UPDATE: Taping Pre-Paid Business Reply Envelopes To Packages Does Not Work

junkmailrevengeYesterday we told you that one way to get back at junk mailers is to tape their business reply envelopes (BRE) to heavy boxes and send them back, but it turns out this doesn’t work. It used to, up until the mid-90’s you could apparently tape a BRE to a coffin and the Post Office would mail it. Now, BRE’s can only be used the way junk mailers want them to be used, for the conduct of junk-mail related transactions.

The rule is covered under the official Post Office Domestic Mail Manual code 8.4.6, “BRM may not be used for any purpose other than that intended by the permit holder, even when postage is affixed. In cases where a BRM card or letter is used improperly as a label, the USPS treats the item as waste.”

Basically, assuming the Post Office is paying attention and cares, the only thing you’re going to be hurting by taping a BRE to a box of bricks is your Postman’s back and the environment. While you’re sitting at home cackling and stroking your mustache, they’re throwing your crap away.

Instead, sign up to opt out of most junk mail at optoutprescreen.com, write or call places who send you junk mail and ask to get off, and never give out your real address unless necessary. You can still, of course, fill the BRE back up with junk mail and send it back. Or thin metal files.


Edit Your Comment

  1. ATTSlave says:

    Doe not work?

  2. jnrmrtn says:

    So does anyone know if you could stuff the envelope with other junk mail and then send it back? I mean, how would the post office know what’s in the envelope at that point? Granted it’s not as good as sending 10-lbs. of my rottweiler’s already processed kibble for the week but it’s got to annoy them at least a little. Do unto others as they have done unto you.

  3. Ben Popken says:

    @jnrmrtn: Yes, that still works.

  4. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @jnrmrtn: Don’t you mean “dung unto others as they have dung unto you”?

    I like sending all the political flyers to random companies so they can be informed what’s going on in my local elections.

  5. hypnotik_jello says:

    Apparently proofreading doe not work either.

  6. jnrmrtn says:

    I guess I should have said do do unto others… ha! I think I’ll start sending anything left under my windshield wipers out.

  7. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @Ben Popken: BTW, I know it’s off topic, but I loved you were on NPR’s “Wait..Wait” a few weeks back. I have the same problem that guy did where everyone calls me “mam & miss” on the phone. Drives me nuts.

  8. EvilConservative says:

    Yes, it does work. I’ve done it. Some junk mailers have taken to printing identifying information on the reply envelope. I don’t know what they would do with it, but I’m not going to find out. I usually just tear out any identifiable information and send their own crap back to them unexecuted.

  9. Hoborg says:

    @jnrmrtn: As long as it meets the Post Office’s weight/size requirements for a letter, I’d assume. You probably can’t stuff it full of rocks.

  10. smelendez says:

    You could presumably put something in there declining to accept the offer and requesting that you no longer be on their mailing list. This is a legitimate reply to any offer.

  11. Fill the envelope with white powder and mail it back to them.

  12. jnrmrtn says:


    I think I’ll skip the visit from my local FBI site office.

  13. QuantumRiff says:

    @EvilConservative: I guess if they can identify who they sent the mail to, and that they are sending back junk, mabye they would stop sending you stuff??

  14. aparsons says:

    1) Shred the contents of their envelope.
    2) Stuff the envelope with their shredded material
    3) Send back.

  15. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @QuantumRiff: …they would stop sending you stuff??


    Thanks, folks, we’ll be here all night.

  16. Nytmare says:

    The weekly newsprint shoppers, the coupon spammers, and other third-party advertising circulars ignore address removal requests because they want as many addresses on their mailing list as possible, whether you read their junk or not.

  17. othium says:

    Is there a way to re-purpose the business reply envelope with it’s paid postage for sending it on to a different address? (Like taping a new adress over the old one?) Or is this just too illegal to worth risking?

  18. Mike_ says:

    How about sending back an empty envelope instead?

    (1) The business still pays the postage.

    (2) Your “junk mail sucks” message still reaches its target.

    (3) It’s easier – no sorting out identifying info.

    (4) You can recycle the rest (the business might not recycle).

    It’s easy enough to seal the envelope and drop it back in the mail. All this sorting, shredding and re-stuffing requires enough effort that most people won’t bother.

  19. Myron says:

    When the junk mail has a letter that ends with something asinine like “The favor of your reply is requested”, I just can resist stuffing the return envelope with valuable business offers, such as grocery store coupons.

  20. Framling says:

    My grandma always just drops the sealed, but empty envelopes back in the mail. Let them pay for nothing.

  21. itmustbeken says:

    Speaking as one who helps create all that junk mail you hate, the bricks, empty envelopes or taped to a box of raw chicken (actually happened) makes little difference.

    If an advertiser gets 2-3% response on a direct mail piece, any costs you may have incurred them is nothing.

    Most direct mail response is handled by housewives who take part time jobs at fulfillment houses. My clients rarely hear about any of the weird ‘sendbacks’ (if any) from direct mail campaigns.

    But, if it makes you feel better to try and mail a goat back to Nestlé, rock on!

