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Monday, August 13, 2007


JUNK MAILERS IN YOUR MAILBOX


From time to time, I plan to review junk mailer profiles that will include specifics about their handling of consumer names and personal data, particulars on their list of customers, costs for shipping and handling, and their track record with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), if available. I am turning first to one of my old favorites, Herrington catalog, about which I have posted before. (See here) This is the company that refuses to give customers an opt-out in their catalog from selling their names and private information—which includes income, what you buy, and the age of your children—a policy that has been in effect for several years. I recently ordered a catalog, and there is still no indication they are a member of the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA), which means they are not bound by the DMA’s guidelines—weak as they might be—to protect customers’ sensitive data. As an example of their attitude, I contacted them back in November of 2006, and received this reply: “At this time Mr. Herrington has decided not to put this type of option on the order form inserted in the catalog. This is a good recommendation that I will forward to him and will hopefully be put to use in future catalogs.” Nine months later, and we’re still waiting. Herrington maintains a total of 1.2 million customers’ names, but sells a select number of those, around 300,000, for an average of over 20 cents each. And if they are like other junk mailers, they’ll sell this group between 25 and 50 times each year. Those are your names. Using even the lower number of 25 turns, Herrington grosses $1.5 million each year from selling your names, and you don’t get one penny. Plus the fact you don’t even get the option to tell them with your order that you don’t want your name sold. Although they have a satisfactory record with the New Hampshire BBB, there were 8 complaints in the last three years, two of which ended with “dissatisfied” customers.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I recently found your blog and read this post with particular interest. I am not receiving Herrington catalogs, but during the 2007 holiday season, I did get a number of unsolicited mailings from DMA members, even though I am enrolled in DMA’s mail preference service.

I looked up Herrington at DMA (not exactly difficult to find through a Google search). Could you help me be sure that I’m correctly interpreting the fee structure, please? Does “M” mean 1,000? That would agree with your figures: $120.00/M base rate + $120.00/M recent buyers = $240.00/M, or $0.24 for each individual. What is “F,” as in $50.00/F for e-mail?

Thanks for your insights. I am finding it difficult to extricate myself from junk mail hell and am curious to know more about how these lists work.

Jack E. Dunning said...

Thanks for your comment. As I indicated in a recent blog post, only a small number of the total junk mail companies are members of the Direct Marketing Assn. The Herrington catalog is not a member, and does not provide the option to remove your name from their mailing list in their catalog. It is this kind of arrogance that is driving privacy activists like me to demand consumers be granted control over their names and personal data. In regard to fee structures, the "M" does mean dollars per thousand names. But recency costs rarely are more than $40 to $50/M, however, a combination of selections such as amt. of purchase, income of household, etc. could total over $200/M. I am not familiar with the $50.00/F for e-mail. Give me an example of how you found it and I may be able to recognize something. You can e-mail me direct at jack.dundiv@cox.net. In your dilemma to get off junk mail lists, there are many with the same plight. Selling mailing lists is a $4 billion+ annual business, and the emphasis is not accommodating the customer, or even security. It is to produce a maximum return in revenue from your name and private information and, believe me, nothing stands in the way of this. Therefore, mistakes are made repeatedly where your name is used, even though you are on the DMA MPS. By the way, only DMA members are required to use the MPS suppression file. And I even heard of some junk mailers--not my clients when I was a data broker--using the MPS names to mail because they reasoned they probably didn't receive much mail. Astonishingly, it worked. Since you are receiving mailings from DMA members and are on the MPS file, I suggest you e-mail the DMA president, John Greco, and report these companies. I would also appreciate your e-mailing their names to me. You can contact Greco at: Presiden@the-dma.org. Please let me know the outcome and I will use it in my blog.

Good luck!

Jack E. Dunning
The Dunning Letter
jack.dundiv@cox.net

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jack. The data card at the link I provided in my comment above has been edited since I posted. It is no longer showing the $50.00/F figure. The “DMA Member” logo and “Preferred Provider” logo are still visible on that page, however. They can be seen immediately to the right of the “total universe/base rate” line near the top. That’s why I was assuming (perhaps incorrectly) that Herrington is a DMA member.

Google cache still has a picture of the page I was originally viewing. I’ll do a couple of screen captures and e-mail them to you. I look forward to chatting more with you soon.