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Member Story: Spreading the Word

This note came to us today.  It is great when our youth point to our service as a school project.  What are you doing to help spread the word?
I am 9 years old and attend Polk Street school in Franklin Square. I would like to do my recycling poster for our school contest on your website. Can I use your logo and information from website on my poster? (especially numbers regarding savings of gas,water and trees) Do you have any printouts I can use for my poster or to handout to students at school?

Thanks, XXXX

Ps My mom absolutely loves your website and is trying help me to spread the word.

Member Story

We are publishing a series of Member stories that clearly describe the impact of continued unsolicited mail.  If you have a story to share, take a moment and share it with us here.  We will never release personally identifiable information when re-telling your story.
For years my aging mother has received tons of catalogs. This had two effects: She would often purchase unnecessary items and I would periodically have to bundle the things (bags and bags!) and take them to our civic recycling. Earlier this year, I had her mail forwarded to our house so I could keep an eye on her bills. I was delighted when the post office told me that catalogs would not be forwarded. What a relief! Unfortunately, within a month it became clear that the companies were simply picking up the new address and mailing directly to us! Yikes! That is when I found your service; in the last two months I've entered over 200 requests to stop mailing. I had no idea how insidious these things were--some companies have her listed multiple times under different customer numbers or source codes. For the sake of my mail carrier, I hope that most have stopped before we are full into the holiday season! I do find it interesting that they can change the address within 30 days, but require 90 to actually delete you from the list. Thanks SO much for what you do!

The Problem with ‘Junk Mail'

‘Junk mail’ - or 'the j-word' - is a troublesome term. Have you noticed we don't use the phrase much on That is not without reason.

Direct mailers do not like the phrase "junk mail" nor appeals to stop, prevent, or reduce it. A couple of years ago, there was a very public appeal for policy changes regarding so-called junk mail. Sandy Cutts, the Director of Public Affairs for the DMA (Direct Marketing Association), responded,
“Advertising groups find these feelings misdirected, asserting that advertising mail helps consumers with coupons and allows small businesses to get word about their services to targeted audiences…and please don't call it junk mail…We hate that term…We don't use the j-word."

It's no wonder direct mailers, including some of the best, don't like the term. The phrase 'Junk Mail' has historically been used carelessly, widely applied to all 3rd party mail and to the products being advertised, by extension. A catalog you request is not junk mail. A coupon book you value and use is not junk mail. An advertisement for a product or service you didn't know existed, but that interests you, is not junk mail. It's simply inaccurate to call all 3rd party advertising junk mail.

However, we simply cannot ignore how commonly the phrase is used. Hundreds of people tweet 'junkmail' or search Google for junk mail phrases on a daily basis.

Junk Mail Google Searches Source: Google

Tweets on Junk Mail Source:

While it may be applied too broadly, it clearly remains a useful term for some 3rd advertising mail that is thoroughly unsolicited, unwanted, and not of interest.  Any mail that people don't want and have asked to stop is junk in their mind. Regardless of whether the mail is the glossiest magazine-type publication or the cheapest newsprint, if a customer does not want it, to them it's junk. The more they ask for something to stop and the more they are ignored, the more appropriate the j-word becomes.

So if you do see phrases on like 'stop junk mail' or 'reduce junk mail,' know that we do not use that as a blanket term for all 3rd party mail or all unsolicited mail. We use it to reference mail you simply do not want - mail that will, without attention, be discarded. Stopping this kind of 'junk mail' is in the best interest of all parties, including direct mailers.


Top 5 Easiest New Year's Resolutions of 2011

Will you join us in making five easy New Year’s resolutions? Take these steps to make a difference and help your family, your community and the environment.

  1. Make your choice - amplify our voice: You now have the option to file a complaint directly to the Federal Trade Commission from within Catalog Choice to ensure your opt-out choices are honored by all companies, not just the cool ones. Join our Facebook fan page to voice your opinion and show your support.

  2. Spread the word: Tell your friends & neighbors by email or your Facebook. Print & post our flier in your office, mailroom, coffee shop or gym.

  3. Join our Virtual Team: Catalog Choice supplements our team with advisors, consultants, and volunteers with a variety of skills. Join our LinkedIn Member Group to learn about opportunities now and in the future.

  4. Get Unlisted: Catalog Choice will help you stop more mail by removing your name from hard-to-find third party marketing lists – the lists that companies buy to find new customers. This valet-level service is available with a donation of $20 or more.

  5. Make a Donation: We rely on grants and donations to pay the bills and improve the service. Does your company have a matching program? Consider adding us to the list. Click here to support our work.

Here’s to less waste and more control over your mailbox and your personal information in 2011. Together we are making a difference. Got questions? Click here and we'll get right back to you with answers.

Happy New Year,

Catalog Choice Team


Will the DMA help you?

People are often confused about how to manage their privacy and get their name and address removed from mailing lists. Turns out that companies are adding to the confusion.

Companies often tell consumers to go to the DMA to get their name removed from mailing lists. Here is the DMA's position on this as set forth in a recent email from the DMA Corporate & Social Responsibility group:

Do Not Pass the Buck!

Consumers continue to be sent to the DMA by companies who are “passing the buck…” Company representatives are telling consumers that DMA is the source of the data and if the consumer wants to be removed from the company’s mailing list, the individual must contact DMA. We cannot help consumers get off of your individual list. (emphasis added)

As a reminder, please ensure that you train your staff to input consumer requests directly into your internal preference files. The DMA does not issue marketing lists and is not the source of your data. If a consumer asks to be removed from your list, you need to ensure that you have an in-house suppression process in place. For consumers that want to be removed from all mailings, these consumers may visit to add themselves to industry-wide suppression files. Thank you for your assistance to provide proper help to consumers!

Catalog Choice is designed to help consumers manage their privacy and choose which company marketing lists to leave their name on and which ones to get off of.  Without the help of Catalog Choice, you have to contact hundreds of companies that you do business with to instruct them how you want the to handle your name and address.

That is an onerous task.  It starts with finding the contact information for all the companies.  Next you have to read their privacy policy to figure out how to opt-out.  A 2008 Carnegie Mellon University study estimates that it would cost $365 billion in lost leisure and productivity time if everyone read the privacy policies of the web sites they visited.  You can read the entire study here or a synopsis here.

Lastly, you have to contact the company with your request.  Our studies show that it takes over 5 minutes per company.  If you do this for 100 companies that is an investment of 500 minutes or 8.3 hours.  At 8 hours a day, that is a full days you would have to spend to control how companies use your name and address. Very few people will invest this amount of time to manage their privacy.

So, that is why we built Catalog Choice.  Citizens want to stop the flow of unwanted mail, but like recycling they want it to be easy.  So we figured if we applied some good old fashion ingenuity and automation, we could make this process easy enough for people to do.  It is a win for everyone.  Less clutter in your home, less wasted marketing dollars for companies and less wasted resources for the world.

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