Atlas Shrugged Junk Mail

God bless our obsessive-compulsive readership. Without you guys, we wouldn’t have entertaining MP3s of foul-mouthed CSRs cursing your mother, let alone an answer to the question “how much junk mail does our average reader get in 9 months?”

The answer, courtesy of Carl? Living with his lovely wife and two children in their home in suburban Denver, he has received 170 pounds worth of junk mail since the beginning of the year.

We envision a world where someone comes up with a spam filter for your front mail slot. Perhaps a twitching Swedish Murder Machine who begins dangerously twitching as soon as the mailman walks up the path. Carl’s breakdown, after the jump.

I had to smile at the story you posted recently about junk mail awareness week. Apparently some woman has been keeping all the catalogs she received and weighing them. The average person might say, “she needs to get a life.” I can’t imagine what they’d say about me. I decided this year to not only save the junk mail, I’ve actually counted, categorized, and weighed each piece of mail received at my household. I did this because last December I noticed I was throwing away the vast majority of mail I received. So in 2006, I decided to find out just how much.

My household consists of me, my wife, and two children age 6 and 3. We live in suburban Denver. Apparently we are right in the prime demographic to receive junk mail. Here are the raw, astonishing statistics, through September 30:

• Total mail received: 2,303 pieces weighing a total 290 pounds

• Junk mail received: 1,522 pieces for 170 pounds. That is 66% of total volume and 59% of total weight.

• The worst offender is catalogs. We have received 434 junk catalogs, accounting for 19% of our total volume and 37% of our total weight. That’s 106 pounds of junk catalogs. An average of 2 catalogs per day right to the trash. That’s my definition of junk, anyway–I throw it right away upon receiving it.

• We have received 270 credit card or mortgage refinance offers, all of it unsolicited junk. Total weight over 13 pounds.

• By contrast, we received only 147 personal letters or so far, for a scant ten pounds. The vast majority of that is cards and gifts for our kids sent by Grandma. In fact, I can only find two people under the age of 50 that have sent us a letter in the mail. Interesting.

• Coupons account for 264 pieces and 15 pounds.

• We do get plenty of legit mail, such as bills and magazines we’ve ordered. But even the heavy magazines account for just over 75 total pounds. And as for the bills and other “official” pieces, they add up to 17 pounds of fun. You know, the fun of mutual fund prospecti, health insurance statements, and other things easily sent by email.

Keep in mind these statistics are only for mail received through September. The holiday catalog season is coming up, and it is conceivable our household could see a quarter-ton of mail pass through our humble aluminum mail box in a year’s time. And what the catalog producers should know is that I do on occasion order from their clients. But always over their web sites, never by phone. And for this I should be punished with hundreds of pounds of useless catalogs? Why? Why?!


Edit Your Comment

  1. Mike_ says:

    Ack! Don’t put it in the trash! RECYCLE!

  2. mandarynn says:

    I’m hoping that pretty soon, it will be too expensive for companies to send out this junk mail and have to resort to electronically sending all their junk. At least the spam filters would do all the work.

  3. Triteon says:

    mandarynn: Sorry, but that won’t happen. I work in the ad industry and the ROI is too large for direct-mail to go away, unless– and I’ve said this before– enough people opt-out of receiving direct-mail. It costs a buck (U.S.) on the DMA website to register your junk mail to be stopped.

  4. Hooray4Zoidberg says:

    I’ve recieved the same credit card offer twice a week for like 5 years now. At some point you’d think they’d give up. I could probably opt out of it, but it’s become a constant in my life. Just like the sun rises every morning, Citibank will send me a credit card application every Tuesday.

  5. Pelagius says:

    From the Washington Post 8/29/06:
    When Margaret Reynolds worked as a technical editor, she learned an important lesson: Numbers count.

    Data. Statistics. Proof . That’s how you get your message across.

    So last year, disgusted by the amount of unwanted catalogues she received in the mail and worried that the planet was sinking under the sheer weight of them, she decided to do something.

    “I thought, ‘Well let’s just find out what we’re dealing with here,’ ” said Margaret, 66.

    She started a routine: saving the catalogues as they came in each day, piling them in boxes and then lugging the boxes to her bathroom at the end of each month. She weighed them on the bathroom scale, photographed them, noted the poundage and then put them into the recycling.

    The bottom line: 165 pounds of catalogues in 2005.

  6. Asherah says:

    Perhaps I’m naive, but why should I have to pay (any amount) to have this incessant annoyance stop? From the DMA site: “Members of the DMA are required to use our name-removal service, and other marketers are encouraged to use it.” My $1 won’t even make it stop those who are merely “encouraged”…argh. The question is, would it be beneficial to print a form letter if needed, or make a phone call to each company to request name removal?

  7. For reference, here’s the direct link to the DMA website page which tells how to register to be removed from mailing lists:

  8. chemman says:

    If you’d like to cut down on the unsolicited credit card offers you need to register here

    You can find more info about this program on the ftc’s website

    I did this about a year ago and now I hardly every receive credit applications, my wife on the other hand never registered and still receives an average of 2 applications a day! It takes a few months (2 to 4 I’d estimate) to really see an impact since many of the companies may have you on file already as having good credit so may still send them out until their next prescreen cycle.

  9. Triteon says:

    …why should I have to pay (any amount) to have this incessant annoyance stop?

    Let me point out this is the only advertising medium that allows the target consumer to opt-out. You can’t get out of being exposed to ads on TV (and trust me, agencies are already working around Tivo) or radio, in magazines and newspapers, or on the internet (or on buses, signage in various stadia, product placement, etc, etc.) For a dollar you can cut almost all direct-mail out– I’ve done it, it works and was well worth the time.
    Also note that direct-mail advertising may still come to you from businesses you already have accounts with; the listing helps prevent most “cold” offers from reaching you.

  10. Trai_Dep says:

    I’m not sure if they have this at your locale, but in California, they send people to drop leaflets, fliers, etc. on your door, your door knob, your mailbox out tray, your car door, your car windshield…

    Even better are the fliers on windshield that melt when it rains, so you need to take a razor blade to get rid of the ad before you can drive.

    These companies litter every square inch of available space they can get, then leave it to us to clean up. Yeah it’s a bit but it’s incremental harrassment. My purpose in life isn’t to run cleanup patrol for these low-rent fools littering the neighborhood.

  11. jacques says:

    I signed up for the “opt-out of pre-screened credit card apps” program. Which is great, my applications dropped from 5 or 6 a week. But Citi/AA and United both keep sending me crap. I called them both up, and told them I wanted it to stop, and it stopped from United. Citi just kept sending them. I finally talked to a manager there, and opened a case with their “investigations” dept, and haven’t seen one since!