  22. kjherron says:

    @EvilConservative: What do you mean “Yes, it does work”? How could you possibly know whether the post office is delivering these things and charging the advertiser, vs. just throwing them away?

    This tactic strikes me as juvenile and passive-aggressive.

  23. bilge says:

    Go out and get a porn mag–something off-the-wall like “Plumpers.” When you get a piece of junk mail with a prepaid envelope, tear a page out of the magazine and mail it in.

  24. Takkun says:

    Nothing says psychopath quite like an envelope full of leaves.

  25. SeattleGuy says:

    @jnrmrtn: That is what I’ve been doing for years! They only pay the postage for those envelopes when they arrive back at their post office. I send them back EVERYTHING they sent me (including the outer envelope) as well as a couple of good deals from the Local ValuPac. Anything to drive the weight over 1 ounce. I’m down to only about 5 junk mails a week. Capital One and a bunch of non-profits due to a recent donation to KEXP 90.3 here in Seattle.

  26. mopar_man says:

    I always try and stuff my return envelopes as full as I can. Sometimes I have to tape it shut. If it doesn’t fit through that sizing slot they have for flat mail, I think they get charged more. I try to put heavy stuff in it as well. Anybody have a good sticky substance that doesn’t dry that could be put inside to screw up the automated machines that open the envelopes?

  27. tedyc03 says:

    Put a couple of lead weights in there. The fishing type.

  28. INconsumer says:

    wow. i mean c’mon guys. its just junk mail. don’t let it control your life. me personally i have bigger fish to fry than giving some poor underpaid sap who has nothing to do with the people in charge of putting you on or off a list, a mess to clean up. i’m sure that mailroom guy doesn’t get off on his job, and probably works it because he has bills to pay also. i use to telemarket. do i like telemarketers? no. but it was a job man. life is too short. when your on your death bed, you may wish you could get the time you wasted mailing futile junk mail back to senders back. don’t any of you have kids? forget the junk mail and spend more time with them. they deserve more of your time than junk mail does, and you’ll definately make a bigger difference.

  29. Canadian Impostor says:

    @mopar_man: You could try filling envelopes with high strength fishing line.

    I don’t do this because I feel bad for whoever has to open the envelopes and deal with the shit inside. Their day probably sucks a lot more than mine, on average.

  30. INconsumer says:

    i work for a company who employs a mail room and i can tell you, there is no regulated do not mail list. most companys have one though so they can save a stamp if they realize you’ll never need or want their services. and if the mail room we employ ever gets these return mail bombs, i can tell you me nor my boss never hears about it, let alone cares. in fact my boss is the kind of guy that if he did know you were doing it, he keep sending things to you just to tick you off. he’s the boss, but its not even him losing money on these business replys. its the big wig owners, and you think they give a crap about a few more hundred dollars being spent on mail returns? its called the cost of doing business.

  31. pauljunk says:

    @Canadian Impostor: I actually write messages like, “Just quit. This job sucks anyways.” or “Just walk out the door and tell your boss to go F$&k himself on your way out” and place them in the envelopes and mail them back in hope that it will inspire someone to do something better with their life than open envelopes for the man.

  32. BensAngel says:

    A little bit of research would have gone a long way before posting the first article. Right?

  33. kellyd says:

    @jnrmrtn: You can do the thing with stuffing junk mail into the envelope. I did that for years.

    A caution, though: once I did that to a company who’d sent me an invitation to some sort of subscription. I ended up getting the subscription delivered and getting a bill for it–turned out they’d one-upped me by taking my “please trash your own crap” message as a “please send me more crap.” (Of course I got them to cancel the sub and the bill, but it was the last time I played that game.)

  34. KJones says:

    Here’s a thought:

    Remove your address from the envelope (and leave no fingerprints), then tear out pages from a Sears or other catalog featuring children in pajamas or swimsuits. Then send it back to the junk mailers while at the same time, anonymously telling the post office that the recipient (the junk mailer) is trading in kiddy porn.

    It would be interesting to see if it worked. But whatever you do, DO NOT do something illegal like sending white powder or razor blades.

  35. rdm24 says:

    Love the imagery…. I need to go by some mustache wax.

  36. rdm24 says:

    The problem with this whole approach is that it is a very inarticulate way of getting a message across. If your mail isn’t trashed by USPS, it will be trashed by the recipient’s mailroom. Nobody is going to be getting the message across this way. Opt out instead. It’s much more effective.

  37. krunk4ever says:

    What i did for awhile was swap spam and mail them back in these envelopes. Of course any information that was PII, I wouldn’t include.

  38. rworne says:

    From the article:
    “Basically, assuming the Post Office is paying attention and cares, the only thing you’re going to be hurting by taping a BRE to a box of bricks is your Postman’s back and the environment. While you’re sitting at home cackling and stroking your mustache, they’re throwing your crap away.”

    Wow. A win-win situation! Now I know what to do with those bald tires, old TV’s, computer monitors and car batteries I have sitting in the garage.

  39. edrebber says:

    Attach the prepaid business reply envelopes to your trash and leave it at the post office. Save money on trash collection fees.

  40. n8srq says:

    I prefer just sending blank credit card applications back, but switch them so that the banks get their competitors applications back.