Thursday, December 29, 2016

The "Please Remove Us" grind

In spite of my best efforts (well, maybe not my best efforts, but at least my substantial efforts) to get off of junk mailing lists, those junk mailers keep gifting me unwanted cards, catalogs, and brochures.

The credit card offers that come with postage-paid return envelopes, I return with the request "please remove us from your mailing list".  In fact, because somehow my husband keeps attracting new credit card offers, I printed up a bunch of mailing labels with that phrase that I slap onto the credit card offers, just to save time.  In double fact, I like these mailing labels so much that I printed up multiple sheets of them, and gave copies to my daughters for Christmas, so they can do the same.  (You're welcome, daughters!  Nothing but the best for you!)

By the way, those "privacy" statements that I get annually from the credit card companies?  I've taken to reading them carefully, and then contacting the companies (or delegating my husband to contact them, since they're mostly his credit cards) to limit sharing if that's not already the default.  That has also helped a lot in reducing unwanted junk mail.

If junk mail doesn't come with its own return envelope, I save it in a yellow folder titled "please remove us", and when the folder gets full, I spend an hour or two removing myself from mailing lists.  Fortunately, this folder takes longer and longer to fill these days; I think the last time I had a "please remove us" binge was eight or nine months ago.

I've made extensive use of a web-based organization called Catalog Choice.  If Catalog Choice has the company on file, usually a few clicks will stop future mail from that company.  Today I managed to get on the "please remove us" list of four or five companies in about 15 minutes. But that left six more pieces of mail where the only way to stop new mail was to make telephone calls.  Ugh!

Enter N-son.  I offered him an exorbitant fee (50 cents per catalog or flyer) to do the calling for me.  He, of course, was reluctant; it's scary talking on the phone with a business when you're just a kid.  But his apprehension just convinced me all the more that this would be a good life skill for him to have, so I coached him through how to make a call, and I gave him one piece of mail at a time so I could ensure each call went according to plan.  The only company he didn't reach directly was a place called "Carpet Mart", and he left a message on their answering machine.  We'll see how that goes!

N-son did so well that I wish I had thought of conscripting my children in my anti-junk mail crusade several years earlier.  Not only would I have saved a bunch of telephone time myself, but I would have given my children lessons on how to talk to a sales person or customer representative, and let them realize how non-scary it actually is.  Parents with younger children, take note!

Here, in case you've never done it yourself, is how to get off a mailing list with a phone call.  Usually, the hardest part is finding a number to call.  Call that number, and when someone answers, say "we would like to be removed from your mailing list." Sometimes they transfer you to somebody else.  You will need to read the name and address off the mail you already got, and sometimes a catalog number and/or customer number.  Say thank you, and you're done.


  1. I also love Catalog Choice, but have not made any phone calls. I have enjoyed getting the credit card offers, though recently I've been thinking I should switch to using credit unions only. Then I think I saw a thing you can do to stop getting credit card offers.

    What other kinds of things do you have to make calls for?

    1. The calls today were for two garden catalogs that came to our address in some stranger's name, Johns Hopkins Health Review (which mysteriously signed my husband up for a newsletter), a local theater company, and Carpet Mart, and something else I can't remember.

    2. Ah, okay, interesting. I know you can use Catalog Choice for all kinds of different names (and spellings of names) and different versions of your address.

      But it makes sense you would have to make calls for the local groups.

      Currently the worst offender at my house is AT&T, but I'm a customer, so I guess they're allowed to send me stuff every single day. I could try calling them.

      Oh, and with gentrification, all the people begging me to sell them my house without fixing it up first so they can make a killing re-selling it. Forgot about those. They are extra mean (making it look like a real letter or even a real Christmas card) and then they lie to you (oh, I just sold my house in the neighborhood and want to buy yours). Ugh.