Contacting the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and registering with their Mail Preference Service provides an effective way for you to fight the junk mail glut. The DMA does not provide marketers with consumer mailing lists or do consumer mailings. They provide their Mail Preference Service to marketers for the sole purpose of removing consumerís names and addresses from their prospect mailing lists.Register online at www.dmachoice.org.
If your business is receiving mail for an employee who no longer works there, visit the EcoLogical Mail Coalition to remove the personís name from direct mailing lists. For more information about their service, call 1-800-620-3975.
The DMA is not the only marketing racket in town. Keep reading to find more effective tools to reduce your junk mail.
Step 2: Know the Magic Words
Avoid getting on even more mailing lists by taking precaution whenever you submit your name and address to anyone. If you're filling out a form such as a warranty, subscription, raffle, customer information card, credit card application, membership for an organization, etc., add the phrase "please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address" next to the other information you provide. Repeat these same magic words every time you're giving a company or organization your name and address over the phone or internet, such as when ordering a catalog or making a purchase. The sales representative will then flag your name and preference in their computer.
Be advised that it is not necessary to fill out a warranty card to benefit from the warranty on your purchase. Warranty and registration cards are usually just a way to get consumer information from you which is then often sold to direct mailers. Read the fine print to see if you are required to return the card to validate the warranty. Registration may be important if the product you are purchasing is found to be defective and the manufacturer institutes a product call-back or upgrade. If you return the card, all you need to include is your name, address, product information and, if requested, the date of purchase and a copy of the receipt. It is not necessary to answer personal questions other than your name and address. No matter what you choose to fill out on the card, make sure you include the magic words: "Please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address."
Step 3: 1-800 No Thanks
As soon as you receive an unwanted publication in the mail, call the 1-800 number located somewhere on the piece and ask to be removed from the mailing list (keep the catalog in hand as they often need information from the mailing label). Businesses and organizations are glad to hear from you if you're not interested in receiving their advertising -- it reduces their costs. Remember too that if you actually buy something from a mail order catalog, it increases the likelihood your name will be shared with other similar businesses because you've just proven yourself an interested customer. So when you order, don't forget those magic words: "Please don't rent, sell, or trade my name and address."
If you cannot find a phone number, return the label portion of the mailing to the solicitor's address with a note requesting the removal of your name and address. You can also use one of the catalog removal services listed in step 6.
Step 4: End Credit Card Solicitations
If you've ever filled out a product warranty card, purchased a new home or vehicle, supplied your credit information to a lending institution, or simply carried a credit card, you can be sure your name and address are being circulated among an array of credit card companies hungry for your business. Don't despair -- there is help. To eliminate credit card promotional mailings, call 1-888-567-8688 (that's 888-5OPT-OUT) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. You will have the opportunity to choose either a five-year removal or a permanent removal.
For your personal credit cards, ask the company to place you on their "in house" list that is not sold or traded to other companies.
Step 5: Stop Junk Promo Products
If you've had it with companies sending you products or disks in the mail that you don't want, there is an option. First, look for any of the following phrases:
return service requested
forwarding service requested
address service requested
change service requested.
If you find any of these phrases, write "refused, returned to sender" on the unopened envelope.
Mail sent to "Resident," "Current Resident," or "Current Occupant" can be refused if it contains one of the above endorsements, or is sent First Class.
When you receive unsolicited products in the mail such as those from charities, you can mark the envelope ďReturn to SenderĒ and put it back in the mail. If the product is a sample, it must be marked as such and the same options apply. It is illegal for a company or charity to send you a bill for items that you did not order.
If you receive unwanted pornographic or sexually explicit mail, there is a powerful legal tool in your corner called Form 1500. By filling out the form and attaching the specific piece of junk mail you want stopped, a company becomes criminally liable if it continues to send you unwanted mail. You can get a copy of Form 1500 by visiting your post office, calling the U.S. Postal Service, or downloading the form at www.usps.com/forms/_pdf/ps1500.pdf.
