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Monday, July 19, 2010

Could this be the real demise of junk mail?

Joan Fischer of Plattsburgh, New York rummaged through her mail at the post office, kept what she wanted, and dropped the rest in a new bin provided by the U.S. Postal Service marked “Recyclable Mail.” The USPS is finally owning up to the fact that they do deliver unwanted, junk mail that their patrons don’t want, and is finally providing them a receptacle where they can get rid of it guilt-free.

After spending 35 years in the junk mail industry as a data broker and database consultant, it is obvious to me the business has yet to learn how to limit their advertising campaigns to those who actually want it. There are ways to do that but most are just too lazy to put out the effort, or not willing to spend the money to develop predictive modeling.

I am talking about advanced computer technology that can target their offers to geography as small as only a few households. I know. I have done it for several mailers in the past and it was successful. But many in the industry aren’t convinced it really works, fear they could be losing potential customers by directing their mail at an established profile. At best, these households are borderline.

Maureen Marian, a USPS public affairs specialist, says of the recycle bins in the Press Republican that they plan to “expand the positive impact into the community.” Now let’s look at this possible scenario.

The U.S. Postal Service, the almost exclusive conveyance of junk mail, places clearly marked recycle bins across the country in their over 32,000 locations. They make it convenient, like in Plattsburgh, for the public to dispose of their unwanted mail, with the result that everyone feels good about being environmentally correct. They even specify on the receptacles that it is recyclable mail.

It almost sounds like the USPS is saying that junk mail “belongs” in these recycle bins, so a trend is started. Americans, fed up with getting mail they do not want, start dropping it off at their local post office, or regularly put it in their residential recycling—without even looking at it now—because they are finally convinced it is the right thing to do.

The junk mail industry must address this problem and do it soon to curb waste in landfills, and to honor a public that does not want junk mail. There is another reason, much more serious than waste: identity theft. A piece of household mail has the basic foundation needed by ID thieves…name and address.

When you add to that a current increase in credit card mailings, the overall situation becomes critical.

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