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Monday, March 31, 2008


Instead of stepping forward with ideas on how to help solve the identity crisis issue—which is due in part to the junk mail industry’s handling of names and personal data—the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) and the businesses it regulates are wailing over the fact that states, fifteen of them, have started to enact their own laws. Industry publication DM News had an article on this recently covering the launching of a “stop junk mail” campaign backed by ForestEthics, with support from Hollywood celebrities like Daryl Hannah and Adrian Grenier. I would urge readers to visit this site and look at their very interesting points about junk mail’s effect on the environment. Fifteen states have introduced eighteen bills that may or may not pass to law. The DMA says it will hurt both the junk mail industry and the U.S. Postal Service. My answer to this is junk mailers could have prevented this by policing themselves years ago, and the USPS will survive without junk mail. I did a post back in October of 2007, DIRECT MARKETING ASSN. (DMA) FIGHTS STATE “DO-NOT-MAIL” LAWS…AND I AGREE,” that I still feel is appropriate. In that I quoted John Greco, DMA president, as saying, “the environmentalists and privacy advocates ‘distort the facts in their efforts to eliminate advertising mail to consumers.’” This from an industry whose best hope is that two out of the one-hundred pieces of junk mail they send out doesn’t end up in the garbage dump. In a later post, "US POSTAL SERVICE SAYS “NO” TO DO-NOT-MAIL REGISTRY,” February of this year, I did a comparison with junk phone calls—which almost everyone hates—and its counterpart in the mailbox which is sometimes welcomed. But to receive it should be at the discretion of each individual recipient. The blanket do-not-mail laws stop all junk mail which is fair neither to the person who wants it nor the businesses who send it. The answer is to give consumers control over their names and private information, and compensate them when it is sold as an incentive to assume this responsibility. Another champion of junk mailers, Gene Del Polito, pres. Of the Assn. for Postal Commerce, says, “Their facts are wrong. A lot of what they argue is based on myth,” but doesn’t explain what he is referring to. He adds, “When you take away all of those arguments because you have been able to disprove them, the only thing you're left with is their complaint that advertising in the mail is annoying.” Exactly what arguments? And even more bizarre, “When the day comes [where] you (you being the consumer) will start paying to receive mail, then I will be willing to concede to you that you have some ability or authority to control what mail you receive.” In other words, it is the opinion from the head of yet another junk mail industry organization—in addition to the DMA—that consumers have no right to choice in what comes into their household. I do not believe the American public agrees with this, but until they let this be known, their names and personal data will be exploited around the world, and many will continue to suffer from identity theft.


Tracy Glomski said...

“When the day comes [where] you (you being the consumer) will start paying to receive mail, then I will be willing to concede to you that you have some ability or authority to control what mail you receive.”

I saw that comment, and I wondered what he was smoking. Because we do pay to receive that mail. We pay not only in the subtle (but real) cost of putting our privacy at greater risk, we also directly pay our disposal companies to haul that stuff away, plus taxes to fund our municipal landfills and/or recycling programs. During the peak of the 2007 holiday season, the weekly weight of my junk mail exceeded the weight of all other household trash combined. And I was making an honest effort to prevent that: I was enrolled in three mail preference services (two with blanket opt-outs) at the time. More than two-thirds of catalogs I received were unsolicited—if I’ve never once bought anything from those companies, how exactly am I supposed to stop doing business with them, as Del Polito advises?

Even now during the off-season, I sometimes receive more unwanted paper in one week’s mail than I otherwise use in a whole year. I am including the toilet paper in that estimate. Too bad catalogs aren’t formulated to safely dissolve in septic systems.

I'd love to get off each and every one of these lists. But I think I would have to gain control of my name and personal data, as you suggest, to actually accomplish it.

Jack E. Dunning said...

Thanks for the comment, Tracy. The Del Polito statement is indicative of the arrogance of the junk mail industry's pet theory that they own our names and personal data, and the consumer can take it or leave it. Until the average person realizes that junk mailers, in keeping with the above philosophy, extend this "ownership" belief to the point that they are convinced that they can do anything with our sensitive data they want to. And this sometime reckless action, unfortunately, can end up causing identity theft. By the way, the link "these lists" in your comment illustrates a number of data brokers, each of which maintains files of sensitive data on millions of consumers.

Keep up the good work, Tracy, you are a true Patriot of Privacy.

Jack E. Dunning
The Dunning Letter