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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Junk Mail Industry Rag Belittles Consumer Rights...Again

Richard H. Levy is a Loose Cannon

In an April 2006 article, “Junk Mail Industry Rag Puts Down Consumer,” I refuted the publication Direct Magazine in their belief that consumers should never have control over their names and personal data. Read it here; scroll down to the second post. Now, Richard H. Levey, one of Direct’s reporters, in a column called “Loose Cannon,” once again diminishes the importance of the identity crisis by parodying the critical need to protect consumers’ sensitive data. Instead of inviting opinions from industry leaders—some of which I have received that are favorable to more individual control—he takes the failed-attempt-at-humor approach. Pathetic.

Junk Mail Industry Won’t Address Real Issue

There are two major issues that junk mailers refuse to acknowledge as a benefit to their customers, as well as the junk mail companies themselves. One, consumers should have control over their names and private information. Two, they should be paid each time it is sold. Oh horrors, Richard H. Levey—and most others in the field—would scream. It would be the beginning of the end, and put most companies out of business. Hogwash. It could improve the industry significantly, if we do it right this time. And here’s how.

Formula for Success Where Everyone Wins

When you grant individual control, the consumer elects whether or not they want to receive junk mail. If they don’t want it, why send it? That’s the way it got its name in the first place. At the same time, we categorize wants and desires to determine specifically what kinds of offers they want. Why send someone hundreds of additional apparel offers just because they ordered a scarf they couldn’t find at the local department store. And, these wants and desires could be updated on a regular basis.

Finally, each sale of the consumer’s name and personal data is recorded by the dollar amount, and filed away to confirm future payments to the individual. At the same time the list seller deposits an amount equal to one-half of the gross sales of the name and private information in a simple interest-bearing account that can be drawn-on at a later date. A typical junk mail shopper could receive an average of $607 monthly at age 65, if their buying habits began at age 18.

Industry Rewards of My Concept

To start with, junk mailers can eliminate unresponsive households, while still realizing their revenue goals by mailing to those who are. Mailing costs go down; response rates, and average orders, go up. Environmentalists get off your backs because you are finally doing something about the paper waste.

I could hear the outcry over the sharing of mailing list revenue even before finishing this sentence. However, it makes complete sense to me that if the customer can expect this compensation from their purchases; it just means they will buy more often. Traditional retail shoppers would now flock to junk mail to participate in the sharing of the sale of their names and personal data. List sales dollars may not double to make up for the losses from paying customers, but, then, lists are a gold mine at any figure. Junk mail could be known as the business that solved the Social Security dilemma.

It’s Time for Compromise

Unfortunately for the junk mail industry, most of the concessions will have to come from their side. Of course, that is where 100 percent of the control now resides and has since the business first evolved decades ago. There is a choice, and that is to pass federal legislation giving the individual control over their names and private information. Unhappily, it has been this method that most junk mailers have chosen over the years.

I didn’t cover the how-to in the procedure for consumer approval in the use of their names and private information. That was detailed in an earlier post you can find here.

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