Man Documents Efforts To Get Off Spam Lists

Jonny Halleran has taken on the sort of masochistic project we love to watch here at Consumerist: trying to get himself removed from all direct mail and marketing lists, and documenting it on YouTube. His first attempt involves Verizon, and it’s clear by their escalating series of mixed messages that they’ve created a sort of antimatter version of “customer service,” one that’s designed to confuse and mislead customers so they’ll hang up and just sort of sit there in stunned silence for a little while.

Our favorite moment: when Halleran asks, “If I cancel my account with you guys, will that stop the mailing?”, and the man on the other end just sighs in angry exasperation.

(Thanks to Taryn!)

“Off The List” [YouTube]


Edit Your Comment

  1. aparsons says:

    I gave up trying to get off of these direct marketing lists. Here is what I do.

    1) Create two separate piles. In pile one, place any BUSINESS REPLY envelope, postage pre-paid. In pile two, place the remaining contents of the junk mail.
    2) At the end of the month, shred pile two (everything but the business reply envelopes).
    3) Scribble out any barcodes, cryptic numbers, etc on the the business reply envelopes.
    4) Take the shredder clippings from step two, and place them in the business reply postage-prepaid envelopes.
    5) Write on the envelope “Thanks for keeping the postal service in business.”
    6) Send!

    While this doesn’t stop direct mail marketing, it does cost them extra money to continue marketing… and it helps keeps the cost of stamps relatively low. I do the same thing with those annoying subscription postcards that come in the magazines.

  2. bravo369 says:

    I read this article a long time ago. You can use gmail to find out who’s selling your info. []

  3. ghettoimp says:

    Once upon I time I wrote “refused” on a package and they mailed it back to the sender. I wonder if the same would work on regular spam.

  4. rmz says:

    @aparsons: There are also the people who have taped bricks, 50-lb. boxes, or other such things to business reply envelopes. I heard something about the USPS refusing to accept those sorts of mailings anymore, but I’m not sure.

  5. aparsons says:

    @rmz: Yeah. I don’t think the USPS would accept bricks. I figured they’d get the point by paying for the envelope’s shredded contents to be mailed back to them.

  6. QuantumRiff says:

    @bravo369: adding a plus sign has actually worked on the internet for many, many years. (ie, giving your email address as I used to do this on my colleges Unix based mail server back in 1999. However, some smart spammers then quickly realized they could strip anything after the “+” sign.

  7. eelmonger says:

    @QuantumRiff: the only problem is that some sites will reject emails with ‘+’ signs. I don’t know any off the top of my head, but when I was looking for some php to verify email addresses recently, most of the stuff I found rejected emails with a ‘+’ in it.

  8. kc2idf says:

    @rmz: There is a general weight limit on what you can mail without going to a window to mail it. I believe it is 13 oz. Go to any public mailbox and you will see a placard on it with this info.

  9. nidolke says:

    That’s why when I sign up for anything I use the name Chanandler Bong.

  10. doireallyneedausername says:

    Anything preventing us from making copies of the business reply label, pasting them on hundreds of heavy envelopes and bulk sending these letters to the solicitor?

  11. mikesfree says:

    I do at least send every reply envelope possible back. At least it cost them something.

  12. mikesfree says:


    That is brilliant!

  13. aparsons says:

    @mikesfree: If you add the clippings, it changes the envelope shape and they end up paying more ;)

  14. Anonymous says:

    we should start a community email address where we all give the same addres to bs, and hope eventually all spam gets mailed there. or we could randomly pick some poor sap and use his so he will get a ton of spam! lol

  15. Rusted says:

    @aparsons: I used to work in a mailroom. Would be for nothing, since we’d round file it.

  16. aparsons says:

    @Rusted: Yeah, but I think the USPS would still deliver it. Eitherway, the business has to pay for the return postage. I could care less if it gets opened or not – i just like knowing that someone has to pay for the postage, and it isnt me.

  17. alk509 says:

    @aparsons: Actually, doing that has absolutely no effect. See, the companies in whose behalf you get those mailings aren’t the ones who actually deal with them – the service is outsourced to a third party, who in turn don’t pay the USPS per envelope, but just pay a flat fee. Not only do you not cost the company nor the mail-processing third party anything, but you don’t even get to annoy the mail screeners whose job it is to sort between “good” and “bad” mailings – if anything, you make their jobs easier by sending mailings that are easy to spot as belonging in the “bad” pile.

  18. That70sHeidi says:

    @alk509: What about making the screeners lives more interesting by stuffing one or two of those flyers they hand out in Vegas for escorts? It’d be thin enough to seem like a check (or money order!) and thus worth opening, but it sure wouldn’t be boring.

  19. OnceWasCool says:

    [] is the way to go. You create an account. Then when you need an email address for some website, just log in a create one. If will give you an email like and all you do it copy and paste. If will forward any email coming to that email address to you, with a note in the header that you create. When you get a lot of spam from email address, just log in a delete it!

  20. mac-phisto says:

    this guy is my hero.

    that is all.

  21. othium says:

    I use []

    Sort of the same thing as mentioned above. I create an e-mail address for signing up for free stuff and when I start getting spam from companies that are connected to it, I just pull the plug on that address/account and it stops as it no longer gets forwarded to me. Pretty simple.

  22. bazzlevi says:

    Another good service is You create a username, and then you can create any number of email addresses based on that name. You can also determine when the address expires (for example, after it’s been used 20 times, it stops accepting email). It’s hard to explain exactly how it works without rambling on and on; just check it out if you are looking for spam minimizing solutions.

  23. AndrewJC says:

    In addition to using GMail’s + filter, I utilize my own domain’s email forwarding abilities. For things that I sign up with, I use my GMail address, but if the email form I’m filling out doesn’t allow pluses in the email address, I simply create an email forwarder at my own domain to point to That way, I can still see which company it is.

    I also utilize my own domain for emails that I want to receive through that domain but don’t want to give out my actual address. So in that case, I’ll simply do and I can see if they’ve sold my address.