Getting Off Mailing Lists Is Fun

We sat down to try to get our name off six mailing lists today. It’s really annoying to have all this crap clutter our mailbox. When we get it, we literally walk from the mailbox to the recycling bin. Dump. Nice marketing, guys.

Yeah, we’ve done business with all these guy guys before, but guess what? We don’t want their mail.

Here’s the results of our battles. You may be surprised at who was the hardest to deal with!

DELL: Relatively painless, but with a hold time of 5 min.

Movies Unlimited: Quick and easy.

Tempurpedic : Sales rep picked up right away, passed us right off to a customer service rep. She tried to look us up but couldn’t find our phone number. Found us after we gave our name. Sounded really bored and condescending but we tried to disarm her by being super-nice and ignoring the disdain in her voice.

Guitar Center: Easey-Peasy.

New School: Number was hidden. We called the number that said, “call this number to request getting on our catalog mailing list.” The guy told us to send in the mailing address label to a certain address. We asked him if there wasn’t a number we could call. Cagily, he provided it, but it only lead to an answering machine.

Dentist’s Office: They’ve been sending coupons to our apartment building addressed to RESIDENT. They tried to convince us that these coupons didn’t exist, that they weren’t on them, or the coupons were in some kind of Valu-Pack. They then tried to tell us that the coupons were being sent to the building, not me. We told them that they only showed up after we visited them, so they obviously had sold our address to somewhere. The secretary said that they don’t have a list and don’t send out coupons. We asked her if they didn’t know who was doing their own marketing for them. The secretary said she would take down our info and “try” to see if she could “get in touch” with “whoever” was doing the mailing. We told her, no, you will not try, you WILL get us off the mailing list, consider this a formal request and get us off or we will report you to the FTC, we’re saying, but that’s just how it is, have a good day. CLICK.

Yep, if we were to file a complaint about a company not honoring our request to get off their mailing list, we would go to this FTC complaint form.

(Photo: The BrassPotato)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Youthier says:

    Will you do a followup to this in a month or so? I used to cancel mailing list stuff for a doctor’s office I worked at quite frequently. I typically found that the ones that were the easiest to leave were the ones that typically “forgot” to remove us and the ones I had to work for were more permanent.

    Just curious to see the final results you have.

  2. bnb614 says:

    I get a zillion credit card offers, magazine subscription offers, book clubs, etc.

    I shred everything except the self-addressed stamped envelope, and then I seal that (empty insde) and throw it in the mailbox. I figure if they have to pay for the postage and their reps have to go through empty envelopes, then maybe it will become prohibitive and they will stop.

  3. alhypo says:

    I wonder if anyone actually looks at their junk mail. Someone must, or else it seems they would stop sending it. Whoever does should stop immediately.

    @bnb614: I’m not sure, but that might be illegal. Though it is definitely funny.

  4. BillyShears says:

    @bnb614: You can call a special, toll-free number and get your name added to a do-not-mail list for unsolicited credit card offers.

    What I want to know is, how do I stop those supermarket circulars from getting into my mailbox. I don’t even look at those since I’m a dirty hippie and shop mostly at Whole oods.

  5. Art Vandelay says:

    I got off of the bank I use, WaMu’s, credit card mailing list by calling and telling them if I got one more card offer, I would switch banks because of all the waste. They were sending a verbatim offers a couple times a week. I never received one after that call.

  6. not_seth_brundle says:

    Mail addressed to “resident” is the most malign of all junk mail. I would love to know how to stop receiving this crap along with the ValuPacks and the supermarket circulars mentioned by BillyShears.

  7. QuantumRiff says:

    @BillyShears: You can also go to this website and they will remove you from those “pre-approved” offers mailing lists. Its free for 5 years (i think) and permanent removal costs a few bucks.. I haven’t gotten a credit card offer in several years now..

  8. adrock75 says:

    I’ve tried to opt out and I still get a ton of crap – anyone have any insight? This was about 6 mo. ago.

  9. spanky says:

    I was thinking about trying this.

    (Maybe not safe for really pathetic workplaces.)

  10. SadSam says:

    I got off the preapproved credit card offers thru. the special credit card do not mail list (you have to use your SS# but it works). I occasionally still get an offer from someone I allegedly do biz with but I’ve instructed all that I really do biz with to stop send my sh!! and it seems to work.

    I paid a $1 to get on the do not mail list for the direct mail marketing association (where the lists are generated for catalogs and other marketing) but I’m still getting a heck of a lot of catalogs although it does seem to be down a bit.

