Friday, January 06, 2012

Keep Marketing Advertisements Out of Your Mailbox

For the people who don't want to entertain themselves with my stories, here's the crux of the matter: How to stop getting all the crap into your snail-mailboxes.  But before you get all Uncle-Skeptical, I want to add that it works! Yes! It effing works.  I was highly surprised when, after a week of registration, my mailbox was going very lean and mean!
Note: This is for US only, I'm not sure if this is a serious problem in India yet.
Quick Steps:
  1. Go to DMA Choice page and create a login, click here.
    DMA is the most comprehensive do not mail list that most large list owners, compilers and mailers will bump their lists against.
  2. You have 4 sub-categories to opt-out from. I recommend opting-out of everything: Catalogs, Magazine Offers, Other Mail Offers and the most annoying of all, Credit Offers (cards, loans, etc.).
  3. The first three are simple click-and-be-done-with-it types.
  4. To opt out of Credit Offers the website redirects you to OptOutPreScreen (link).
    This is a centralized service to process requests from consumers to
    "Opt-In" or "Opt-Out" of the firms that offer credit or insurance.  Fill out your information, and get rid of all the mail-crap that would have otherwise found its way to your garbage anyway.
Now, time for the long drawn story... (No matter what you say, I know all of you secretly love maal-masala, the spice! :D )

I was appalled seeing the wastage of paper (and a lot of other natural resource!) when I first came to this country. But nothing struck me harder than seeing pamphlets/offers/brochures after pamphlets finding its way into my snail-mailbox. I was like "who the heck even goes through all this crap". And indeed, EVERYBODY I know immediately throws it away into a dustbin conveniently placed just beside the mailboxes, without even as much of a second thought!  The dustbin is eternally full, esp. in the evenings when people empty their mailboxes (putting away more than 79% of it) directly into that bin.  I sincerely wish they consider this bin for recycling, for all you know since it is NOT labelled one it might end up in the garbage dump :(

Before I put an end to the misery, I progressed through a few stages and learned that there is a very easy way to put stop to this crap, and in the process also save precious paper, few bits at a time.

Phase 0. WTF!
Really, the first time I got keys to my mailbox it was already beaming with a lot of papers. Seriously, if you don't clear them every other day, you WILL get a notice from your postmaster saying to clear your box otherwise he won't deliver any mails! Because there is no place to stuff any more.  (I'm *not* making this up, this has indeed happened to me! On more than one occasion).  I was joyous when I felt so many people are writing to me, but then I was like, "Wait a minute, I just got here and none of my friends know my postal, soo..." ~~creep'ed out expression~~ My joy was short lived ~~sigh~~, but I diligently ripped open every single envelope, only to discard it.  After a few weeks, I was like, what the 'eff is this? I didn't even subscribe to it and I'm not even interested in any of them, why do companies like to waste so much of paper?

Phase 1. Wow! Credit Card Offers!
Over time I got a tad smarter (really?). As a student I had no credit history and the only bank willing to give me a no-annual-fee credit card was the PNC Bank who had a branch in my University (No! It was not out of bank's altruism, it was only because I deposited my tuition monies in their bank that they felt secure that I won't run away without paying off the card).  The limit was very low, but good enough to get started on building the credit. Only enough to buy month's worth of groceries and some misc expenses.  So I used to be all excited whenever I got credit card offers in the mail. I would discard all other marketing stuff and rip open only the ones with credit card offers. Invariably, every one of them had some annual fees associated with it. Disheartened, but still hopeful, I kept doing that for a while.
Phase 2. Meh!
Soon I discovered that credit card companies aren't interested in you if you pay off your dues regularly.  You are actually robbing them of the opportunity to charge you obscene interest rates on your balance and huge fines.  I then went into a phase of total ignorance. 'Whatever' is the word I muttered under my breath whenever I saw all this crap in the mail. By this time _every_ mail, other than the ones I knew I need to open (which were no more than 1 in 10s of them) found its way to recycle can.

Phase 3. Aggrrhhh !@#$!
Then came the sate of total frustration when the envelopes weren't a clear indicator of what lies within. I would either open then right away, but increasingly they started finding their way into a stack of 'to be attended later' bin on my table.  It was often weeks before I got to them while they kept piling up on my desk.  Half way through these various phases, I had read somewhere that there exists an option to disable all these mails. Half skeptical, half hopeful and half praying I wished the system was "Default Opt-Out".  Imagine opening a new email account only to find that 99% of emails what look legitimate are actually spam!  And you have to individually unsubscribe out from each one of them
Every time I ripped open an envelope and tossed them into recycle can, my heart ached. I can't go out there and plant a tree every month, but I can 'effing help reduce their falling.

Phase 4. Get up and be a man!
Then one fine day I had it enough. United Airways (in relation to some frequent flyer miles program I had signed up for) kept sending me a letter every freakin' week, it bugged me the most. Discover Credit Card offer came second with the same frequency. Then there was Chase 'Open new account and get $100 credit' nonsense, Clear internet service. Followed by car insurance offers, loan offers, etc.  I said I have to be a man and stand up to this. And the encouragement came to me in the form of a nice article in Reader's Digest I was skimming through just before my bedtime.  Voila! I said to myself, "Let's try this now!" I got up, spent no more than 9 minutes and I crossed my fingers before going to bed that night.  I will never forget that night, because in just about over a week I was GLAD that all the unnecessary mail I didn't want went down. It has been a solid year now since then and my mailbox is going very lean!  Much leaner than most VS models!  Now, 90% of mails I get are the ones that need my attention. A good jump from < 1% before!

I generally don't give out unsolicited advices (but heck, this is my blog, eerr... what I meant was) but I will still give out this once. Because wasting paper hurts me a lot (maybe second only to wasting food, water and time),
I urge you to...
0. Stop all the marketing, banking, etc. flyers by following steps on DMA website
1. Stop paper statements for all your bank statements, credit card statements, utility bills and use internet instead.

The only ones I have not been able to put a stop to are "ValPak" and some thick bundle of newspaper'ly blob that I have NEVER gone through to understand what it is.  ValPak is less annoying because its frequency is very low, but the newspaper'y thing is ANNOYING, a bundle every week!  I am thinking of confronting my postmaster one of the days and figure if there's a way out.

But all in all, this (do-not-distrubt like) registry indeed works like a charm.

I did my bit of going green, did you?
A quick recap...
  1. Go to DMA Choice page and create your login
  2. You have 4 sub-categories to opt-out from. Opt-out of everything:
    Catalogs, Magazine Offers, Other Mail Offers and most annoying of all, Credit Offers.
    The first three are simple click-and-be-done-with-it types.
  3. To opt out of Credit Offers the website redirects you to OptOutPreScreen (link).  Fill out your information and save paper!
I promise it won't take more than 9 mins of your precoious time!

Save Paper, Save Trees, Save Your Time... Go Green!