How can we bring a baby into the world without all the junk mail?
February 18, 2010 10:47 AM   Subscribe

We're planning to have a baby. How can we do so without getting our names on mailing lists for baby-related junk mail?

I assume that before 9 months are up, we'll be inundated with catalogs for cribs, baby proofing gadgets, cord blood services, etc. How can I avoid that? Should I only pay for baby stuff with cash? Should I avoid buying baby things online? Will the hospital or our doctor sell our address to marketers? How can we minimize the amount of baby junk mail?

Or will the junk mail end up being valuable in helping us think of things we hadn't considered?
posted by anonymous to Shopping (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a hospital birth with care through my OB, and we didn't do anything specific to avoid the junk mail. We definitely got baby-related junk mail -- mainly books of coupons for Target and Babies Ya Us -- but I wouldn't call it "inundated." Buying a house put us much higher up on the spam list.

The one thing that was a little oogy was that Similac sent us $60 worth of formula. I was breastfeeding, though, and it happened to come 24 hours before a major weather-related disaster in my area, so I just donated it to one of the temporary shelters that got set up.
posted by KathrynT at 10:51 AM on February 18, 2010

I got a very small amount of junk mail that I believe was somehow linked to my filing a birth certificate since I had a homebirth and I'm positive my midwives didn't sell my name to anyone. I never ordered anything from a catalog but I did use a credit card at the occasional baby store.
posted by serazin at 10:52 AM on February 18, 2010

Perhaps Catalog Choice to preemptively remove your address from mailing list databases? We had our twins a few years ago, and I don't recall our junk mail increasing because of that.
posted by jaimev at 10:53 AM on February 18, 2010

Will the hospital or our doctor sell our address to marketers?

They may or may not. But what certainly gets you is the registration of the birth certificate, which is a public record.

Moreover, what will really trip you up is that many hospitals offer free photograph services, which require to enter an email address to redeem the photos. The hospitals get paid to have the machines in the hallway, which does nothing more than troll for addresses.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:58 AM on February 18, 2010

I don't think you'll be inundated. I got a few, after a hospital birth, paying for baby stuff with credit cards & online, etc. but it was nothing too overwhelming. I did, however, get a "care package" on my way out of the hospital. It was some sort of diaper bag with samples, formula, etc. in it. I didn't want it, and it was clear from the nurse's expression that lots of parents don't want it, but she convinced me to take it and donate it to a shelter, and that's what I did. So, useful.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:01 AM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tell your family right now not to give you any gift subscriptions to parenting magazines!!! That's where a ton of the junk mail comes from.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:05 AM on February 18, 2010

I gave birth at a freestanding birth center, and got very little mail. I got the most mail from Babies R Us, but, to their credit, it was almost always coupons that were actually useful. (I suspect they got our name because my MIL bought our nursery furniture there and had it delivered.) I did not get any free samples of formula or anything like that. I did get on two catalog mailing lists, but they were easy enough to stop.
posted by anastasiav at 11:22 AM on February 18, 2010

I know we got a huge ton of mail from subscribing to the pretty much useless Parenting magazine. Our surname is misspelled in the same way on all of it.
posted by mkb at 11:49 AM on February 18, 2010

Or will the junk mail end up being valuable in helping us think of things we hadn't considered?

Personal experience: I worked for a infant lab at a major research university. We bought a list of names of parents from Experian. (I assumed it was based on purchases, since we would sometimes call grandparents or relatives of those who recently had a baby.) It was a neat opportunity to have parents come in and learn about about how their baby was learning about language and object recognition. They were not compensated except for a free baby book or t-shirt usually. So, perhaps something like that could happen if you didn't opt out.

We would always respect those who wanted to opt out from our studies. But you could also opt-out on the national level too by contacting Experian: Telemarketing or Direct Mail

There's also this info on opting out from Privacy Rights Clearninghouse.
posted by ALongDecember at 12:03 PM on February 18, 2010

i know that at least one of the mall portrait studios mails coupons based on hospital births.
posted by nadawi at 12:15 PM on February 18, 2010

I think we got junk mail after signing up for a "points" card at one of the major baby stuff retailers.
posted by kenliu at 12:23 PM on February 18, 2010

You actually do get some useful coupons from time to time. The junk mail wasn't that bad, except for the random catalogs that showed up around Christmas time. I think if you don't order from them they eventually stop sending catalogs, though.
posted by kenliu at 12:25 PM on February 18, 2010

Your doctor's office may very well give your name and address out, especially if they give out formula samples and diaper bags supplied by formula makers-- which every American OB's office I've been to does. You can probably decline and specifically ask not to have your info given out.

