Reduce Junk Mail By Returning To Sender

Cut down on your junk mail with this tip from reader Jake:

    My wife and I started returning credit card offers and Columbia House mailings back to the company through the enclosed postage-paid envelope. To make our point clear, we circle our address in red and write in big letters “PLEASE REMOVE ME FROM YOUR MAILING LIST. THANKS.”.

    Then we stuff everything in there – even the envelope it was mailed in, and drop it in our mailbox on the company’s dime.

    We’ve noticed a significant decline in credit card offers since my wife started doing this. Sure beats trying to get the paper shredder unstuck after chewing through the day’s junk mail.

Don’t forget another great way to reduce junk mail: register on the Direct Marketing Association’s Do Not Mail list.

— BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. Pay them a dollar to remove my name? Screw that. I’ll continue using Jake’s strategy until they learn that I should have to opt-in not opt-out.

  2. SexCpotatoes says:

    Has anyone successfully attached one of those postage paid envelopes to a brick and dropped it in a mailbox lately?

  3. You can also simply opt out of credit card offers with the main credit bureaus. More details on this and other strategies here:

    Protect your privacy in three easy steps

  4. bmcgann says:

    I can assure you that this will have little to no impact on the amount of junk mail you receive. If, for example, Citibank mailed you a credit card offer, then maybe they would key your information into a suppression file, which would be used on future mailings to prevent you from being included. But that is a long shot. And it wouldn’t have any impact on mailings from, say CapitalOne or any other credit card company. Put yourself on DMA’s Do Not Mail list, that will most definitely work.

  5. acambras says:

    However ineffective it might be, bmcgann, I think it would give me a little bit of satisfaction to mail all that crap back to the sender at their expense.

  6. Ben Popken says:

    Electoral College Dropout, the DMA only costs a stamp if you send them a letter.

  7. misskaz says:

    It took a few months, but I have seen a significant decline in the credit card offers I receive since I opted out at optoutprescreen.com.

  8. jacques says:

    I did the opt-out for the credit cards. I was sorely disappointed – half of them stopped, half didn’t. I’m now down to a trickle, but only after hounding Citi and a few others to stop multiple times.

    Plus I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling from giving out my social security number on the automated phone number.

  9. Myron says:

    Everytime I get a credit card offer I call the number on the application and ask to be taken off their solicitation list. This took a few months but now I rarely get offers.

    Also, instead of making the credit card company pay 15 cents for the return envelope, they pay five dollars for someone to answer the phone.

  10. chasnleo says:

    I read in one place where a man made up a box of junk that weighed in at 73 lbs and attached the return to sender envelope on it, that was the last of the mail he got from them.

  11. billhelm says:

    I opted out of the credit cards offers at http://www.optoutprescreen.com several years ago, and that’s reduced my credit card solicitations to almost nothing.

  12. Sam says:

    SexCpotatoes –

    Anything that fits in the envelope is fair game.

    I like to put other people’s ads into the postage page envelope and mail those back. I’m not interested in a new credit card, but maybe I can interest them in a discount on a new car.

    Now, if I could get sheets of lead in the #10 envelope size, I’d be in business…

  13. SharkJumper says:

    I heard a similar suggestion back in the day, but the tipster suggested trading around the junk mail in the prepaid return envelopes. In other words, Citibank gets offers from Columbia House, Columbia House gets a Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, PCH gets credit card offers. So everyone has an interesting day.

    I like the brick idea, too, though. Failing that, perhaps as much weight as possible. Would that drive the price of the return postage up, or is it already set at a flat rate? Maybe they’d like those coupon books that we never use.

  14. AcilletaM says:

    Billhelm is correct, going to http://www.optoutprescreen.com will reduced credit card offers to almost zero. It won’t stop companies who abuse the previous business relationship excuse like Sallie Mae and American Airlines but Capital One stopped.

  15. AcilletaM says:

    umm, also, I thought prepaid postage means no matter what you send they still pay 13 cents or whatever.

  16. acambras says:

    I used to have a problem with Citibank sending me about 15-20 credit card solicitations a month — as AcilletaM says, having an existing business relationship with them really makes it hard to eliminate the junk mail.

    Finally I reached my breaking point and called Citibank. I ranted a bit about the huge volumes of junk mail they were sending and told them that the ONLY piece of mail I wanted to receive from them was my monthly account statement.

