In a column last month on how to reduce the flood of catalogues and junk, we stuck to by-the-book methods. Telephone the catalogue companies and ask to be removed from their mailing lists. Write the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and add yourself to its "mail preference service," which removes your name from direct mail lists.
All strictly conventional means to an end.
Several readers responded insisting that those standard means don't always end the daily assault of advertising and junk mail that has become a routine annoyance and contributes to the mounting paper waste threatening the environment.
Some reported taking more imaginative steps.
The most inventive among them is a District consumer who said that when "hard-nosed or non-responsive companies" don't remove his name from their mailing lists after repeated requests, he is forced to revert to guerrilla consumer tactics.
Be forewarned: The strategies this consumer advocates are underhanded and involve deceit. Consumers who value honesty above practicality won't want to try this at home.
But, when corporations don't play by the rules, argues this self-styled junk mail activist, solutions have to be found beyond the rules as well.
The suggestion least likely to earn bad consumer karma (or fines and imprisonment) is his trickery of sending "what appears to be a genuine order" to an unresponsive company. "But, of course, I don't include a check," he adds, "and I leave off items such as quantity or color."
Because catalogue companies can't fill incomplete orders, "they send the order back via first-class mail asking that everything be filled out and payment enclosed," he says. "At this point, I write on the return letter 'Addressee Unknown. Return to Sender,' and ship it right back to them.
"It is one thing for a company to send a catalogue and have it thrown away, but the minute they start sending back bogus mail orders using 33-cent stamps, well, that's serious business. In short order, I find my name deleted from their mailing list."
The reader says that by using the DMA's off-the-list service, plus his own tactics, he receives almost no catalogues anymore.
Do Not Call The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week held the first of a series of public forums to be scheduled throughout the year to review the "do-not-call" provision of its Telemarketing Sales Rule.
Because of "increased consumer awareness of their right to be placed on a do-not-call list," prohibiting sellers or telemarketers from calling persons who previously told them they don't want to be called, the FTC will be considering ways to make the provision even more effective.
Suggestions anyone? Remember to say "Please remove me from your list . . . " when answering an unwanted telemarketer call--and stay tuned for updates.
Got other innovative--and legal--methods of taking the junk-mail problem into your own hands? Of stopping telemarketing calls? Of fixing other hard-to-handle consumer predicaments? E-mail details of your Smart Consumer Tricks, or consumer complaints, to firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Don Oldenburg, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, D.C. 20071.