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Thursday, April 03, 2008


This past Monday I did a post about junk mailers whining again over do-not-mail state legislation. Suggesting the industry should get out in front of the issue of unwanted mail—in many cases leading to identity theft—the implication was that rather than complain they should take action in policing themselves. It all stems from environmentalist ForestEthics who recently launched a Do Not Mail campaign. I decided to dig deeper into the background of this non-profit, but in the meantime found an editorial by Ray Schultz, editorial director of Direct magazine, in the April 2008 issue which vilifies ForestEthics for trying to destroy junk mail. Schultz puts out some questionable statistics on his medium’s contribution to landfills, but one fact is for certain. Approximately 98 out of 100 pieces of junk mail are discarded by recipients, and it has to go somewhere. My guess is that most eventually end up in the trash. Returning to ForestEthics, I checked into junk mail companies that work with the organization and found the following listed on their site: Dell, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret, Lowe’s, Norm Thompson, Staples, and one of the largest mailers in the country, Williams Sonoma. All of these companies—many of which are members of the Direct Marketing Assn. (DMA)—support ForestEthics. but Ray Schultz, Editorial director of Direct magazine doesn’t. I realize editorials are a matter of opinion, but the indication here from this industry publication would lead us to believe that ForestEthics is wrong in their environmental campaign, whereas at least seven major junk mailers think the organization is doing the right thing. Does this mean that all of the hundreds of other catalogs out there do not agree with ForestEthics? The non-profit also charges Sears/Lands’ End for mailing over 400 million catalogs a year with virtually no recyclable content, using paper from endangered forests. Schultz claims junk mail going into landfills amounts to “maybe 1 %.” Another environmentalist, 41 claims 44 percent goes to the landfill unopened. That may end up being 1 percent of the total, if that is what Schultz is referring to, but any way you look at it, it’s too much when it was unwanted in the first place. Click here to see ForestEthics report on the junk mail catalog environmental scorecard that will tell you who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. The “naughty” ones include Neiman Marcus, Talbots, Eddie Bauer, Office Max, Sharper Image and of course Sears/Lands’ End. So how is it possible to solve a problem that creates this kind of confusion among the very companies that are at the center of this issue, compounded by industry publication editorials like Schultz’s, and the DMA’s president, John Greco, who said, “the environmentalists and privacy advocates ‘distort the facts in their efforts to eliminate advertising mail to consumers?’” The answer is to take the high road and focus on the ones who provide the names and personal data that is being collected and sold…the name-holder. The American consumer. Give that person control over their name and private information, and compensate them when it is sold to provide incentive to shoulder this responsibility. Issue resolved.

1 comment:

Keith D Smith said...

You might read “The Silent Crime” by Michael McCoy. He states that there are 5 major areas of identity theft which can not be prevented. On page 191 he does a comparison of services. He states Pre-Paid Legal Services is “Most robust with complete restoration, credit monitoring and access to attorneys 24/7.” You can find out more about the service at