Huntington News Network

Nov. 5, 2006
COMMENTARY: It’s Time for a ‘No Junk Mail Registry’
By Rene A. Henry
Seattle, WA (Special to HNN) -- If you’re like me, you probably get too much junk mail. And this being a busy time of the year, with upcoming holidays, you are probably inundated with gift catalogs. I’ve even received several copies of the same catalog with only the cover changed. And, the junk mail problem is only going to escalate.
Since June 2003 we have had a “Do Not Call Registry” and thanks to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission and state governments, my unsolicited telemarketer calls that came mostly during dinner have nearly stopped. I still get them from political campaigns and from so-called charitable organizations that are exempt from the regulations.
I am most concerned about first class mail addressed to me. Conversely, the U.S. Postal Service, because of greed, is more interested in delivering junk mail. Faxes first reduced the volume of first class mail and then the Internet and e-mail significantly reduced the USPS’s income. But every time the USPS needs to balance its budget, first class mail, not junk mail is the first rate to be increased.
The size of my condominium mailbox is limited. It fills quickly with junk mail catalogs. If the box is full, the carrier takes the excess mail back to the station and leaves me a notice. The logical approach would be to leave the first class mail and take back the junk mail.
The USPS has conspired with the all powerful direct mail lobby to give priority rights to the junk mailer. You have a right to refuse first class mail and the sender is charged for its return. However, if you refuse junk mail, it is not returned to the sender, unless you pay the cost. You must write the sender to stop sending it to you. If it continues, unfortunately, you have no recourse. And, don’t expect any help from Postmaster General John E. “Jack” Potter.
If we could return junk mail, and the sender was charged for its return, we all would be quickly removed from the junk mail lists. Television’s Andy Rooney makes his protest by taking all of the stamped envelopes sent him in junk mail and sending them back so the sender has to pay for the return postage.
According to a story in The New York Times by Louise Story, the post office delivered more than 114 billion pieces of junk mail last year, an increase of 15 percent from five years ago. She writes companies are expected to spend $59.6 billion this year on junk mail, an increase of $15 billion since 2000 and $4 billion more than last year.
The Postal Service says it has no authority to require mailers to remove names from mailing lists or control the selling of names by commercial mailing list firms. Even if you move and change addresses, the junkers will find you. The USPS maintains national database accessible to the direct mail marketers to update their records and mailings to customers who have moved. Good luck in trying to get your name and address removed from this list!
The worst of junk mail is called “marriage mail,” that is not in an envelope, not necessarily addressed to anyone and placed loose in my mailbox. I don’t automatically throw it in the garbage because I’ve found important first class mail, bills and checks stuck between some of the pages.
If we had a “No Junk Mail Registry” people would not be able to profit by selling our names and addresses to a junk mailer without our permission. The minute I open a new bank account, buy a new car or piece of real estate and take out a mortgage, I get flooded with junk mail. Complain to Postmaster General Potter and you get an “Alfred E. Neumann” response.
You get little sympathy from your local postmaster who is directed to support the case for junk mail. The first time I complained, my local post office sent me a list of five organizations to write to be removed from junk mail lists. To let you know how conscientious the USPS was about helping me, four of the addresses on their list were wrong and my letters were returned to me undeliverable!
The Direct Marketing Association, the trade organization of junk mailers, says it assists people who want to get off junk mail lists. Write: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512-0643. Your local postmaster will give you a list of other organizations to write to stop some of the junk mail. Hopefully, the addresses sent you will be correct.
I also did not get the support I expected from my representatives in Congress. After all, they get free “franked” mail and don’t want to have to start paying for their postage. However, any environmentally conscious or green member of Congress should support a “No Junk Mail Registry” since paper comprises 40 to 50 percent of the trash in a typical landfill. Let’s keep reminding our elected representatives in Washington.
Rene A. Henry lives in Seattle, WA, is the author of six books, and writes and speaks on various subjects including customer service, public relations and crisis management. He is a native of Charleston, WV.