that your address be removed from the following companies' mailing lists. Note that your name never appears on these mailings, just your address, so that is what you want deleted.

ADVO Systems
Delivery Services
29959 Ahern Avenue
Union City, CA 94587
(510) 489-6577

Carol Wright Gifts
Customer Service
P.O. Box 8502
Lincoln, NE 68544
(402) 474-5174

Harte Hanks Direct Marketing
List Maintenance
100 Alco Place
Baltimore, MD 21277-2090
(410) 247-0666

Val-Pac Coupons
List Order Department
8575 Largo Lakes Drive
Largo, FL 34643
(800) 237-2871

4) Credit Bureaus: TRW, Equifax, and Trans Union are three big companies that provide potential lenders your credit history. If your credit is good, they also sell your name, address and payment history to bank and credit card companies. Write to these credit bureaus and ask to be removed from their direct marketing files.

Equifax Options
Equifax Marketing Decisions Systems, Inc.
P.O. Box 740123
Atlanta, A 30374-0123

TRW Target Marketing Services Division
Attn: Mail Preference Service
701 TRW Parkway
Allen, TX 75002
(800) 353-0809

Trans Union
Corporate Name Removal Option
555 West Adams St. 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60661

5) Credit Cards: For American Express card holders, ask AMEX to remove your name from its direct marketing lists. For all others, call or write to the customer service office for each credit card you own. Ask them not to sell, trade or lend your name and address to any organizations for its mailing lists.

Customer Service-American Express
P.O. Box 7828
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33310
(800) 528-4800

6) Warranty Cards: It isn't necessary to complete warranty cards to be covered by warranty. The only reason to return a warranty card is to find out about product recalls. If you want to return the card for that reason, only provide your name, address and product serial number. Write to National Demographics and Lifestyles to be removed from the lists created from warranty cards.

National Demographics and Lifestyles
List Order Department
1621 18th St., Suite 300
Denver, CO 80202

7) U.S. Postal Service: When you fill out a change of address, the forwarding information is rented to 24 private businesses licensed by the U.S. Postal Service. This is how list brokers, credit bureaus and others get your name in the first place. You might consider not filing a change of address form when you move. Instead, send out your own postcards to those whose mail you want to receive, and ask the post office to hold your mail for pickup until everyone knows your address.

How Determined Are You?

Are you angry about the lack of control you have regarding access to your name and address? The U.S. Postal Service profits from the selling of names and addresses to private business interests without the consent of the address holders. Legislation which requires the U.S. Postal Service to ask your permission to sell your name and address could go a long way toward taming the junk mail monster.

Write your representative or member of Congress and encourage them to reform activities of the U.S. Postal Service to stop the sale of names and addresses. For more information and an update on pending legislation, contact the Stop Junk Mail Association at (800) 827-5549. They lobby on behalf of postal privacy rights.


Thanks to the following organizations and people for their useful information and assistance

Good Advice Press
Solana Recyclers
Volunteers of Palo Alto Recycling Program

Please note: It may take a few months to see results and you might have to repeat some of the steps more than once."

Published June 27 & October 19, 1997
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