The U.S. Postal Service is our enemy. While countermeasures have been created to deal with the invasion of telemarketing phone calls and spam emails, we continue to be bombarded by junk mailings. The solution that the USPS is opposing is a do-not-mail list or registry that households could choose to join. Legislation to accomplish this has been introduced in 18 states, but considerable opposition by business groups and direct mail advocates have blocked passage.
So many Americans have found alternatives to mailing things first class as postage stamps have gotten increasingly expensive that the USPS is hurting. The amount of first class mail, the most profitable for the USPS, has dropped by about 500 million pieces annually in the past several years. This past Christmas there was a drop in first class mail from the previous year, the first in history.
Meanwhile, so-called standard mail – advertising circulars, catalogues, fundraising appeals and solicitations – that we consider junk mail has been increasing by about one billion pieces annually. In 2007 there were 104 billion pieces, over 900 per household, but that equates to about four daily, and I receive much more than that. Some 100 million trees are logged annually so that all this junk can be produced. And just imagine the incredible amounts of fuel needed for USPS trucks delivering all that junk mail and the ones used to get the junk to USPS facilities, and the garbage trucks to dispose of all of it. And also remember all the pollution caused by the production, delivery and disposal of junk mail.
It is estimated that over half of junk mail goes unopened or unread, going directly into the trash bin. The estimated consumer response rate for junk mail is less than 2 percent. This tells you how cheap it is to produce and mail the junk relative to the benefits to businesses. And it tells you just how useless most junk mail is.
In my household and I suspect many others, junk mail is a major source of trash. Over 90 percent of the mail received is junk mail. I get a little sweet revenge by always using the reply postage paid envelopes in much junk mail; I stuff everything received in it and mail it back so that the sender spends more money and has to get rid of the trash instead of me.
All trends are adding up to an expected operating deficit of $1 billion for 2008 for the USPS, and this means higher cost stamps. And it means even more official support for junk mail.
Of course, sensing a business opportunity, there are companies that you can pay to help you prevent junk mail and other nuisances. Some free services are suspect, because they seem to want to get you to sign up for new catalogues. A number of options are on www.privacyrights.org and www.obviously.com/junkmail.
You can sign a national petition to get a federal do-not-mail registry at www.donotmail.org; the campaign was started by ForestEthics.
Now is the time for a host of reasons to speak out in favor of do-not-mail registries, in terms of energy, environmental protection, government spending and our privacy.