Tired of junk mail stuffing up your mailbox? US households throw out around 40 pounds of junk mail a year. That’s millions of wasted trees, plus wasted energy to produce the paper, chemicals for the ink and U.S. Postal Service time and fuel costs to deliver junk mail, just so you can recycle it.
Although federal laws require that ad mail addressed to you give you the option to opt out of receiving any more offers, that’s often easier said than done.
Here’s how to reduce or eliminate junk mail entirely,, whether they are catalogues, coupons or credit card offers, that you don’t want to receive.
Opt out by email or by phone
If you are opting out for yourself, look for an “opt out” link on the sender’s website. The downside is the junkiest of junk mail senders may not have a website. And, obviously, if a mailer’s website asks for your email address for confirmation, you’ll start getting junk email instead of junk snail mail. So be sure to use an email account with a strong spam filter.
My service has a “block and auto purge” feature so the spammer doesn’t get into my computer again. Or, use a phony email address for the opt out confirmation, such as email@example.com. I’ve actually used that one a couple of times and share it with you happily.
When a neighbor died recently, I telephoned more than a dozen of the companies sending her catalogs to have her name removed from their lists. It would have been far too confusing to do it by email.
Even after opting out, you can expect to receive another mailing or two, until the company’s mail system catches up with your choice.
Return to sender
Do not put the unwanted catalog or value-pack coupons back in the mailbox market with “return to sender.” Know that the USPS just tosses these in the recycling bin. They are not returned to sender. So all you are doing is making your mailman or mailwoman carry your garbage to the USPS recycling bin.
- Tip: You are in luck if your unwanted junk mail sender includes prepaid envelope. My personal trick is to use that prepaid envelope to stuff all the unwanted junk they sent me back to them, with a note to take me off their list. Since the sender mailer has to pay postage to get its own junk back, it’s a very effective way to opt out of future mailings.
Opting out via an opt out registry
A simpler way, but not necessarily faster, is to put your name and address on the “do not mail” list of the Direct Marketing Association, which represents most, but not all, junk mailers. You can opt out of everything forever, or until you choose to opt back in. Or, you can opt out of a specific brand or category.
Registering online for the DMA Mail Preference Service costs $5; registering by mail is free. Either way, as with calling or emailing senders individually, you’ll still get a couple of mailings until the company’s computers cycle you out.
- Valassis (Red Plum) Fill out the form online, or call 1-888-546-7605 to get fewer discount-club ads and trial samples in your mailbox.
- Catalog Choice As the name implies, this group represents catalog senders. This type of mail should stop showing up soon after your removal request is processed.
- Credit bureaus To cut out credit-card and other financial offers, contact the three major bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and request that they no longer release your information. This should stop pre-approved credit card offers.
- Opt-Out Prescreen This gets you out of credit-card and insurance offers. You can choose a five-year opt-out online or permanent opt-out, which requires you mail a form that the service provides. Call 1-888-567-8688 (1-888-5-OPT-OUT) or go to the Opt-Out Prescreen site.
- Publishers Clearing House Send removal requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Val-Pak Stop receiving those blue envelopes full of local restaurant menus, home improvement offers and such.
Who sold my good name?
If you donate to a charity or buy an annual family membership at a nearby museum, that charity or museum might sell your name and address as part of its fundraising efforts. So it’s likely that you’ll receive direct ad mail as many as two to three months after plastering your name on every imaginable “do not mail” list, according to the DMA. Plus, the rules for opting out of unwanted charity mailings are different than for “regular” advertising, and it’s more difficult to get off their lists.