  11. Ben Popken says:

    @missbrooke06: Yeah, sure thing, I plan on giving them 2 months or so to comply.

  12. bekathwia says:

    I work for New School, and let me tell you, it’s not just their mailing list management that’s tied up in miles of bureaucratic red tape. Overall there’s a huge problem with communication. The person you spoke to probably honestly didn’t know how to help you. You’d find the same thing if you called registration, financial aid, admissions, human resources, academic technology, just to name a few, so don’t feel singled out.

  13. ihatemylife says:

    ok, time for me to get slammed… I LOVE junk mail… just watching the mail carrier bring it to my door…. brings tears to my eyes.. payback for the increase in mailing costs… ( I get at least 100+ pieces junk mail a week)..

  14. StevieD says:

    I, like BNB614, return the postage prepaid envelope to the sender. Illegal? Don’t know. But it sure is fun. I do know if you added a heavy brick to the envelope the sender could sue to recover the additional costs, but just sending back their waste of paper should not be illegal (hey, I am just returning the crap that was lost into my mailbox).

  15. smallestmills says:


    Haha, since I’ve moved out of my parent’s house 10 years ago, it’s rare that I receive junk as I’ve had 5 different addresses. I love RESIDENT junk mail, as it’s the only kind I get. I suppose that, and in the 10 years I’ve been an “adult” I’ve done almost all my shopping and bill paying via the internet as opposed to snail mail, which keeps me off a lot of lists. Even companies that have paper catalogues that I’ve done web business with don’t send them to me.

  16. ptkdude says:

    @bnb614: I do this even better. I cram absolutely everything I can in the envelope before sending it back. The goal is to get it heavy enough to require extra postage. Columbia House is my favorite to do this to.

    @alhypo: Why would this be illegal?

  17. Jasmo says:

    While all these “send back empty envelopes” schemes may give you a momentary thrill, I doubt they show up on the radar of the people in charge of sending them out. But they will show up on the desk of someone who is probably overworked, underpaid, and has zero say in the policies of the company they work for. So while you may think you are “sticking it to the man” by sending back emplty or overstuffed free-postage envelopes, you are really sticking it to the post office, which has to make yet another useless delivery, and sticking it to the office drone who gets paid 5.50 an hour to open the envelopes. Way to go.

  18. misfit says:

    American Express is one of the worst offenders for sending me junk mail (no, I don’t want your Starwood hotels credit card- my AMEX Blue is fine, thank you). Since I have a current account with AMEX, OptOutPreScreen does nothing for these pre-approved offers that I receive almost daily. Anyone know how to tell AMEX to stop mailing these if you’re a current account holder?

  19. Jay Levitt says:

    Ummm.. Ben?

    Yeah. About that FTC thing. I’m not sure they actually HAVE to remove you from their mailing list.

    What law or regulation do you think it’s covered under?

  20. fififufufifi says:

    Try these suggestions from Ideal Bite: – free, quick way to get your name off commercial mailing lists.
    [] – opt out of pre-approved credit card and insurance offers online or by phone: 1-888-5-OPTOUT.

    EcoLogical Mail Coalition – helps businesses stop mail addressed to former employees.

    Native Forest Network’s Guide – five easy steps to stop junk mail.

  21. alhypo says:

    @ptkdude: Oh, I don’t know; maybe because it is the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT you’re dealing with here. You know, the one that has basically been bought out by big business.

    They could easily make a regulation requiring that all contents of a business reply envelope actually relate directly to business communications. Certainly an empty envelope or one crammed with random stuff would not qualify as such.

    Again, I have no idea if there is such a regulation and I really don’t care. But I occasionally hear stories of people doing something or other they think is harmless enough only to find out there is some obscure regulation against it.

    In this case, even if illegal, the chances of getting caught are extremely remote if you don’t write your return address on the envelope.

  22. JustAGuy2 says:

    The DMA is actually very good about this – their members don’t WANT to be sending you stuff if you’re actively opposed to getting it. If you’re indifferent, it’s worth the expense, but if the odds of success are close enough to zero that you’re willing to expend actual effort to get off the list, they’d much prefer to not waste their money.

  23. DjDynasty says:

    I personally take the business reply envelopes, and tape them to a box of bricks.

  24. FLConsumer says:

    I wish I could cherry-pick the bulk mail I do & don’t want delivered. I’ll take the 20% off BB&B coupons, but the rest of it can go. I still love how Winn-Dixie & Albertson’s (grocery stores) send me flyers despite not having any stores near me. Great marketing firm.

