Tip 32: To keep most of your junkmail from ever reaching your door, sign up for one or several online mail removal services.
In early 2008 I signed up with a site called ProQuo to remove Matt and me from a seemingly endless mound of mailing lists. This free site took me off credit card offers, circular and value-pack (or ValPak, which is also online!) coupon mailings, and copious amounts of catalogs. By March 2008 I had reduced our junkmail from about eight pieces a day to about one or two a day. Even better news, those credit card offers that I loathe basically ceased to arrive. Then, oddly enough, in the last month I've noticed that we're starting to get more junkmail than we have in the last two years. I think it's because ProQuo took us off some lists for just two years.
So, I went back to the ProQuo site the other day. It looks like a generic "site under construction." Then I remembered getting an email from ProQuo about a year ago that said this:
Back to the drawing board! Without ProQuo, what options do I have to painlessly remove myself from junkmail lists for free?
Turns out, there are several:
DMAChoice.org -- this site is run by the Direct Marketing Association. It's free. Signing up only takes a moment, but unlike ProQuo, which used to remove me from many mailing lists with the click of just one button, DMAChoice makes me sort through contact information for lots of companies. This is useful for removing my name from auto insurance company lists, such as AllState and Geico that must send me at least an offer each week. So, it provides me with email, phone and mail contact info, and of course I choose the email option, open a new message and type a generic "To Whom It May Concern: Please remove me from your mailing list" message.
OptOutPrescreen.com -- If you sign up for DMAChoice and you want to get your name removed from credit card offers, you'll be directed to this site. I was also directed to this site back in the day when I thrived from the wonder that was ProQuo. This site is a joint venture among the four major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion. (When you get your credit report or you have a credit check run when you're applying for something like a home loan, you will get lots of numbers from these agencies, or all except for Innovis, which has never shown up in our reports.) The site says:
Removing your name through the OptOutPrescreen site will take you about two minutes. Even if you have no plans to use DMAChoice, this small step is probably worth it.Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion, are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance. The FCRA also allows you the ability to "Opt-Out", which prevents Consumer Credit Reporting Companies from providing your credit file information for firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you.
DirectMail.com's National Do Not Mail List -- The name of this is slightly deceiving because I think it makes people link it to the National Do Not Call Registry, which is a government-run program. This Do Not Mail List is run by DirectMail.com, a direct marketing company. But, I will cut them some slack because this is yet another free site, and it's also exceptionally easy to use. Enter your contact information, receive an email, confirm an email, and then get another email in return. I just did this one today as an experiment, and I got this nice little email in return also encouraging me to add my name to the OptOutPrescreen site as well as the DMAChoice site. So, I think it's safe to say that I have pretty thoroughly covered my bases.
CatalogChoice.org -- This is another free site that used to link through ProQuo, and it has been amazing at reducing my catalog intake. I personally don't like to browse catalogs. I'd rather check store Web sites because by the time I scan a catalog the store has already sold out of my size anyway. Better to know what I'm getting into by going straight to the source and checking size/color availability for any clothing purchases. One word of caution: Even though CatalogChoice is awesome at keeping you off mailing lists, once you make an online purchase at certain stores (I'm talking to you, JCrew and Victoria's Secret) you will need to immediately remove yourself from their mailing list again because they will love to send you weekly catalogs. Returning to CatalogChoice or even sending a customer service email should do the trick.
41pounds.org -- Here's a site I have not and most likely will not try, but I thought I'd throw this one in here because it's often mentioned when it comes to junkmail removal. The site promises to reduce your junkmail intake by 80 to 95 percent, which is nice, but that's also what the free sites can accomplish. Additionally, the site promises to achieve these results for you for five years, eliminating your 41 points of junkmail, but it also costs 41 pounds. The site justifies this cost by saying that it equals 2 cents per day, but to me that's still $41 more than free. The site also claims in its FAQ section:
Still, I just don't buy it (pun!). If you want to do it yourself and for free, you may have to visit two or three sites and spend a little more time, but I don't think what this site offers is $41 better than what I can achieve for free in about 5-10 minutes max.There are some companies that offer free services which might sound similar to 41pounds.org, but if you read the fine print you’ll find out that they do NOT provide the complete five-year service that 41pounds.org provides. Some services only stop catalogs, not the rest of your junk mail — like credit card offers which can lead to identity theft. Others only stop a portion of your junk mail — just from the companies that are part of their group. Some that claim to stop your junk mail actually make their money from direct mail companies who very much want to send you their marketing mail. 41pounds.org removes your name from the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) list, which applies to the companies that are members of this marketing trade association. You can contact DMA yourself, but you will find this is not a complete solution since they don’t stop credit card applications and many other forms of junk mail (such as PennySavers, ValPak, etc.)
Here are a couple quick recommendations for using these sites:
- Make sure they're free.
- Make sure they're easy to use. (This is part of my argument against DMAChoice; it seems needlessly complicated.)
- Avoid ones that expect you to send a letter in the mail because, let's face it, that's both: 1) annoying and 2) ironic, and you're never going to get around to putting that letter in the mail. I've been there.
- With his or her permission, also remove other people who share your address. Most likely they want you to anyway, so encouraging your friends and loved ones to go as green as possible and reduce clutter is always a good idea.
- As with so many things related to organization, be patient. It may take until May for you to really notice a reduction in your junkmail, but it will be worth it.
So, now I'm hoping that my junkmail purge round 2 will go well. I'll keep you posted on the results.