Whoa. Stop the record player.
It’s 2019 here.
#ClimateChange is trending on Instagram. Pitchforks are out for single-use plastics.
Burger King is even selling plant-based burgers like hotcakes. 😲
Unfortunately, the reality is that if you’re getting too many catalogs, magazines and charity offers … you’re actually not alone. At all.
Seven days a week and without fail, the USPS continues to deliver literal tons of unsolicited junk mail across the US.
Consider the energy and resources required to accomplish this … just so you can throw it out.
But what about those superior 5% response rates that direct marketing gurus laud over digital conversions? Direct mail marketing is still super useful and helpful, right?
Maybe. But this still means that 95% of direct mail misses its mark – and is duly tossed out. At a tremendous expense to all of us.
Here’s a nifty junk mail infographic we put together to help visualize the colossal waste caused by junk mail.
The sheer scale of waste from junk mail – and the palpable lack of public discussion about it – is quite unbelievable.
Especially given the American public’s growing resentment toward both environmentally inefficient products and large-scale privacy invasions from advertisers.
Yet as inundated as we are by “advanced tracking”, second-screen and omni-channel digital campaigns, traditional direct mail campaigns continued to attract more advertising dollars in the last year than either Facebook or Google did (in the US)*.
So how to stop junk mail from cluttering our mailboxes, home offices and kitchen counters?
Must we resign ourselves to drowning in junk mail, like our parents and their parents and their parents before them did?
Not so fast. There’s good news and bad news. The good news first, you say?
Read on to learn more about each of these steps and to get direct links and additional tips.
First, give credit where credit’s due … in this case Uncle Sam and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
Meh. Kind of.
On the one hand, the FCRA legislation gives the big four credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion – the right to share your credit history with businesses offering financial products.
On the other hand, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to opt out of these preapproved credit card offers and insurance offers, also known as “firm offers” of credit.
Translation: the same act that enables the ungodly deluge of credit offers actually gives you a say in whether you can get spammed.
So chalk this up as a win for the little guy?
Given it’s the only real legislation that gives you control over (some) junk mail, we’ll take it.
Exercise your right to opt out of firm offers of credit and insurance at OptOutPrescreen.com.
Opt-out requests will remain in force for a period of 5 years. A permanent opt-out option is also available, but it requires extra hoops to jump through (see below).
The online opt out is the easiest, fastest method of opting out.
Simply enter the name and address you wish to opt out. Note you are NOT required to provide your Social Security Number or Date of Birth – these are optional fields.
If you are not comfortable submitting your information online (or if you CAN NOT submit online – the website is known to haphazardly brick submissions originating from certain states), you can call to opt-out.
To reach OptOutPrescreen by phone, call 1-888-567-8688 (that’s 888-5OPT-OUT).
Opting out permanently requires FIRST submitting your request online or by phone, and subsequently printing, completing and mailing an additional confirmation form(s).
This seems like a lot of extra work if you have multiple family members you wish to opt out. If you’re anything like us, simply firing up the printer and installing the invetible driver updates you missed can take an hour of troubleshooting.
Remember you can simply resubmit the online form again, if needed, anytime.
Go to OPTOUTPRESCREEN
How long does it take to opt out?: 1 minute (for online option)
When will you see the junk mail stop? After approximately 2-3 months.
*Marketing spend on direct mail was $44.2 billion in 2017 (estimated to grow in 2018; DMA Statistical Factbook). US revenue for $FB and $GOOG estimated from their respective 2018 10-ks).
Not to get all philosophical, but here’s a question:
Are billion-dollar industries – absent regulation – capable of self-regulating and safeguarding consumers?
Whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist here, it’s important you know the same associations of corporate advertisers that lobby for the $44.2 billion direct mail industry are its de facto policemen as well.
These associations include:
In mid-2018, these two organizations merged into the “greater” ANA, which now requires each of its members to uphold an ethical code of marketing conduct.
The Association’s corporate and non-profit members, comprised of many large mailers and catalog publishers, are required to honor all direct marketing opt-out requests submitted to the ANA’s mail preference service, still under the name DMAchoice.org.
