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Private Citizen, Inc
April 1 - May 1
Last year 54 million trees became 90 billion pieces of junk mail.
The onslaught will grow unless we, the people, fight back.

f Junk Mail
What the Post Office brings, the Post Office shall receive.

This will be fun and easy. It will also put the junk mail industry and Congress on notice that Americans are fed up with their daily trip from mailbox to trash bin. Now, you can help get junk mail out of your mailbox and into the history books, with the Edsel and spray-on hair.

Beginning April 1st (April Fool's Day), when you get junk mail during April, don't open it.  Instead, write "Refused" on it and save it. Then, on  May 1st  (May Day), take it all back to your local post office or drop it in the nearest mail box.  Postal regulations require them to accept and return it to sender or trash it.

On May 1st, tell junk mailers, "Get a life, and stay out of mine".  

Congress will take notice. The result can be a national do-not-mail list.

How to:
- Get off lists -

- Handle credit card junk -
- Other issues -
Tips & Tactics
All about junk mail and the industry that inflicts it on us
Note: The post office now uses the term 'Standard Mail' to describe junk mail. In the past, they referred to it variously as 'Third Class Mail' and 'Bulk Business Mail'. We like the term 'Bulk Business Mail' but think it should be shortened to 'Bulk BM'.

While 85% of us say we get too much junk mail, a recent report found that some types of junk mailings grew by 22% in 2003.
Health Hazard:  The production of paper is an abundant source of dioxin, a carcinogen that poisons air and water.

Wasted Paper: Last year, America's 293,000 letter carriers each delivered 18 tons of junk mail. We recycled a quarter of it. The rest required 300,000 garbage truck trips to incinerators and landfills. Most junk mail is trashed without being read or even opened. Indeed, a junk mail campaign with a 1% response rate may be successful. Yet, the Postal Service encourages firms to send more junk mail.

Cheap postage:  Junk mail postal rates are 25%  (or less) of what we must pay to send the same letter. The fact that advertisers get bargain basement postage rates allows them to equate junk mail growth with revenue growth. That's why, as you increasingly trash their offers, junk mailers increase their attack

Jail mail: Beverly Dennis, an Ohio grandmother, received a survey in the mail promising coupons if she completed and returned it. So, she did. The survey was from Metromail , a firm that collects personal data and sells it to junk mailers. Due to the cheap prison labor rates, the Texas prison system got the job of entering her data (and that of thousands of other survey subjects) into Metromail's massive database.

Beverly's survey got into the hands of a convicted rapist and burglar doing time in Huntsville Texas. The rapist used her personal data to write her a letter, offering to make her sexual fantasies come true. It included, "If you are into sixty-nine, then I am definitely game", and offered "to be there to rub in your Neutrogena", and "maybe later, I can get over to see you."

Drug mail:
 In 2002, Walgreens drug stores sent junk mail containing a month's supply of Prozac to surprised and appalled residents.  An accompanying letter said, ''We are very excited to be able to offer you a more convenient way to take your antidepressant medication,'' One resident who got the unsolicited Prozac said, ''If my grandchildren were there and they got a hold of this little package, they would have thought it was candy.'' A lawsuit filed against Walgreens, concerning the junk mailing of this potent drug, states the resident did not have a Prozac prescription.

Mailing lists: Do you subscribe to Time Magazine, donate to the Arthritis Foundation or shop at PetsMart? If so, your name and address are likely sold to junk mailers. But these aren't the only outfits selling your privacy. Here are a couple webpages, describing more private data that is sold and who sells it.  Medical - Personal
The Supreme Court heard a case known as Rowan v. U.S. Post Office, where junk mailers tried to reverse a law requiring them to abide by a person's request to not receive sexually provocative ads. They claimed the law violated their free speech. The Court didn't buy it, saying "[S]ufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail". The court's rulings have included other gems as well.

The law (39 USC §3008) lets anyone get a prohibitory order against a junk mailer that advertises anything the addressee considers to be sexually provocative. To implement the law (which can be used to stop a broad range of junk mail) you should understand the law's implications. A specific form (PS1500) must be used.

Also, a postal regulation (DMM 508 - 1.1.2) enables folks to notify the post office (in writing) that it is not to deliver mail from specific mailers or generically addressed mail such as to "Current Resident" or "Occupant".

Members of Private Citizen, Inc., who join to Cut Junk Mail receive the necessary forms to implement both the law and regulation described above. We will also contact the largest junk mail firms, telling them to remove you from their lists, and include you in a petition regularly send to Congress, asking for legal limits on junk mail.

Tell Congress: With the creation of the national do-not-call list, more firms are using junk mail. Congress is becoming sensitive to the privacy abusive practices of the direct marketing industry. With some prodding, Congress may draft legislation creating a national do-not-mail list (similar to the do-not-call list). But that requires YOU to write your congressional representative in Washington.

Now, you have an easy way to do that. Click here to go to our webpage with suggested text for your letter and a link to your representative's office. 

The junk mail industry is out of control: Essentially, they admit it. They may make soothing claims to the public and Congress, but when they talk to each other about their intolerable business practices, the direct marketing industry can be quite candid

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has about 5,000 members, including hundreds of America's largest businesses. It is also the nation's most powerful pro-junk mail lobby. In 1990, the DMA's president said, "The goal of the DMA is to discover and to thwart possible government regulation, and we have done it." One way the DMA fights government regulation is to claim that junk mailers regulate themselves.

To that end, the DMA created the Mail Preference Service (MPS) - a list for folks to register their name, address and unwillingness to get junk mail.  When the DMA created a similar list concerning junk calls - the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) - it said, " The TPS will give consumers an alternative to running to their legislators for protection. We must develop a strong self-regulatory posture if we are going to prevent legislation. " Some reasons for the MPS's similar and continuing failure to limit junk mail are noted here .