Step 6: Catalogs, Charities & Contests
Catalogs: Call your catalogs to request only as many issues as you want. Cancel unwanted subscriptions.
Catalog Choice is a free website that allows you to opt out of unwanted catalogs. Once you register with the site, you can choose the catalogs you wish to stop receiving, and opt-out requests will be sent to those catalogs on your behalf. Catalog Choice can also help you unsubscribe from phone books.
Charities: If you contribute once a year to a charitable organization, ask them to send you only one donation request per year. The American Institute on Philanthropy offers a sample letter that you can send to charities and other organizations to reduce mail and phone solicitations that request donations.
Contests: Watch out for contests and free offers. Their purpose is often to obtain your name for mailing lists or to sell you something.
Step 7: Cover Your Tracks with All the Direct Marketers
There are several smaller list brokers and direct marketing firms in the U.S. besides the DMA. Just as you did with the DMA in step one, send or phone in all the variations of your name and address to the list brokers and direct marketing firms listed below. Start saving the labels of all the variations of the names and addresses which come to your mailbox. Every variation, no matter how small (or comical), is another name on a list which gets sold to literally thousands of businesses. Cut and paste actual mailing labels onto a sheet, make copies, add your signature beside each name variation on each sheet, and send them off to each of the 5 addresses below. Indicate the following: "Please remove my name and address from your mailing lists and do not rent, sell or trade my name or address."
R.L. Polk & Company
R.L. Polk does direct marketing for the automobile industry.
Have the Valpak mailing label handy and fill in your information exactly as it is printed. If you like coupons but donít want to receive all that mail, go to www.valpak.com to choose and print coupons by geographical location.
Select "consumer" and then "I would like to be removed from your mailing list."
Attn: Consumer Requests
1020 E. 1st St.
Papillion, NE 68046
Send a letter with all the variations of your name, address and phone number asking to suppress your name from their lists. They are a large provider of marketing lists.
Epsilon Data Services
Abacus Cooperative Databases
P.O. Box 1478
Broomfield, CO 80038
Send an email with ďremoveĒ in the subject line and your full name, including middle initial, and address in the message. If you changed your address over the past six months, include your previous address as well.
You can also write to the above address. Abacus compiles statistical information that is sold to catalog companies.
Step 8: Dial out of unwanted phone books
Even though phone books are recycled in many communities, more than 660,000 tons still end up in the trash every year. This waste could be stemmed by first eliminating the delivery of unsolicited or unwanted phone books.
Catalog Choice: Unsubscribe from phone books as well as catalogs. Catalog Choice tracks your requests and holds industry responsible for honoring your opt-out.
Yellow Pages: Select the phone books you want to receive and which ones you don't based on your zip code.
Step 9: Enlist the help of experts
Sometimes in the battle against junk mail it can feel like David vs. Goliath, but there is a strong arm in your corner in Catalog Choice. Catalog Choice is the only service:
Standing up for your rights as a consumer and fighting to make sure you have a choice in what mail you receive.
Holding companies to their word in honoring your opt-out request and filing complaints directly with the FTC for non-compliance.
Offering the most comprehensive service available for consumers to opt out of marketing lists, phone books and catalogs.
Protecting your privacy by masking your email address when you are submitting opt-out requests so the junk mail isnít just transferred from your mailbox to your inbox.
Tracking which companies youíve contacted and if they responded so you donít have to remember who youíve already called and when.
Catalog Choice isnít just for those trying to get started on reducing their junk mail; itís also the go-to tool for seasoned veterans. Instead of picking up the phone to opt-out of mail, log on to Catalog Choice and make your opt-out request through their website.
Step 10: Support legislative action against junk mail and other unwanted solicitation
Many states are considering legislation to create do not mail registries similar to the current do not call lists. Find updates on proposed state do not mail registry bills.
For more information on junk mail and its effects, check out:
Information derived from "Stop Junk Mail Forever (Telemarketing & Spam, Too)" from Good Advice Press; "Earth Diary-Stop Junk Mail Forever" from Mother Earth News; and the Center for a New American Dream.