DMAchoice is primarily a mail preference service for postal marketing mail (junk mail), but also offers registration for ANA’s:
Now, if you’ve already navigated to DMAchoice.org, you are probably wondering whether it’s a legitimate, operational service. After all, its website design hasn’t been updated since 2008.
[Built for … Palm Pilot?]
Contrast this with the ANA’s shiny new website used to showcase bleeding-edge design prowess and thought leadership to its Madison Avenue cohort.
Given the lack of investment in keeping up with the times, it’s a fair question to ask whether DMAchoice is just an afterthought, or simply a token service intended to keep up the appearance of propriety.
Nevertheless, the site IS operational.
When you register with DMAchoice, your postal mail preferences are provided to all ANA members that market to consumers. They, in turn, are required to run their lists of prospective customers every month against DMAchoice and to remove registered individuals from prospective mailing campaigns.
DMAchoice only opts you out from companies and organizations that are ANA members. The DMAchoice website (not updated since 2008, it seems) claims to represent 3,600 organizations.
However, the current master ANA membership list is available here. We counted 794 members as of the writing of this Step by Step Guide.
Registering with DMAchoice ensures your name and address remain on their suppression list for 10 years. You can choose whether to opt out from individual companies’ mail lists or blanket opt-out of three categories of mail:
DMAchoice additionally claims “Credit Offers” as an opt-out category. Note that in practice this is a simple redirect to OptOutPrescreen (from Step 1 above), which offers its own website and free service.
DMAchoice is actually not affiliated with OptOutPrescreen in any way.
Having processed over 8 million opt-out requests for junk mail since 2011, PaperKarma has some unique insights into the usefulness of DMAchoice in getting rid of junk mail.
In a recent analysis we determined that just around 10.5% of all requests submitted were to (current) members of the ANA.
This, of course, is indicative of the fact that there are tens of thousands of other businesses in the USA that market via postal direct mail and do NOT adhere to ANA/DMA policies.
The ANA discusses the effectiveness of DMAchoice itself, here:
“WILL REGISTRATION WITH DMAchoice END ALL ADVERTISING MAIL?
No. Registrants will continue to receive mail from organizations with which they do business and from organizations that do not use DMAchoice to clean their mailing lists. In addition, registrants may continue to receive mail from local businesses, professional and alumni associations, and political candidates and office holders.
Mail of a business-to-business nature received at your business address will also not be affected by registration with MPS [Mail Preference Service]. Business names and addresses are not placed on the file, and companies that send mail of a business-to-business nature do not use the DMAchoice file.
In any of the above instances, write directly to the organization to request removal from that organization’s mailing list.”
So, set your expectations accordingly.
Regardless, there are some quite large mailers that belong to the ANA /DMA, and opting out takes less than a minute!
Go to DMAchoice
Cost: One-time verification fee of $2.00 (online only)
How long does it take to opt out? 1 minute (for online option)
When will you see the junk mail stop? After approximately 3-4 months.
Here’s where most guides and articles on how to stop junk mail get it wrong.
They throw up their hands in exasperation and claim that there is no solution for all other mailers not handled by OptOutPrescreen or DMAchoice.
You are either out of luck or need to resort to intensive manual efforts for thousands of charities, non-profits and local businesses.
We beg to differ.
No dice. This common advice won’t really resolve your junk mail issue.
Remember those 77+ billion pieces of junk mail delivered annually by the USPS, which we discussed above?
[Image Source: USPS]
As mentioned before, the USPS refers to this type of junk mail as “Standard” mail (or “marketing mail” in its annual report).
It is sent out at a discounted postage rate that DOES NOT ALLOW for it to be returned to sender, unlike First-Class Mail. It’s simply disposed of at the post office – how, we dare not ask.
[Image Source: GIPHY]
Don’t take it from us, take it from a Career Letter Carrier:
Now, you CAN return a postage paid “First-Class Mail” piece to sender.
Recall the 2018 statistics from the USPS – first-class mail accounts for some 59 billion mail pieces mostly comprised of bills, account statements and notifications, letters, postcards and some direct marketing mail.