And that's all it is: posturing.  So much posturing that Congress and the Federal Trade Commission created a national-do-not-call list because of the TPS's spectacular failure in limiting junk calls.

The American public should not be confronted with the obstinance and irresponsibility of junk mailers. There 'oughta be a law' - an effective law - to substantially limit unwanted junk mail. Your participation in Cut Junk Mail Month and a note to your Congressional Representative will help bring that law about.
Growth - Folks are fed up with junk mail:
"Eighty-five percent of consumers say they receive too much unsolicited mail".
See study published by Direct Magazine and Yankelovich, Inc.  -  [back]
Growth - Report:
From: Jan. 13, 2004 EETimes.com (press release wire) Study: Telecom Firms Turned to Mail in 2003
"Total telecommunications direct mail volume increased 22% from 2002 to 2003 , according to a report released yesterday from Mintel's Comperemedia, Chicago, a media monitoring system ". " ... enactment of the national no-call registry in October contributed to the large increase, the report said."
 Also, on October 21, 2003 the DM News (a trade journal) reported that:
"Of the 317 DM News readers polled who said they used outbound telemarketing, 60% said they would increase their use of other marketing channels to make up for the shortfall in telemarketing . When asked what media would be increased, 81% said they would use mail , and nearly 69% said they would use e-mail or online marketing ."  -  [back]
As revenue drops, they send more junk mail.  For example - concerning the credit card industry:
In 1992, they mailed 1-billion offers with 3% of recipients accepting the offer - 1 in 33.
In 2004, they mailed 5.23-billion offers with 0.4% of recipients accepting the offer - 1 in 250.
When junk mailings result in a 87% revenue drop, they pump out more junk mail.  See: chart - [back]
2006 UPDATE:   Mintel Comperemedia reports that 9.2 billion credit card solicitations and 6.8 billion insurance solicitations were distributed via junk mail in 2006.

The junk mail industry admits its sociopathic business model in the quote that follows:
"The systems and technologies of direct marketing have their own momentum, often encouraging DMers to ignore consumer complaints in pursuit of the next small increment of lift and response. This is not a long-term survival strategy because it inherently and deliberately sacrifices consumer goodwill in pursuit of short-term gains. " - Ray Schultz:Editorial Director, Direct Magazine

Health - junk mail and dioxin:
Dioxin is one of the most toxic substances on earth. The Environmental Protection Agency's website says, "U.S. pulp and paper mills are the source of significant amounts of pollutants that are released to the environment. These mills are the source of approximately 245,000 metric tons of toxic air pollutants that are released annually and 19 mills are associated with dioxin-based fish advisories. " "Elemental Chlorine Bleaching is the process currently in place at some existing bleaching plants, and uses chlorine and hypochlorite to brighten the pulp. When elemental chlorine and hypochlorite react with the lignin, they form chlorinated pollutants such as chloroform, dioxins, and furans in the wastewater stream." "Exposure to dioxin and furan can cause skin disorders, cancer, and reproductive effects. These pollutants can also affect the immune system. Note: Dioxin is a component of Agent Orange; the defoliant used by U.S. troops in Vietnam.  -  [back]

When it comes to privacy blunders, Metromail has made it an art. 
They got hold of California's voter registration list and called voters, asking them personal questions under the guise of a (fake) ice cream survey in order to add more private information to its massive database. Since it is illegal to use California's voter registration lists for commercial purposes, they not only lied to thousands of people they called about the 'ice cream survey', they also violated California law.
Shortly after Metromail's parent company publicly stated it did not sell information about children, a Los Angeles TV reporter ordered a list of 5,000 children from Metromail and paid for it with a money order using the name of notorious child killer "Richard Allen Davis" (who kidnapped, raped & murdered 11 year old Polly Klass). Metromail sent the ersatz child murdering reporter, the phone numbers, ages and addresses of children in 5,000 Los Angeles homes.
        At the time of these privacy horrors, Metromail was a member of the Direct Marketing Association. That's the bunch that tells Congress how well direct marketers police themselves.
        Concerning the sale of kids lists; as recently as March '04 yet another list of 3,000 children, ages 5 to 14 years old, was sold by a different list broker to a KGW-TV Oregon reporter claiming to be 'Ward Weaver' - the accused killer of two Oregon City area preteen girls. - [back]

The Law:

Rowan v US Post Office  397 U.S. 728  -   [back]

More Supreme Court gems:
  • In 'Rowan', the Supreme Court also said:
"In effect, Congress ... permits a citizen to erect a wall-that no advertiser may penetrate without his acquiescence."
"[N]o one has a right to press even 'good' ideas on an unwilling recipient."
  • In Carey v. Brown ­ 477 US 455 (1992) the Supreme Court said, concerning direct marketing:
"Our decision reflects... the right... to be let alone in the privacy of the home. Sometimes the last citadel of the tired, the weary and the sick." - [back]

Join Private Citizen:
You may join Private Citizen to Cut Junk Mail by clicking here
To learn more about how Private Citizen cuts junk mail click here  - [back]

Congress: In 2003, when a judge ruled that the Federal Trade Commission did not have authority to create the national do-not-call list, Congress nullified the court's decision with lighting speed and a vote so nearly unanimous as to be comparable to its vote declaring war on Japan.  On January 1, 2004, the CAN-SPAM Act went into effect. Though the Act was promoted and supported by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) as a supposed means to limit unsolicited commercial email, its actual purpose was to derail California's tougher anti-spam law (which gave people the right to sue spammers). The federal Act's spectacular failure in reducing spam is now a pro-privacy beacon in Congress, and a blow to the DMA's lobbying power. -   [back]

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