Drowning in Junk Mail – Rules for the Stop Junk Mail Project

After I wrote the last post I realized that I had never told you guys what my rules were. I talk about them throughout the blog, but I never said what they were.

Junk Mail Rules

The Rules for the stop junk mail project:

Spend as little time as possible dealing with the mail.
I wrote a blog about the mail so I spent about 1,000% more time touching, photographing, researching the mail than a normal person should. If I hadn’t documented everything, I would have spent about 1-3 hours a week on the mail. Put all the mail in a box. Sort through it once a week, enter it into PaperKarma, then call and email the people who sent the most junk mail in a week.
This philosophy is what lead me to going after the fundraising companies and direct mail firms. If I could go above the piece of mail in my hand and stop another 5, or 10 charities who use the same direct mail firms, that would save me time.

Spend as little money as possible.
I only used postage to send Form 1500’s out. I bought all the supplies at the dollar store or Wal-Mart using the money that was sent to me in the junk mail.

When dealing with the people who work in the direct mail industry, treat them with respect. 
Call it social engineering. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Use whatever philosophy you need to get you through the interaction with them. You need their help. You need them to do what you want them to do. Coming at them from an angry place will get you nowhere. These people are at work and have a job to to. Do you like it when people come out of nowhere and start yelling at you at work? No. If someone is throwing a temper tantrum are you going to go out of your way to help them? No. Of corse I say all of that and I blew up at someone. Even I had a breaking point.
One thing I did learn is that instead of saying “I need to get my relative off your mailing list.” Say “I need to get off your mailing list.” It was a lot easier to get the person on the phone to help me if I became the person who’s mail I was trying to stop.

Keep emails as short, and on point as possible.
The emails I sent were very short:

Subject line: Remove from Mailing lists

Body of email:
Please remove
from your mailing lists.
Thank you,

No long story about your loved one. They don’t care. If they cared about the pain their junk mail causes, they would work to stop the out of control selling and trading of personal information in the direct mail industrial complex.

Keep track of when the mail should stop. Follow up when it doesn’t.
March Calendar
I used one of the calendars that came in the junk mail to keep track of when junk mail from each group should stop. Use whatever system works best for you. Following up is very important. They are counting on you forgetting about them in 8 weeks. If you get something on the 9th week call and email them that day. Don’t let them push you around. If you have to, email the CEO of whatever group you are trying to stop. Every mailpiece they send after it should have stopped is another email and another phone call, until the junk mail stops.

If the junk mail doesn’t stop, tattle on them to anyone who will listen.

I'm not going to be ignored, junk mail

I’m not going to be ignored, junk mail

They have promised that the junk mail will stop in 8 weeks, twice now. But after 16 weeks the junk mail hasn’t stopped. It is time to take it to the next level. If not for you then for the next person who has the same problem with the same people. If enough complaints are filed someone will take notice. File complaints with the DMA, and your state’s Attorney General.

While it won’t stop the junk mail you can also file complaints with the FTC and the  U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Many a criminal investigation was started with someone seeing a lot of complaints with the FTC or the USPS.

If you really want to make a stink go to the media. Reporters are always looking for a good story, and everyone hates junk mail.  Every local TV station and newspaper has a customer advocate “On your side” reporter.  Contact them and tell them what you are going through to stop junk mail, who won’t stop after all that hard work, and how it has affected your family. This story from ABC15 Arizona is a perfect example of the type of story I am talking about.

Are there any other rules for stopping junk mail I should have?

Drowning in Junk Mail – How to get Junk Mail Revenge

How to get junk mail revenge

How to get junk mail revenge

This is not the first step to stopping junk mail. Read the Start Here page to see how stuffing envelopes fits into my battle plan for stopping junk mail. This is the fun part of stopping junk mail. It is like arts & crafts. Get the kids involved! Everyone loves glitter and sharpies!

