We’re all used to receiving a fair amount of junk mail, whether anonymously shoved through letterboxes by hand, or sent from some big corporation’s elusive PO Box. No doubt like the majority of you, I normally follow the same old routine when handed a bunch of envelopes from the doormat by someone else in the house. The bills and important mail are recognisable, and get dealt with first. Then there’s sometimes a few branded envelope that elicit the following response…
I sigh, wonder how they got my address, open up the envelopes, have a brief glance at advertisements-pertaining-to-be-letters that invariably do not interest me, and then dump the lot into our recycling bin.
Given that in the UK alone, 17.5 billion pieces of junk mail are produced annually, this has always irritated me in that sort of low-level, stepping-in-something-on-the-way-to-work manner. It seems inevitable, unless you can be bothered to do anything about it. However, having a little spare time on my hands at the moment, I was spurred into action by yet another piece in a long line of junk mail from Direct Line. Here is the inoffensive item in all its glory:
My annoyance productively manifested itself in a (very British) letter of complaint. Here is my response…
18th September 2009Mr James Sturrock, Marketing Department, Direct Line, Direct Line House, 3 Edridge Road, Croydon, CR9 1AG.
Dear Mr James Sturrock,
Re: Letter RBSIDL286 SHORT/SEPT
I’m writing to politely request that I am removed from your generic junk mailing list. At no point did I request unsolicited advertisements from yourselves, not least because I have no interest in your products. I own no car that would require the insurance that you have nevertheless repeatedly written to sell me; one would think that this would be a prerequisite for your services.
I note your ironic use of the ‘sustainable forests’ and ‘please recycle’ symbols on the envelope. Perhaps the environment would prefer you didn’t waste untold tonnes of paper on bombarding apparently random doormats with untargeted and unwarranted marketing materials in the first place. Thus I obligingly enclose your letter for you yourself to recycle.
Rest assured, after many months of receiving junk mail from you, I believe I know your company’s dubious marketing, privacy, and environmental principles ‘a good deal better’, and will take this into account when advising friends and family, or when choosing car insurance myself should ever I need it.
Many thanks in advance for your assistance in this matter, and I eagerly await confirmation that my request has been fulfilled.
And bam, that’s how you deal with junk mail. Or requests to pay to ‘administration fees’ to be ‘processed’ for waiting lists for unconditional entry into a Catholic college. Or for being charged extra to cover ‘rising energy costs’ at your already over-priced yet energy-inefficient gym.
Let’s just say that this is not the first time I’ve written a semi-sarcastic letter to which I’m unlikely to get a response. Nevertheless, it is far more personally satisfying than just chucking away the letter, or merely ignoring the offending incident. And on both the other aforementioned occasions I took a little time to harass both institutions in question into apologies which made me very smug indeed.
Hell, if it means re-sending the letter a few times, and copying in the President of the company, just to get an embarrassing step-down letter from only one of the many sources of junk mail, it’d be a small victory for consumer privacy, and my mind can rest. And in the long run, the trees can celebrate with me.
Me 1, annoying junk mail 0.
In all seriousness, if you are in the UK and receiving lots of junk mail, I would recommend signing up to the Mail Preference Service, which removes your information from direct mailing lists generically used by most marketing departments. It takes up to four months to come fully into effect, and does not affect overseas or unaddressed mail, but they claim “the MPS can remove your name from up to 95% of Direct Mail lists”, which will do both you and the environment a favour.