Any mail that comes bundled with a prepaid postage envelope for your response, is sent First-Class, or which has the additional monikers mentioned by our friend from the post office above can be sent back for free.
That’s part of what the premium postage the sender spent on pays for.
Go ahead. But you will see these pieces do not make up the bulk of your junk mail problem.
Except for in a very limited number of cases (more on this below) this is not your best approach.
We guarantee you will tear your hair out from the frustration and tedium of:
You simply don’t have time for that.
We promised you three (3) easy steps to help you get rid of junk mail – in UNDER 5 Minutes – and we aim to deliver.
There are two alternative solutions to stop junk mail, both offered by organizations which have already done the research and established relationships with the direct mailers so you don’t have to.
These organizations will help you opt out from the mailing lists of individual companies in mere seconds.
One solution to clean up your remaining junk mailer problem is called CatalogChoice.
CatalogChoice offers a database of some 10,000 mailers you can choose to opt out from. As its name suggests, these are predominantly catalog mailers.
The service is free to use and is available on desktop and mobile web. It is particularly good at reducing the amount of catalogs you receive.
Once you create an account, you search for catalogs in the CatalogChoice database. If the mailer exists in the database, you then type in the name and address you wish for the catalog mailer to stop sending to.
CatalogChoice is operated by a 501(c)(3) non-profit called The Story of Stuff Project, which developed a wonderful movie drawing attention to the needless “stuff” cluttering our lives and the environmental damage it breeds.
This is a great non-profit that relies on donations to fund several initiatives:
You can make a tax-deductible donation to the Story Of Stuff Project / CatalogChoice, here.
(PaperKarma is not affiliated with CatalogChoice. We do appreciate their work, though 😊.)
Go to Catalog Choice
Cost: Free (or $10+ suggested donation)
How long does it take to opt out? 3-5 minutes every few weeks (at least once per season, to get rid of seasonal mailers).
When will you see the junk mail stop? Approximately 2-3 months after submitting a request.
The second, alternative solution to CatalogChoice is PaperKarma (full disclosure, you are on our website 😂).
PaperKarma is a mobile app that stops junk mail.
PaperKarma stops junk mail. The snail mail kind. Aka physical, paper, postal junk mail.
Nope. There is no other focus. Stopping junk mail is our jam.
Did we mention PaperKarma stops paper junk mail?
That’s it. It’s that easy. PaperKarma does the work to unsubscribe you from junk mail.
In a nutshell:
With 10x the mailers, PaperKarma is the largest, most comprehensive Do Not Mail registry service in the US.The PaperKarma database includes tens of thousands of charities, non-profits and local businesses.
It also works on most catalogs covered by CatalogChoice and larger national brands covered by DMAchoice.
Moreover, since 2011 PaperKarma has worked with credit issuers, banks and insurers to develop protocols to opt consumers out from financial mailers as well.
This means PaperKarma is a one-stop shop to get rid of almost ALL junk mail. We track our success rate at 90+% of all requests received.
We do charge a small fee for access to the service, in lieu of soliciting donations. This is also how you know we don’t need to sell your data in order to keep operating.
We use our proceeds to fund continual improvements to our service and our suite of mobile apps.
We add ~100 new mailers per day, or ~3,000 per month, all suggested by our users.
On-the-go, no desktop needed, no searching for mailers in a database. Simply snap a photo and let PaperKarma do the heavy lifting to stop your junk mail.
PaperKarma allows you to add Unlimited name /address combinations.
This means you can opt out your entire household or communal living situation with one account.
It also means you can cancel junk mail and catalogs on behalf of another person – e.g. previous owners, renters and tenants, deceased relatives or your elderly parents when you visit them (in accordance with our ToS).
PaperKarma allows you to test-run the app by allowing for 4 free “unsubscribe requests” before requiring you to subscribe to its service.
Not only does it offer a free trial, but it also offers a money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.
Note that the service does not work overnight. It takes some time for junk mail to stop once a request is submitted – whether you call up a mailer yourself or automate it via PaperKarma.
This is because mailers pre-print several waves of a campaign in bulk and can’t simply pull your envelope out of the palette. Any single request can take up to 12 weeks to see the mail completely stop.