  25. cmoz says:

    How about [] to opt-out from receiving ShopWise and grocery flyers? These junks are major offenders in my mailbox.

  26. Candyman says:

    He may be “sticking it” to the office shlub as you say, but certainly not to the Post Office. USPS is subsidised by those junk mail and prepaid business envelopes. If it weren’t for all that junk mail people hate, our personal letters would cost several times what they do.

    Maybe most of you would rather pay several dollars for a letter sized envelope, like you would with UPS or DHL, than have to go through “all the effort” of throwing them away. BUT, as a society it’s important enough to have a reliable mail system that’s cheap enough for EVERYONE, that I, at least, am more than willing to accept the “hassle.”

    That said, I’m unsolicited mail in general, and not credit card offers, which are ID thefts waiting to happen, or if you’ve opted out, in which case your rights should be respected by the sender.

  27. Thrust says:

    You seriously want off the junkmail wagon, shoot a postman when he drops the shit off. Couple dead USPS/CanadaPost guys on the lawn and they’ll get the hint… Eventually.

    (and that was a joke for those who didn’t get it. Odds are, the postman will shoot YOU. Thats why they call it Going Postal)

    A true and serious way to fight back is to use all the pre-addressed prepaid return envelopes that come with some of this crap, and mail it back empty. (US confirmed, Canada uncertain) They don’t pay for the postage on any of that return mail junk UNLESS it is actually mailed. Send enough of them through empty and you’ll cost them enough that they’ll stop sending it.

  28. justarep says:

    This is potentially relevant to screwing with companies who send tons of mail to you (although the source is questionable, and I don’t condone yelling at reps, being one):


  29. jdorian says:

    For those little mom and pop reply envelopes, PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM IN UNLESS YOU ARE SERIOUS about the product or service. It will cost the business owner between $.75 and $1 each. They are people just trying to make a living and not out there to bulk mail you to death. They probably only have it in their budget to do a single mailing, and likely will not do any followups.

    As for the massive amounts of junk mail I get, I really do not care as I simply recycle it. After removing my name and address, it can normally go in with the newspapers. If done right, you at least save a tree.

    As for getting off mailing lists, simply stop giving out your name and address to everybody who asks for it. It not normally needed for most purchases, so why provide it?

  30. Lordstrom says:

    I use For $30 a year they will continuously contact a slew of mailiing lists to keep your name plus 5 others off. They also supposedly plant trees.

    I’m no hippy, in fact I despise most trees, but I’ve seen the results of the service. None of us get credit card offers anymore. There are days when we will get only get a random local flyer or something. I’ve been very pleased.

  31. enm4r says:

    @jdorian: For those little mom and pop reply envelopes, PLEASE DO NOT SEND THEM IN UNLESS YOU ARE SERIOUS about the product or service. It will cost the business owner between $.75 and $1 each. They are people just trying to make a living and not out there to bulk mail you to death.

    And? They can make their living in some other way than carpet bombing residents that never asked for their solicitation. Besides, what mom and pop store sends out a return envelope? What mom and pop order stores are there?

    I don’t take the time, but I could put more effort into sending stuff back. I should also work on stuffing the envelopes a little more instead of sending it back empty, but anything is better than nothing. Which reminds me, I’ve got a pile I’ll send out today.

  32. Mk1972 says:

    @ NOT_SETH_BRUNDLE: Mail addressed to resident is a saturation list (or Res/Occ) The USPS has mail carriers fill out a card quarterly (they may have changed the process now) for every deliverable address on a their respective routes. Because it is every deliverable address on a route it is generally the cheapest way for small mailers to get their message out in a local area (i.e pizza shops, small retailers, etc) Advo and Val-Pak are the major resellers of this resident occupant list.

    The DMA is probably the best place to start for getting off a mailing list []

    However companies that do not hold to DMA standards /or that you have a prior business relationship with do not have to take you off of their lists.

    To try and get off of a Resident list you can contact ADVO []



    Hope it helps
    /ex list broker

  33. RandomHookup says:

    I notice that Ben didn’t try to get Adam & Eve to stop sending him their catalog.

  34. Starfury says:

    My process for bringing the mail in.

    1. Take mail from box
    2. Walk to pantry that has recycle tub in it
    3. Sort through mail. Drop 50% – 100% in tub
    4. If any leftover sort into 2 piles.
    A. Keep pile. (Bills, statements)
    B. Shred Pile. (CC offers)

    I’d say out of 6 days of mail two days will get completely tossed and the other 4 will be mostly tossed/shredded.