    This was all pre-Consumerist, so I probably didn’t do a very good job at articulating my thoughts and demands effectively. But it must have worked, because since then (several years and two moves later), I very rarely get anything from Citibank besides my statement.

    I need to call the companies and get them to stop sending those damn “convenience checks.” I’m scared to try the “return to sender” tactic described above for fear of interception and identity theft.

  17. Dustbunny says:

    I’ve been mailing everything back like Jake says for about a year. It’s definitely cut waaay down on the credit card offers, especially from Citi and Amex.

    Now if I could just get Lane Bryant to stop sending me their catalog of ugly-ass clothes…

  18. robdew says:

    Not particularly original or effective, and attaching a brick to a BRE is probably skirting mail fraud.

    http://www.faqs.org/faqs/privacy/junk-mail/

    http://www.junkbusters.com/self.html#mail

  19. corporatedrone says:

    Actually Ben, it’s still a buck if you send it by mail. $1.39 with the stamp…

  20. Max Power says:

    Once credit card ads are eliminated, does anyone have a method of reducing the unbelievable amounts of junk coupons and “super saver” magazines my apt gets every day?

  21. LintMan says:

    Ben, check out the DMA site again. Even though it says in one part “$1 fee for online registration”, it also says:
    “Fill out the mail-in registration form below with all required information. Print the form and mail it with a $1 check or money order, payable to the Direct Marketing Association, to the address on the form”

    The scumbags are charging you $1 either way to opt out. They should call it an “extortion fee”.

  22. I’m with Max Power. If I want to get those, I’d love to be able to just subscribe/unsubscribe through a website or something.

  23. saltshaker says:

    I don’t know about the 73#s mentioned earlier, but most self adressed return envelopes are good to about 40#s. Know one fellow who put about 25 – 30#s of bricks in a box along with the mail that came with it, taped the return envelope on the box and mailed it. It is legal and they get the message.

  24. Ben Popken says:

    Frank writes:

    “These offers are generated based on information in your credit report, and the four major credit bureaus offer a combined opt-out option that will stop all the mailings. It’s online at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t or you can call toll-free 1-888-567-8688.

    And yes… it actually works! I haven’t received one of these offers in about two years.”

  25. Ben Popken says:

    Lintman, oh, I didn’t notice that. That wasn’t there when I used the service last. Cockmonkeys!

  26. armishanks says:

    Some of the credit card companies have wised up. In their Terms and Conditions, they state that nothing can be included in the payment envelope except for the payment stub and check. If anything else is included (like all the crap fliers they include when they send something to you), they can deem your payment late.

    Since they use automated mail openers, the returned fliers mucks up their systems.

  27. B* says:

    My university sold our mailbox addresses, so I was getting junk mail from the same credit card companies numerous times each week. Luckily, I had a lot of garbage to send back. I quickly discovered that a few envelopes overflowing with empty Reese’s wrappers and other trash is a pretty effective solution.

  28. Hoofhearted says:

    We sometimes mess with the junkmail folks by sending them other junkmail we have recieved jammed into their “no postage necessary” envelope and mailing it back… Wastes their money as they waste my time :)

  29. acambras says:

    LOL Ben — “cockmonkeys” — I like that.

    Is a cockmonkey worse than an asshat?

  30. greendimes says:

    Here is one other option for reducing junk mail and helping the planet: GreenDimes, a service that has a fee, yes, but does a few more things for you and saves you time and energy. Here’s the skinny: GreenDimes, for a dime a day ($36/year) will remove you from the DMA list (including that $1 charge), the optoutprescreen, and many other direct mail lists and unauthorized credit card offers, etc.

    However here are the four bonuses, GreenDimes will also:
    1. unsubscribe you from any catalogs you no longer want.
    2. revisit mailing lists to ensure you continue to stay off the lists
    3. plant a tree for you every month
    And you only have to fill out an online form once, GreenDimes contacts all the rest of the companies on your behalf.

    So kudos to you who reduce your junk mail on your own, but if you don’t have the time and need the counter space, GreenDimes is a great option: http://www.greendimes.com

  31. hotshot1 says:

    Well, I had some problems with Chase Bank. They turned me down for a credit card but keep sending the credit card offers.
    Now, each time they send me a credit card offer, I drop the unwanted mail in their night deposit and file ANOTHER complaint with the Better Business Bureau for not removing me from their mailing list.
    I’m waiting to see how many complaints that it will take to get me removed from mail list.