Cost: Free trial, then $1.99/mo – cancel anytime
How long does it take to opt out? 1 minute every few weeks (at least once per season, to get rid of seasonal mailers).
When will you see the junk mail stop? Approximately 2-3 months after submitting a request.
We shared with you 3 easy steps to take to stop junk mail.
Following these steps, you can easily cut down your junk mail by 90% in less than 5 minutes (and see the results after a few months).
The bad news? You can’t stop ALL junk mail. There are several types of junk mail that not even PaperKarma can stop.
Similarly, bulk mail that is addressed ONLY to “Current Resident” or “To our Neighbors At” is difficult to stop.
Free Standing Inserts (FSIs), such as most grocery leaflets, are also delivered directly to every door.
In these cases, there is no mailing list to unsubscribe you from.
With a few notable exceptions:
When writing an email to Money Mailer (or any mailer for that matter), use the following text:
“Please add me to your DO NOT MAIL list for postal mail.
Also please do not rent, sell, or trade my name or address.”
But seriously, this mail goes to the heart of the 1st Amendment. The good news is these mails cluster in short cycles and automatically die down after an election.
These companies tend to require a mandatory phone call and a confirmation of sensitive personal information they may have on file (e.g. last 4 of your SSN or a credit card they may have had on file).
We do suggest phoning in your opt-out request as a last resort. If you use all 3 of the above tactics first, you should only have to do this for a handful of mailers.
If you’re not sure what a telephone opt-out entails, here’s a great example from #zerowaste blogger Shelbizlee:
As you can see, opting out this way does take time – almost more time than our 3 steps to get rid of most junk mail in 5 minutes!
Are you worried by the several catagories junk mail that CAN’T be stopped?
Don’t worry. They are a small portion of junkmail overall.
EDDM may be a billion dollar product for the USPS, but when compared to total operating revenues ($70.6 billion in 2018), it only represents about 1.4% of their portfolio.
Think of the remaining categories (scams, ballot mail, etc.) similarly.
All in all, following the 3 Steps to Stop Junk Mail can take less than 5 minutes and can drastically reduce your junk mail inflow by over 90%.
We’ve seen it. We’ve done it.
Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what others are saying:
Shoutout to one of my favorite apps @PaperKarma for helping me declutter my mailbox (yes, my physical mailbox). I definitely recommend that you check ’em out so that we can all reduce waste.. it’s super easy! pic.twitter.com/r8f8wRxaSw
— Leah Riffell (@leah_riffell) May 24, 2019
No kidding. The PaperKarma app will turn your mail to zero.
— Charlie Cleveland (@Flayra) January 23, 2019
So, happy ending, I’m finally going through mail I’ve been ignoring for… 10 months? Thereabouts. (I mean, I opened & dealt with bills & holiday cards… I just don’t have a place for them.) And I’m using @PaperKarma to unsubscribe from stuff & BOOM! It works perfectly. 8/end
— Kelly J. Cooper (@kjccreates) December 27, 2018
Here’s some advice from one of our favorite experts on how to stop junk mail:
[Image Source: Drowning in Junk Mail]
TLDR; it’s 2019, baby – and thanks to the interwebs and mobile apps you can actually stop most junk mail.
Here’s how to stop junk mail in 3 easy steps, in under 5 minutes.
We hope this guide expanded your view a bit and showed you that it is possible to get rid of most junk mail easily.
Will you use any of these solutions?
Do you have any advice for mailers that can’t be gotten rid of?
If you’ve used any of the above solutions for getting rid of junk mail and still found a company or legitimate organization that refused to comply, please contact us and we’ll look into it for you.
Junk Mail refers to unsolicited advertising and direct marketing received through postal mail, such as unwanted catalogs, coupons, credit offers, donation requests and magazines.
Direct marketers commonly add you to mailing lists when you apply for credit or a mortgage, change addresses, sign up for contests and promotions, or donate to charity.
77+ billion marketing mail pieces are distributed by each year by the USPS, with 95% being tossed out. 44% end up in landfills unopened. The impact from junk mail is significant [infographic].