  35. ExecutorElassus says:

    okay, here’s an approach that’s way more fun than sending back clippings. stupid direct marketing company keep “losing” your request? credit card company telling you that they have “pre-existing business” with you and won’t stop? try this.

    as a cautionary note, use only for mailers who simply WILL NOT TAKE YOU OFF THE DAMN LIST.

    1) Download this form (Application for Listing and/or Prohibitory Order (Form 1500) courtesy US Postal Service)
    2)fill it in and mail it.
    3)watch as mailings automagically stop.

    as the form makes clear, US Postal regulations stipulate that only the recipient can determine if a mailing is believed “to be erotically arousing or sexually provocative.” since such mailings thus constitute illegal mailings of porn, the mailer has to comply or face heavy fines.

    if the good people at the post office give you trouble, it’s helpful to have a copy of the regulation, which is here.


  36. MeOhMy says:

    It annoys me that I should have to pay extra to get the DMA to stop sending me things. Also like some others, some of the junk mail I actually like.

    But Ben…is this OUR dentist? Because unless we are in the market for a new dentist (or we enjoy root canals), we may not want to be quite so threatening with them.

    Although we should be very leery of a dentist who advertises.

  37. ExecutorElassus says:

    sorry, i should have made clear: the form informs the recipient (the bulk mailer) that you find their mailings arousing or sexually provocative, and that they must consequently stop sending them or face prosecution. compliance has been – in my experience – swift.

  38. aparsons says:

    If you must give out your address, give it out with your last name as the company you are doing business with. For example, if AMEX requires me to give them my address for any reason, I give them:

    Allan AMEX

    Then, I can easily tell who is selling my name. If Ikea sends me mail addressed to “Allan AMEX,” I know where they got their mailing list from.

    Same goes for email. If you have gmail, add the company name after a plus sign.

    For example: It will help you know who is selling your email address as well….

  39. rich815 says:

    The one I cannot stand is the United Airlines offer for their credit card with “free miles”!

    We get three, for me, my wife, and 5-year old son. At least twice a month, and they are big letter-sized envelopes.

    Such a waste.

  40. Murph1908 says:

    This is not a slam. But postage rates have actually risen at a pace significantly lower than inflation. It costs you less than half a dollar to send an item from your door to another person’s door anywhere in the US.

    Wow, I never thought I would hear someone supporting junk mail and conservation in the same sentence.

    My question is, how do I stop the pizza place and the Chinese place from dropping the same menu off at my door every freakin’ week. I hate this more, because it announces to everyone who is looking for such things when I am away from home.

  41. alicetheowl says:

    If you call 1-888-567-8688, you can opt out from the major credit-reporting agencies where pre-approved credit card offers are concerned. I was getting three of the stupid things per DAY, and, after it kicked in, I don’t get them anymore. I still get coupons and other junk from companies I’ve done business with before, as well as a couple of bulk mailers a season from local advertising companies, but at least my shredder isn’t clogged with, “You’re preapproved for our special 29% APR card!”

  42. bifyu says:

    Mailing back postage paid reply envelopes may make you feel better, but will not do squat to get you off a mailing list. Ridiculously overstuff them or attach them to a brick and the post office won’t even attempt delivery.

    Put yourself on the handful of major direct marketing organizations opt-out lists. I’ll usually make a single good faith effort to directly contact organization responsible for any remaining junk mail I receive — if it’s as easy as a phone call or email — forget dropping a stamp on them.

    For repeat offenders or those without some easy way of being removed from their list, there’s always USPS Form 1500 (Application for Listing and/or Prohibitory Order). It requires mailers to stop sending you “pandering” advertisements. However, you are the sole arbiter of what you deem to be “erotically arousing or sexually provocative” so you can use this for anything you please.

  43. WNW says:

    So, I’ve got a question about They require first and last name to opt out. For the permanent removal do I have to enter both my name and my wife’s name in order to get them to stop sending us their crap? Do I have to pay for both removals? What a load of crap.

    Also, if you do the 5 year removal, when that 5 years is up they have ALL your information and they can really bombard you with the junk mail.

