Some blizzard, eh? Not snow. The blizzard of glossy catalogues that becomes an avalanche inside your mailbox this time every year.
Besides the usual bundle of catalogues, one Maryland reader recently wrote, she is accumulating a least three new catalogues every week--mostly unwanted. "Things are really getting out of hand now that Christmas is approaching," she says. "I am getting duplicates of many catalogues--sometimes three a day."
No surprise there. Direct marketing sales are booming. The Alliance for Environmental Innovation figures more than 17 billion catalogues were distributed in the United States in 1998. This year's direct marketing sales are projected to surpass $1.5 trillion in the United States alone, reaching $2.2 trillion in five years, reported H. Robert Wientzen, president and CEO of the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), at the trade group's annual conference. The biggest winners: multichannel-marketing companies that deliver online sales pitches, on TV and radio, and in that mountain of catalogues.
Deciding she had been multichanneled enough, the caller contacted some of the catalogues' customer service reps to ask that they remove her from their lists. "Many of them gave me such a hard time that I got pretty annoyed and frustrated," she asked, wondering if there's an easy way to stop junk mail.
In fact, she took the right initial step to reduce catalogue mailings. But there's no easy, foolproof solution--which is why this is a perennial problem. To decrease the number of catalogues and junk mail you receive:
* With the catalogue label handy, call each company's toll-free number and ask sales rep to remove your name from its mailing list. If the rep balks, ask for the supervisor--and get names. If the catalogues don't stop within a couple of months, the names will come in handy when you write to complain to the company's CEO. To eliminate pesky duplicate mailings of a catalogue you do want, ask the company to delete the extra listing. Some companies will even honor requests to receive catalogues less frequently. This is tedious, frustrating and doesn't always work.
* The clearinghouse strategy: Write to DMA Mail Preference Service (P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale N.Y. 11735-9008) and include your name (as it appears on the catalogue labels), address, zip code and your request to "activate DMA's preference service." It will take up to six months to kick in, but this is supposed to stop catalogues and other junk mailings from DMA's member companies for five years. Most likely this will also cut off some of the unsolicited mail you want to receive--and not all that you don't want. Once on the MPS list, if you order from a catalogue or call a company to request its catalogue, you're back in circulation again.
* Many credit-card companies sell cardholder lists. Call yours and say you don't want your name and address sold to mailing lists and other companies. Demand the same when donating to charities, entering contests or sweepstakes, and filling out product warranty cards.
* Several Web-based groups offer services to help consumers stop unwanted mailings--some for free, some not. Junkbusters (www.junkbusters.com) provides free draft letters to the major vendors, as well as other services. For a $10 fee, Private Citizen (www.private-citizen.com) serves as an anti-junk mail lobbying group and adds you to the list of its directory notifying junk mailers not to mail to you.
* Unwanted mail can also be a problem for home-based and small businesses. The National Waste Prevention Coalition (NWPC) recently created a "Reduce Business Junk Mail" Web site (www.metrokc.gov/nwpc) to provide information and resources.
"If you get a lot of unwanted mail and are concerned about the paper waste, and the time you lose going through this mail, and important mail getting lost," NWPC coordinator Tom Watson says of consumers and business owners alike, "then you need to be aggressive."