I recently checked the mail only to realize that it was nothing but junk mail and credit card applications. Does this sound like you too? Let’s face it, US mail has become relatively obsolete. The USPS was established in 1792 to guarantee the sanctity of personal correspondence, and provide the entire country with low-cost access to information. Back then, the postal service was how you received the newspaper which was the primary way to get information before radio and television. In modern society, information can be freely exchanged on TV and the internet, and through email, text messaging, and several other forms of communication. Heck, I get more important messages through Snapchat than I do in the mail.
Every day I sift through credit card applications, coupons, and ads.
There are only a handful of reasons for me to check the mail. I get an occasional billing statement, greeting card or invitation, but nothing that can’t be converted to digital if the sender were so inclined. I recently realized that the primary reason I check my mailbox is simply to make room for more mail.
Where does all this junk mail come from?
Whenever you fill out a change of address form with the United States Postal Service, the USPS adds your new details into a database of 160 million previous address changes over the past four years. The USPS has deals with data brokers to sell this data to anyone who pays, provided they have your old address. This is how junk mail follows you from location to location.
Here’s an approximate breakdown of my mail
I wish I had done an actual study before I put an end to this madness, but this is a ballpark estimate. ~83% of the mail I receive is garbage… Literally. We’ve become so accustomed to receiving this type of mail that we don’t even think about it anymore. The 15% of bills can be reduced or eliminated by signing up for digital statements. That leaves us with the 2% of personal items, which consist of greeting cards, invitations, and items I ordered that were small enough to fit in my mailbox.
How to Stop Junk Mail & Credit Card Applications
Recently I began to wonder if there was a way to unsubscribe from unwanted mail just like you can unsubscribe from unwanted emails. The answer to that is YES, you can. It only took be a few minutes of research to find, but there is a website called https://www.dmachoice.org/ which is an online tool developed by the Direct Marketing Association to help you manage your mail. DMA represents nearly 3,600 organizations and their website is part of a larger program designed to respond to consumers’ concerns over the amount of mail they receive. This site helps you opt out from receiving the following categories:
- Magazine Offers (this includes subscription offers, newsletters, periodicals and other promotional mailings)
- Other Mail Offers (this includes donation requests, bank offers, retail promotions and more)
- Credit Offers
To do this, you’ll need to create an account. Once created, you can go to “Manage My Mail” and choose to stop each of the categories listed above. Credit card offers are the only exception, and must be opted out of from Optoutprescreen.com which is a collaborated effort by credit bureaus as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Your decision to opt out must be renewed every 5 years or your name will go back on the lists. Optoutprescreen.com also offers the option to permanently opt out by sending your request via mail. I assume that’s because they know people are much less likely to actually mail something. Both of these websites try very hard to highlight the benefits of junk mail and downplaying concerns about creating waste and harming the environment. I’m sure those topics could be debated in great length, but right now I’m just concerned about eradicating my junk mail.
How to Stop Getting Mail for Previous Residents
According to the Postal Service, all you need to do is indicate that resident has moved. You can do this by writing “Moved” or “Return to Sender” directly on the envelope with a pen or placing a sticky note on the envelope. I’ve even heard of some people leaving a pen or sticky note in their mailbox so they’re prepared for the future. Then leave the mail in your mailbox for the carrier to pick up next-day. The mail for the previous resident will be returned to the sender and *hopefully* they will remove your address from their list.
For the record, I have no issue with companies bombarding people with advertisements or credit card applications.
Corporations have every right to do what they can to acquire new customers. I simply want you be aware of what our mail system has become and know that you have the right to opt out. Since completing this opt out process, I’ve seen a HUGE reduction in my mail. There’s still be a few things that seem to slip through the cracks. In the past two months I’ve probably received two credit card applications total, but that’s a lot better than the two a day I was getting. All in all, the five minutes it took to opt out was well worth my time and I suggest you do the same.
To opt out for five years: Call toll-free 1-888-5-OPT-OUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit www.optoutprescreen.com. The phone number and website are operated by the major consumer reporting companies.
To opt out permanently: You may begin the permanent Opt-Out process online at www.optoutprescreen.com. To complete your request, you must return the signed Permanent Opt-Out Election form, which will be provided after you initiate your online request.
When you call or visit the website, you’ll be asked to provide certain personal information, including your home telephone number, name, Social Security number, and date of birth. The information you provide is confidential and will be used only to process your request to opt out.