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Stopping Junk Mail Saves Natural Resources

Fri., Jan. 6, 1995, midnight

Q. Help! Over the past few months I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of junk mail I receive. I’d like to begin the new year by reducing this waste. Besides recycling it, what else can I do? - K.H., Spokane

A. There are some simple steps you can take to reduce and prevent the amount of junk mail you receive. Junk mail is anything that comes in the mailbox you didn’t ask for or want.

Many people consider junk mail just a nuisance, but few realize its environmental and energy impact. More than 100 million trees are cut down every year for direct-mail advertisements.

The junk mail that Americans receive in one day could produce enough energy to heat 250,000 homes. According to the Postal Service, 63 billion pieces of third-class mail were sent out in 1990.

About 44 percent of junk mail is thrown away - never opened or read. Recycling junk mail is a good start, but an even better solution is to stop it in the first place.

Reducing the flow of junk mail you receive will save millions of trees, landfill space, and conserve our natural resources.

So why do I receive catalogs and solicitations from companies I’ve never heard of? This is how it works:

If you’ve ever ordered anything through a catalog, entered a contest, subscribed to a magazine, or given to charity, chances are the company put you on its customer mailing list.

Many companies rent, trade, or sell your name without permission to a list broker. These lists can be very sophisticated. A person’s buying habits, general income level, likes and dislikes can be derived from analyzing data from mailing lists.

This is a multimillion dollar business that is marketing your spending habits and selling the information to literally hundreds of organizations.

So what can you do? Plenty! The quickest way to have your name and address removed from most (but not all) national lists is through the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service.

When you request this free service (which is effective for five years), include your name and address in all variations used by the direct mailers. Once the service receives your request, your name and address will be put on a “suppress file,” which is sent out to its subscribers four times a year. The subscribers then crossreference this suppress file, deleting names and addresses.

The process could reduce up to 70 percent of your junk mail, but it may take three to six months, so be patient. It’s worth it in the long run.

National mail refers to mailings done nationwide by one company. An example is a department store catalog mailing.

To remove your name from national lists, write to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008 Farmingdale, NY 11735-9008.

But what if you just want your name removed from specific mailings?

To remove your name from current mailings, contact the organizations’ customer service number and request to be removed from their mailing lists. Have the mailing label handy so you can help the company identify any bar codes on the mailing label.

If you are mailing a written request, be sure to include the mailing label. This enables companies to process the request quickly and accurately. Sign and date your letter for good measure.

But what about the catalogs, magazines, and advertisements I look forward to receiving every month? Call those companies’ customer service toll-free numbers and request that your name and address be kept on an in-house mailing list only and that it is not to be sold or traded.

Many companies are making this easier to do. How? By putting a box on the order form that you can check to request that your name not be sold or traded.

But what about the mail ads that come to Occupant and Resident?

To reduce weekly packet ads, coupons, and product samples from entering your mailbox, Good Advice Press offers this advice: Write the following companies and request that your address (since your name never appears) be removed from the mailing list. Start with the national companies listed below, as they maintain local mailing lists for coupons, packet ads, etc.

ADVO Inc., List Service Supervisor, 239 West Service Road, Hartford, CT 06120; (203) 520-3200.

Val-Pak Coupons, Address Information Department, 8575 Largo Lakes Drive, Largo, FL 34643; (800) 237-2871 (When writing to Val-Pak, include the address label from the Val-Pak mailing.)

Are there other things you can be doing to avoid being placed on miscellaneous mailing lists?

Warranty cards can be a means of gathering names for direct mail lists. When you purchase a product, you may be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty even if you do not send in the warranty card.

Check with the manufacturer to find out whether you are covered if you just keep your receipt as proof of purchase.

To remove your name from mailing lists generated from warranty cards, write or call: National Demographics & Lifestyles, Customer Service Department, 1621 18th Street, No. 300 Denver, CO 80202; (800) 525-3533.

This company is a member of the Direct Marketing Association, so if you decide to write the Mail Preference Service, this company would get your request and remove your name from its files.

Credit bureaus may sell your name and address to banks and credit card companies. Write or call the following credit bureaus and ask to be removed from their mail file. The three largest are:

TRW-Target Marketing Services, Consumer Opt Out, 601 TRW Parkway Allen, TX 75002; (800) 353-0809.

Equifax Options, P.O. Box 740123, Atlanta, GA 30374-0123. You must send a written request.

Trans Union Transmark Inc., List Division, 555 West Adams Street, 7th Floor. Chicago, IL 60661; (312) 466-7815.

While some companies now ask permission to market your name - which is a good business practice - you need to let direct mailers know the information you want and don’t want. This step alone will save time, money and our natural resources.

This information will help you reduce junk mail and prevent your name from getting on future mailing lists. And to reduce your junk mail even more, Good Advice Press offers more ideas in a booklet titled “Stop Junk Mail Forever.” Send $3 to request the booklet at Good Advice Press (P.O. Box 78, Elizaville, NY 12523). The booklet offers a wealth of information on stopping junk mail via supermarket scanners, post office forms, motor vehicle bureaus and telephone calls.


The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Amy Michelson Washington State Energy Office Sara Busch contributed to the writing of this column.

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