Stop the circulars
November 21, 2005 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Isn't there any way to permanently block delivery of unaddressed junk (USPS) mail? The post office insists on cramming increasingly thick stacks of "Occupant", "Resident", etc mail into the box every day and it's become ridiculous.

Cards and letters get crushed. Bills get hidden among the loose papers. Netflix envelopes frequently get torn. It's just a matter of time until a DVD is cracked or something important gets thrown out by mistake. All to ensure delivery of (ugh) ads, which go straight into the recycling anyway. The Direct Marketing Association's list apparently only blocks mail that's addressed to us by name. Postal policy allows us to block senders individually by name only and besides, we have to claim they're sending porn just to get that block, sheesh. Sending without an addressee name on the label seems to be the loophole that allows unlimited amounts of this crud a free pass into everyone's mailbox. Isn't there any way to block all these random circulars that are crowding us out of our own mailbox?
posted by nakedcodemonkey to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It takes some work and some time, but here's how.
posted by hydrophonic at 12:11 PM on November 21, 2005 [2 favorites]

I wonder if simply taping a little sign to you mailbox might do the trick -- something like:
    Please deliver no bulk mail here, for example 'Resident', 'Current Resident', 'Occupant', etc.
Just a thought; I might haveta try it myself.
posted by LordSludge at 12:21 PM on November 21, 2005

From hydrophonic's link:
Local business & supermarket fliers: All mailings must be identified, by postal regulations. Each lose-leaf bundle of fliers, by postal regulations, must be delivered at the same time as an address card. Locate this address card; the cards usually have an advertisement and a photograph of a missing child.

This is awesome (if it works).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:23 PM on November 21, 2005

LordSludge--I don't think it's an option for the postal carrier to filter mail like that at your box. If the postage has been paid (and if it says "to current resident/occupant/etc) then they have to leave it. The best option is from hydrophonic's wonderful link:

First class mail: Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write "refused: return to sender". Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.

Bulk mail: The post office throws away bulk mail it can't deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if "address correction requested" is written on the label: circle "address correction requested" and treat like first class mail.
posted by handful of rain at 12:29 PM on November 21, 2005

Or you can take a postage-paid envelope at random from a bulk mail envelope, fill it with other junk mail, and post. I don't know if it does any good, but it's satisfying.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:40 PM on November 21, 2005

For five dollars, there is a place that will eliminate about 70% of the mail. Check the June 20 entry for details.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 12:59 PM on November 21, 2005

Actually, the service is free if you register by snail mail. It will take 1-2 months for it to be processed that way though.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 1:04 PM on November 21, 2005

However, if "address correction requested" is written on the label

But it's not, so you're screwed. Only effective method I've found is moving every couple of years. I asked at the Post Office, they gave me that address, I sent away to the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association; result -- no change.
posted by Rash at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2005

you can take a postage-paid envelope at random from a bulk mail envelope, fill it with other junk mail, and post. I don't know if it does any good, but it's satisfying.

I cross-fertilize the NRA stuff with the ACLU stuff all the time. I keep two distinct piles: "progressive" and "regressive" swap the return envelopes. Like you, I don't know if it reduces the amount of mail, but it does make me feel somewhat better about getting it all. It's also something you can do while doing something else - a bit like knitting.
posted by meehawl at 1:21 PM on November 21, 2005

Also, consider any places you have given your address to. Credit card companies will sell them, as will most online businesses (unless it clearly states they won't, expect something). I barely get any junk mail; i'm extremely careful about who I give my info to.
posted by frankie_stubbs at 1:29 PM on November 21, 2005

Risking your collective hatred, I will admit that I work at a Direct Mail company in Canada.

We handle first-, second- and third-class mailings for companies that do not have the distribution capacity to do this for themselves. It's not all junk mail - we handle magazine subscriptions and financial reports, too.

All three classes of mail have addresses on them (fourth-class mailings, for occupant/resident/etc. are not necessarily put in your mailbox by a postal worker in Canada - the stuffer can be a private employee).

In Canada, there is one sure-fire way to get off a lot of these named mailing lists: The National Change of Address Database, which is a federal database maintained by Canada Post.

It's not free. You pay a processing fee to file a change-of-address and then (the trick) check the little box that says "Do Not Provide my address to NCOA Queries."

Now, any time a direct-mail database is updated against the NCOA database, your address will be flagged "Do Not Mail" and your name will be removed from that mailing.

Over time, as Databases age, more of the junk-mail senders will choose to update against the NCOA database, and more of the existing databases which contain your address will cull your information based on your Do Not Mail status.

Eventually, only databases which have recently aquired your mailing address (ie. from new paperwork you've filled out) will contain your address, and then only untill they are run against the NCOA database.
posted by Crosius at 2:21 PM on November 21, 2005

Response by poster: hydrophonic, that link is fantastic. Thank you. Amazingly, we already routinely do at least 60-70% of those tips and STILL the mountains of "deliver to every mailbox in sight" circulars arrive. None of those fliers ever seemed to have return address info, so this is really cool. Can't wait to track down some of these senders through their embedded cards. *cackle*
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:13 PM on November 21, 2005

In fact, the USPS will fire individual postal carriers who comply with customer requests to them to not deliver bulk/junk mail. If you want to stop junk mail, you need to stop it at the source (as discussed above), not by interacting with your local postal person.
posted by WestCoaster at 3:41 PM on November 21, 2005

WestCoaster hit on it. It's illegal for the mailman/woman not to deliver all that mail to you. Your only hope is the DMA, and they will never help you with non-member mailings, which your local grocery store fliers generally are.
posted by nomisxid at 5:00 PM on November 21, 2005

While it's not about circulars (which, in my experience, are square!), only about credit card offers, is really easy to just do. They ask for SSN & birthdate but admit up front that you don't have to give it to them for it to work.
posted by Aknaton at 9:51 AM on December 5, 2005

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