If you do end up getting catalogs, diaper samples, formula samples, and the like, there will be a number on them you can call and ask to be removed from their list. They will do it immediately and with no questions asked. The companies do not want you to associate their names with anything bad. Specifically, if you happen to lose a baby and keep receiving their mailings you might end up associating their product with your loss and therefore be unlikely to purchase anything from them in the future.
posted by ellenaim at 12:39 PM on February 18, 2010

I started getting baby stuff catalogs after buying a baby shower gift in a Babies R Us with my credit card. I kind of didn't think it worked that way, didn't think that put my address on their list automatically. And of course when I bought baby shower gifts online from other stores and had them shipped to me, then the way they got my address was clear and the ensuing catalogs were not a mystery. So I wonder if you could set up a P.O. Box, say at a UPS store (whom you can call and check your box and they'll forward things to you, though you pay that forwarding shipping), and use that for your registry mailing address with the baby stores. Then after the gift period is over you could cancel it, and they'd never know where you really live. And as for buying stuff in the stores, using cash couldn't hurt given my one odd example.

I wonder if it might be easier though to just let it happen and then make sure you call the junkers as they start junking and ask to be removed. Both ways will take effort and neither will stop all the mail most likely.
posted by Askr at 1:22 PM on February 18, 2010

Will the hospital or our doctor sell our address to marketers?

Not unless they want the Office for Civil Rights to come down on them like the hand of God. HIPAA covers you there.
posted by paanta at 1:25 PM on February 18, 2010

Some of the "junk" is, in fact, helpful. The 20% off coupons for Buy Buy Baby have been kind of a bonanza of savings for us.

If you find you're getting too annoyed, you can go the standard routes to limit junk mail that you're already getting, and that will work just fine.

I don't recommend making changes to your birth plan based on an aversion to junk mail. But, that's just my opinion.
posted by Citrus at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Don't do any kind of babyshower registry with Babies R Us or anything like that. I did so in advance of my baby shower, and we got put on a list. I happen to know this resulted from the registry and not the hospital, because I put a fake anticipated due date on the registry form. The coupons, etc., I receive are tailored to that fake date, and not the real one.

My husband and I have both sent them letters explaining that our child died, to no avail. They are nothing if not persistent, you are totally right to try to stay off the lists in the first place.
posted by bunnycup at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2010

nthing no parenting magazines. Firstly, they're crap, and yeah, you'll get on a bunch of lists.
posted by gaspode at 1:30 PM on February 18, 2010

Pay cash at maternity wear stores.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2010

Seconding bonobo. We got a ton of junk mail after I made some purchases from Motherhood Maternity/Mimi Maternity.

And for the love of god, don't ever respond to anything from Viacord. They call you, they email you, they won't leave you alone.
posted by pinky at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2010

The baby-related junk mail (coupons) we have received are some of the most appreciated junk mail we've gotten.

We actually SIGNED UP for the formula "club" for both Similac and Enfamil (which gets you their newsletter and coupons and such), and when we had our first kid, we had both of our parents sign up for the clubs too. The formula freebies alone (sample cans of formula) were probably hundreds of dollars of product. And also hundreds of dollars in coupons (which we would be buying anyway). This was well worth the junk mail from parenting magazines and other stuff that we also were inundated with.

Even if you are breast feeding your child (or planning on doing so), remember that they also send out diaper coupons in those packages. Also, we intended to breast feed but were unable to do so in any volume for two of our kids. Plus, if you don't use the formula the shelters will gladly accept the free cans.

Also, we have a BJ's warehouse club membership (it's like Costco). We somehow got on the BJ's "baby stuff" coupon list. The last book we received, we easily used $30 in diaper coupons alone.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 8:11 AM on February 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm with everyone on the yay for coupons side. Babies are expensive.

While I hate that we get like 5 copies of Parents Magazine every month, the coupons for diapers and baby food are awesome. And while we don't use formula, our daycare provider wanted some formula on hand in case of an earthquake. You can also give those formula coupons away to those that need them. (Post to Craigslist and leave them somewhere.)

Similac and Enfamil also gave us free diaper bags (crappy) but with freezer packets inside that we could have used to transport breastmilk if we ever needed to, but now use for kiddo's lunchbox.

Our kid is 15-month-old now and we don't get as much junk mail as we used to, FWIW.
posted by k8t at 3:36 PM on February 20, 2010

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