    Were you being sarcastic or will the post office actually deliver that? I just moved and have a lot of empty boxes and left over construction materials…

  44. Thrust says:

    RE: The mom/pop shops being cost a fortune for sending return-mail. I’m sorry but I’d gladly spell their demise because they engaged in one of the Seven Deadly Spams: Email, Junkmail, Spambot, Telemarket, Fax, Door-to-Door, and Text-Message. Anyone who relies on a method of advertising/marketing should realize that you do not win over customers by annoying them or outright pissing them off.

    Ok, Show of hands. Who has a fax at work?
    Now who, of those with their hands up, receives large volumes of fax-spam? (My guess is none of the hands went down)

    Now the money shot… Of those with their hands up, WHO actually bought any of the shit that they were spammed?

    Anyone with their hand still up should be shot, since they are part of the problem. (Though the intelligence required to enjoy a site like the consumerist almost guarentees nobody still had their hand up.)

  45. strandist says:

    @Murph1908: I agree completely about those annoying pizza and chinese food places. I keep wanting to take a lot of them, and somehow deliver them to the manager/owner on a very regular basis. Except that’s probably be harassment and get me a restraining order.

  46. flatlinebb says:

    Regarding “RESIDENT junk mail”: I have talked with my local Post Office regarding these mailers. Guess what? It is the Post Office themselves that are responsible for those PennySavers, SaveONs and the like. The USPS sells the addresses to those companies, to “supplement their income” as the agent put it. After “discussing” the issue further, I asked not to be part of the RESIDENT crowd, and the agent said that they would have to physically put a note IN my mailbox telling the letter carrier NOT to put those mailers in. Sure enough, a note was taped inside the mailbox the next day and the volume of junk decreased. Occasionally, I will still get one, without the separate address card, so I simply put it back into the outgoing mail slot. Sometime I leave a note, reminding them that I do not want this.

    It makes me mad that as consumers we are treated like cattle. Instead of an “opt-in” system, we are subjected to an “opt-out” philosophy, which requires us to do work. How much is your time worth? And not to mention the impact on the environment. I prefer getting email junk, because there is no immediate paper waste, although one could make an argument about the impact of mail servers and traffic on the internet.

    I am almost at the point where I want to cancel my mail service. That’s right – no mail at my home address. I will strictly use email and UPS/FedEx, who just drop off the boxes with computer parts at the door. I may get a PO Box for those hard-core companies that need to send me regular mail.

    And one more rant! Why does every rebate company tell you that they cannot mail your rebate to a PO BOX, yet they all use PO Boxes for the rebate forms! Mostly in Mesa, Arizona, for some reason.

    Thank you, drive through.

  47. jdorian says:

    It funny, because due to some odd corporate recycling requirements, have over 3000 lbs a month in junk mail at my work. Those unsolicited catalogs are really heavy, yet as much as we tell them to not send us 12 copies of each catalog, we still get them. Its ok, we just collect all the waste paper and have our waste handler haul it away. Its the one thing we don’t have to pay for, actually, we get a rebate on our trash fees based on how much paper we set aside. My guess is that they sell the paper for scrap.

  48. jdorian says:

    Yeah, what is the deal with not being able to use PO boxes. I know they are trying to prevent fraud, but using a PO box is much better for those of us that travel and cannot get the mail daily.

  49. InThrees says:

    I something very similar to this – there were three marketing trade organizations linked in some article, and you could sign up online to remove yourself from the mailing lists of the organization’s members. One of the three required a payment of $1, the other two did not. I used the removal request forms of the two free ones, and ignored the charging one.

    I was AMAZED at how much of a difference it made. I live in an apartment complex and before I did this 99% of my mail was addressed to ‘occupant’ or ‘resident’ or ‘insurance customer’, etc. Now I get vastly less junk mail.

  50. zinger07 says:

    INTHREES. Sounds great…. how log did it take to see a reduction in mail?

  51. marsneedsrabbits says:

    @QuantumRiff: doesn’t work well. I did the thing last year about this time, and still get several offers a week.
    I still gets tons of credit card offers from Capital One and occasionally from the Disney credit card (it’s a MC or Visa, I think, & you can “earn rewards” toward a vacation with the card).
    Nothing, even calling directly and requesting removal, has gotten us removed from those.

  52. savdavid says:

    My favorite complaint is the credit card companies who send out cards or applications like roaches. You can’t kill them off. Then they blame people consumers for over-extending themselves and get Congress and Bush to pass laws making bankruptcy harder and force arbitration on their card users.

  53. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    @BillyShears: if a company does not honor my request, i’ll send the garbage back to them in “the enclosed envelope”
    you should do the same with your shreddings