A few years ago the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) set up the National Do Not Call Registry in order to stem the tide of telemarketing calls. If you don’t want any more telemarketers phoning your house while you’re eating dinner all you need to do is sign up for the Do Not Call Registry and it will stop all commercial telemarketing calls to your house for 5 years. Political and non-profit calls will still come through, but it will cut through a big part of your telemarketing program.
There is no such Do Not Mail Registry for those of us tired of picking up piles of junk mail everyday. And don’t think that the United States Postal Service (USPS) is going to be of any help: direct marketing is good for the USPS and they actively promote it. (Direct marketers still have to pay postage, after all).
So if the government is of no help, what are we to do? Well, there are some options for us to help stem the tide of junk mail.
Companies all across the country want to send you junk mail. Once just any one of these companies gets a hold of your name and address, rest assured it will soon be passed around to another company, and another company, and another. The worst of it is that usually the company responsible for first distributing your information is probably a company you do business with on a regular basis, even one you trust like your bank.
The Direct Marketing Association
If you want to cut out a lot of the junk mail coming to your house in one blow, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is the way to go. It’s not a federal program like the Do Not Call Registry but most reputable direct marketers belong to the DMA, and they offer an opt-out service to you, the consumer. You fill out a form with the DMA, then they compile a list of those who do not wish to receive unsolicited mail and send it to client companies who order these lists.
There are three ways to register with the DMA’s opt-out service: you can simply send a post card with your name and address to:
Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association
PO Box 643
Carmel, NY 10512
Your name will be added to the list. However this can take about a month to process with the DMA, as well as time for it to feed out to their client organizations.
There is also a form provided on their web site that you can fill out and mail in to the same address as above. Filling out the form online gives it a unique tracking number that enables them to process the request faster than if you just send in a post card.
Lastly you can fill out the online form and submit it online. This processes your application immediately and should result in the flow of junk mail slowing within a period of about 1 month.
If you want to find out more about the DMA’s Mail Preference Service check out their web site at http://www.dmaconsumers.org
Opt-out of Junk Mail With Individual Companies
Not every company works in conjunction with the DMA’s Mail Preference Service that allows for mass opt-out. However, many companies do provide forms to fill out so that you don’t appear in the lists for their junk mail or to have your address distributed by them. Even if they don’t have forms or a proper method in place you can still contact them either through their web site, snail mail or calling customer service and get something sorted out.
While the idea that we, the consumer, should have to go the extra mile in order to ensure that our names and addresses are not sold from here to Timbuktu and that we not receive unsolicited mail is ridiculous, but unfortunately it is also a fact of life. At least until tougher laws are passed and tighter regulations enforced on the direct marketing industry.
The place to start individual opting out are businesses that you are in regular contact with. Your bank is a prime target. Also anytime a store asks you for your name and address, ask them what they do with the information and what you need to do to make sure it is not used to send junk mail to your house. Opt-out before they even have a chance to opt you in involuntarily.
Here is an example of what I am talking about: in the summer of 2005 I went to a major furniture chain to purchase a freezer. When I made the purchase, they wanted information such as my name and address. I asked them what they would be using the information for and reluctantly they told me it would be used to send solicitations from them to my house.
I told them I did not want any junk mail coming to my house. They said ok, and before I left I fill out a three page form saying that I wanted no unsolicited mail from them coming to my house. All well and good, or so I thought. Then, a couple of months later they sent me a flyer.
I called them, quite upset. After all the trouble I had gone through to fill out the forms so I would get no mail, I still got it in my mailbox. After some arguing with the manager I got him to take my name off the list, and since then I have not received any junk mail from them.
Opt-out Telephone Numbers and Addresses
Here now we will look at contact information for a few businesses that engage in direct marketing. One of the worst types of junk mail are the constant credit card applications coming every day. These junk mailings are for the most part the work of three companies: Experian, Trans Union and Equifax, the big three credit reporting companies.
These three companies are the ones responsible for compiling all of the data that goes into creating your credit score. They are also to blame for the majority of credit card applications sent to your house. If you want these to stop, there is one simple telephone number you can call:
1-888-5OPTOUT or 1-888-567-8688
This will stop you from receiving junk mail from any of the big three credit reporting companies and should also stop the majority of the credit card applications coming your way.
Below are the addresses of many of the worst culprits in sending junk mail. Write them and tell them that you wish to opt-out.
Publishing Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
101 Channel Dr
Port Washington, NY 11050
American Business information inc.
Attn: Product Quality
PO Box 27347
Omaha, NE 68127
Donnelly Marketing, inc
Attn: Data Base Operations
PO Box 3502
Ames, IA 50010-3502
Haines and Company, inc.
Attn: Director of Data Processing
8050 Freedom Ave
NW Canton, OH 44720
This is just a few of the worst offenders. There are many others out there.
The USPS and Form 1500
Although for the most part the USPS is not at all interested in assisting you to stop or opt-out of junk mail, they do have one resource available to you, the consumer: Form 1500. This form is designed to stop explicit and pornographic material from being sent to your home.
You pick up the form from the post office (you can also find it online) fill it out and can stop all mail from being delivered to you coming from a certain company. While this is generally supposed to refer only to explicit and pornographic materials, the onus is on you for determining what is explicit and pornographic. If there is a single company that is really bothering you this might be the way to go in getting it stopped in short order.