Bleak True Confessions From The Junk Mail Factory

Reader S. works in a junk mail factory, making sure that solicitations are perfectly printed so that you can ignore them. Yesterday, after reading our post about one reader’s battle to get off AT&T’s U-Verse mailing list, S. decided to write up an explanation of why it takes so freaking long to get your name off a junk mailing list. Don’t hate the mailers, or their innocent minimum-wage employees like S: hate the system. 

Today’s article about the woman’s unwanted AT&T Uverse mail caught my eye because I work at a junk mail factory, perhaps even the very place that her mail came from.  No lie.  My employer has a contract with AT&T.  I’ve touched Uverse junk mail.

I’ll spare you the spiel about how woefully underemployed I am in every sense of the word, except to say that I am a college graduate making minimum wage and that the factory doesn’t run to capacity more than a few times a year for six or eight weeks at a stretch. The last day I worked was 12/5; this is 12/13 and I’ve finally gotten called in.  I only worked 2 days last week.  I hate this job and I’m trying to find something, anything else, but I digress.

My strangely contradictory work is Quality Assurance.  Yes, that’s right.  I make sure that the bulk mail the postman carries to your doorstep is nice enough for you to chuck in the trash, or at best, the recycling bin.  Job satisfaction, what was that again?

This is what I spend 7.5 hours doing (we don’t get paid to eat).  I make sure that the address prints straight and legibly.  I sort it into bins by reading tiny 12-digit codes as they flick past my eyes like you’d flick through a deck of cards.  I’m good at it too.  I can spot that 125634585665 in the middle of a stack belonging to bin number 125634585666.  All this while they’re going past my eyes at flip-book speed; (I can also read three novels in a day and provide reasonable plot summaries).

I also make sure that this envelope (which you probably will never even open) contains mail addressed to you, not one of your neighbors.

Anyway, the point of this missive was to tell the Consumerist readers something about the junk mail industry and why it might take a month to stop getting junk mail from a particular company.

My company gets an order from another company.  Print this kind of letter for all the customers in this database file of addresses by this date.  And we print them and stack them in pallets and eventually give them to the post office so they make it there on time.  In September, we were stuffing envelopes that needed to reach mailboxes by early December (granted, that was for a nation-wide campaign, and it takes ages to print and stuff hundreds of millions of pages).

That’s why it takes a month (or more) to stop getting junk mail. The mail that turns up in your mailbox next week or even two or three weeks from now, was probably ordered weeks, sometimes months ago.

Does my employer keep receiving or reusing the same database of addresses that still contains Tonya’s name as well as any others in her situation?  Possibly.  I don’t have an office job, so I couldn’t tell you.

I hope this was edifying.

We know that a lot of you have particular insights into jobs and businesses that most consumers don’t know much about — or about which they make huge assumptions. So if you feel like sharing your thoughts on what it’s like to work retail, or food service, or in the shipping, banking, hospitality fields (or something we failed to mention here), feel free to share your insights with us at

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