Do not mail?

We’re all familiar with the national Do Not Call registry, right? Well, now some people want there to be a similar thing for snail mail.

Vermont legislator Chris Pearson had a sense that the people were with him when he proposed a bill last November to allow residents to block junk mail.

He got media attention, radio interview requests and e-mails from constituents eager to stop the credit card offers, furniture catalogs and store fliers that increasingly clog their mailboxes.

Then came the pushback from the postmasters, who told Pearson and other lawmakers that “standard” mail, the post office’s name for junk mail, has become the lifeblood of the U.S. Postal Service and that jobs depend on it.

“The post office and the business groups are pretty well-organized,” said Pearson, whose bill remains in a committee and has not been scheduled for a vote.

Barred by law from lobbying, the Postal Service is nonetheless trying to make its case before a growing number of state legislatures that are weighing bills to create Do Not Mail registries, similar to the popular National Do Not Call Registry.

The agency has printed 3,000 “information packets” about the economic value of standard mail, with specific data for each of the 18 states that have considered a Do Not Mail Registry. It has sent postmasters to testify before legislative committees across the nation.

“The Postal Service has come in and clobbered legislators,” said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, an environmental group that has collected 289,000 signatures on an online petition to Congress that calls for a National Do Not Mail Registry. “It’s really a people-versus-special interest kind of battle.”

I have a modest amount of sympathy for the Postal Service here. If my mail is like most people’s, then junk mail really is their biggest part of the business, and I can’t blame them for fighting to protect that business. Doesn’t mean I want to see them win that fight, but I don’t think they’re evil for engaging it. I should also point out that as is the case with email spam, the catalog problem would largely solve itself if people simply stopped responding to them. This stuff continues to exist because it works.

Despite the Postal Service’s efforts, I do think that we will have a Do Not Mail registry some day. This is an idea that’s going to be very popular, and once a few states succeed in passing a law, there will be a lot of pressure on Congress to follow suit. It will likely take several years, but I believe it will happen. In the meantime, I recommend using Catalog Choice to reduce your own personal junk mail burden. And contact your state rep and Congressperson if you want to get the ball rolling on the ultimate goal.

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2 Responses to Do not mail?

  1. John says:

    While I too understand why the postal service wants to keep those direct mail revenues, my sympathy isn’t even modest. They’re a public service, not a business, and the public interest, not revenue, should be their main concern.

    That said: There is, however, a choice for the public here; we’re subsidizing cheap, universal mail service with junk mail revenues. It would not surprise me if a do not mail registry meant that regular postal rates would have to go up. (I’d love to see an analysis of it.)

  2. Jim Sharp says:

    This is glorious news!
    I recycle. I mean I RECYCLE. And thanks to “junk mail” I am robbed of precious time out of every single day I receive mail.
    Frequently the crap comes in a plastic bag so I have to put that in one pile (the garbage); then go through the useless pile of former trees and assure there is no other “insert” that is something other than paper; then place that in the paper to-be-recycled
    spot (which, for reasons of space and design is the other side of the house than the “trash”.
    It is simply an additional DAILY burden upon my already completely time-pressed life that I never requested and surely do not desire. And then, come pick-up day every other week, the load I need haul it to the street (or the recycle drop off if, because I do not have the time on the AM of pick up day to get it to the curb) is not simply a few billing envelopes but an entire 3 or 4 grocery bags full of absolute crap the world never asked for and that robs me of my time and FORCES ME to expend effort to discard in a socially respectful manner.
    Until I can begin billing for my time wasted handling their crap, I am foursquare behind an absolute HALT to their materialworld effluent.

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