Things you will need for this project:

  1. Pre-paid envelops found in the junk mail you want to stop.
  2. Flat objects that will fit into the envelope.
  3. A black marker.

There are 2 goals for this project:

  1. Cost the junk mailer money.
  2. Be so annoying to the people who open the mail, that they will take you off the mailing list.

This is the least effective way to stop junk mail. It is more therapy than anything else. I found it very satisfying every week filling the envelopes with garbage, sending it off and “sticking to the man.” The goal was to be as annoying to them as they were to me. If they are going to waste my time will all that junk mail, I am going to cost them money.

First I will tell you what not to do. Then I will show you the best way to get some small bit of revenge on the people hammering you with junk mail.

Return to sender
One of the first things people do when they want to stop junk mail is write “Return to Sender” on the envelope and put it back in the mail box. This no longer works. The postal worker will just toss it out.

There are also some popular memes on the net on how to stop junk mail:

LOL look he put a bricks and rocks in a box then mailed it off!!11!!

The only problem is that this doesn’t work. A pre-paid envelope is not a mailing label. It is an envelope. The postal worker can declare it trash and toss it out.

What about a brick? Can I put the pre-paid envelope on a brick??
Pre-paid envelope taped to a brick
Again no. You can’t put a pre-paid envelope on a brick and expect it to get to it’s destination.

From the Straightdope, From MotherJones.com

“According to rule 917.243(b) in the Domestic Mail Manual, when a business reply card is “improperly used as a label” — e.g., when it’s affixed to a brick — the item so labeled may be treated as “waste.” That means the post office can toss it in the trash without further ado.”

We must work within the rules that the postoffice has set up.

Time for a video!

Let’s review:

No Postage Necessary if Mailed in the United States
Gather up all the pre-paid return envelopes you get in the junk mail.

When you are done stuffing the envelope, you want it to be thick so that it costs more. Over 1/4in is best.

You want the envelope to be stiff so it won’t go through the sorting machine. The guy in the video spent money to buy the pieces of wood. Spending lots of money is a no no and goes against one of my rules. I bet that if you go through the week’s junk mail or your closet you will find something stiff to slide into the envelope.

Put old CD's in medium envelopes, it will make it stiff and cost them more postage

Note cards? Or other thick, stiff paper.

stuffed envelope 50 grams
Don’t have any of that? You can also use shredded paper.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democratic National Committee, Stuffed envelope
Now for some fun. Stuff the envelope as full as you can with other junk mail.

stuffing the envelopes of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
In this example I have pulled the old political switcharoo. Slick Willy goes in the RNC envelope, and 41 goes into the Democratic Senate something something envelope. Mix it up as much as you can. Try not to put the same junk mail back in the return envelope. You want to come off as goofy as possible. You want to to be kicked off the mailing list.

Since all they want from you is money toss in a fake check or 2.

Princess Money from the Dollar store
or Princess money from the dollar store.

Stuffed Fake Lottery
In this example the entry fee for the fake lottery was $10. So I slipped in a fake $10 bill.

I also liked to use perfume samples from magazines.
perfume samples from magazines
Tear them out and cut them up into smaller pieces. If you keep them in a baggy all together the smells all combine into an ungodly stench.

National Republican Congressional Committee
DNC Survey
Fill out their little survey (I always tried to make junk mail the #1 issue that Americans were concerned about). Then write “Take me off your mailing list” in large friendly letters with a black marker. The guy in the video talks about “having a conversation” with the junk mail sender. You can write a note about how the junk mail has affected your family, or any other topic you want.

Adding glitter
Then top it all off with a sprinkle of glitter.

I will repeat: The goal is to be as annoying as possible. Nothing is more annoying as glitter mixed with stinky shredded paper all over the office.

Stuffed, Sharpied and ready to go
Mark out all the bar codes on the front of the envelope. This makes the post office sorting computer not to read the envelope and causes an extra step for the postal workers. The post office will charge them for the extra sorting time.

What is you favorite thing to stuff an envelope with?