‘Seniors love to get junk mail’ – I don’t think so

George Brown
“Seniors love to get junk mail. It’s sometimes their only way of communicating or feeling like they’re part of the real world.”

Those were the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid a couple of months ago.

I hope you’ll understand I’m not taking a political position in saying I could not disagree more with Senator Reid. If you’re like me, at the least you get frustrated with the amount of junk mail that arrives in your mailbox each day, and at the worst you get madder than a wet hornet because there doesn’t seem to be a darn thing you can do about it. Well, actually there is, if you want to go to the time and trouble.

But first a few words about why we receive so much junk mail. Reason number one – businesses, including everyone from your neighborhood grocery to mega corporations like Wal-Mart, believe you will buy their products if you receive enough of their junk mail advertisements encouraging you to do so; and it works. You may not agree, but they wouldn’t be spending all that money if it didn’t work.

The other reason your mailbox is a junk ads repository is that our founding fathers had the wisdom to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that gives all citizens, including businesses, Freedom of Speech.

How can you stop junk mail? The answer is summed up well in an article by Shelly Schumacher at First, Schumacher describes the scope of the problem. The average American receives over 40 pounds of junk mail each year, which requires 100,000 trees to produce (although more and more material is recycled), and nearly 50 percent of junk mail winds up in landfills. For what little bit it helps Yvonne and I recycle nearly every scrap of the junk mail we receive, after removing identifying information.

Schumacher goes on to list the ways you can stop or at least reduce the amount of junk mail you receive. I like her first suggestion the best. Black out the bar code and your address on junk mail that is delivered to you using first class postage (this is an important factor.) Put a circle around the postage and write “Not accepted – return to sender”, and put it back in the mailbox.

Another idea I heard about that Schumacher doesn’t mention is a way to handle the junk mail that provides a No Postage Necessary return envelope. Put a big X through the offer and in bold letters write the words “No Thanks” on it, then put the offer and the original envelope both in the return envelope and put it in the mail. Even if the merchant keeps mailing offers, you get rid of the junk mail and have the satisfaction of making the merchant pay double postage.

Schumacher’s other major suggestion is to sign up with as many of the Do Not Mail lists as possible. Yes, there is something called Do Not Mail lists.

Signing up with Do Not Mail lists could cut the volume of junk mail you receive by as much as half. An excellent example of Do Not Mail sites is Other ideas identified on the website include: contact and tell them to remove your name from the lists their vendors use; call 800-5-OPTOUT to stop mail generated by major credit reporting agencies (this primarily stops credit card offers); and call companies that mail catalogs that you don’t want and tell them to remove your name from their mailing list. Unfortunately, these ideas all require some effort on your part, and you have to contact the Do Not Mail list organizations every five years to stay on the list.

I do have one last idea to share. Save your junk mail for a month or so then invite some friends over and have a bonfire. They can bring their junk mail to add to yours, and watching it all go up in smoke should offer some satisfaction.

George Brown is freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.