Do "No Junk Mail" signs work?
February 20, 2006 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Do the "No Junk Mail" signs that I saw in Australia really work to keep away junk mail?

During my recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I saw that most residential mailboxes had this sign on them. I have googled and found a few references to them, for example: Here, at bottom of page

Is this legally enforcable? How well does it work?
posted by bagels to Society & Culture (33 answers total)
 
As a kid, I had a neighbour who had a round delivering advertising material and the free, local newspaper. His manager or supervisor would do spot checks and hassle him about any letterboxes he'd missed. It didn't matter if it was on a tricky, ill-defined part of the route or if it was boxes with those signs. Any repeated misses would mean financial penalties and eventual revocation of the round.

Myself, I've never used one of those signs but it must influence some deliverers in some areas and can't do any harm. I'd say it can't hurt to try but it's not legally enforceable.
posted by Jenga at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2006


That doesn't exist in [where bagels lives]?

I've seen these both in Canada and Holland as well, and as far as I know, they're effective to some degree. People get less junk mail, but never none at all, because some flyer distributors can't be bothered to read signs.

The Dutch ones come in two versions: "NO NO" for no junk mail and no free community newspapers, and "YES NO" for no junk mail but still receptive to community papers.
posted by easternblot at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2006


IANAL, but no, not legally enforceable in the U.S.
posted by frogan at 6:53 PM on February 20, 2006


When I had one on my mailbox in New zealand I never got junkmail. My (american) husband was amazed. I'm amazed at the fact that so many people don't bother to put them on their mailbox.
posted by gaspode at 7:02 PM on February 20, 2006


I've lived in a number of cities in the US — and passed out fliers door to door in a few — and I've never even heard of these. "No soliciting," yes. "No junk mail," no.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2006


They have those in Belgium as well: PAS DE PUB SVP or GEEN REKLAME AUB as appropriate. I think some community or classifieds papers (such as Vlan) have stickers kind of like the "YES NO" mentioned above. One of my Belgian friends says they work.
posted by komilnefopa at 7:08 PM on February 20, 2006


In Montreal it's a city by-law, which is enforced and very effective.

How does it work? If you have on your door or mailbox a sign saying that you don't want flyers and you still get one, you can phone city-hall and complain. It works.

Canada Post has fought to be able to distribute junkmail but, as far as I know, they lost.
posted by bru at 7:18 PM on February 20, 2006


Sorry I left this out, but I live in the US. I have never seen a similar sign around here. I thought it was an Australian thing. Looks like it is used in many places.
posted by bagels at 7:38 PM on February 20, 2006


They're not legally enforceable here in NZ either, but they work to a large degree. I have one. Practically the only junk mail I get is from real estate agents, who for some reason think the sign doesn't apply to them. I maintain a blacklist on my whiteboard of the businesses who have disregarded the notice as payback.

But most of the time the deliverers do read it and respect my wishes. Heck, at one stage my daughter added "except Pak 'n' Save" with a permanent marker, and we were still got the only mailer we were really interested in.
posted by Pigpen at 7:44 PM on February 20, 2006


(I'm an Aussie)
I delivered junk mail as a kid. I never gave it (consciously) to a house with a no junk mail sign, and I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to. I didn't get enough pamphlets to completely cover the area, and the only times I got in trouble were a couple times when some old lady who continually got left out would ring and complain (that she wasn't getting her junk mail?!), so I'd change the area I left out at the end.

Also, having moved to my own place, we got none at all with a sticker up, then we removed it because we missed getting pizza discount ads :)

As far as why they work: people who have those signs up are usually the kind of people who would bin everything without looking at it (or blacklist you), so why waste paper on them?
posted by jacalata at 8:03 PM on February 20, 2006


In my experience they don't work, but then I've always lived in a flat. The letterboxes are usually in banks at the front of the building and all of them got equal treatment. It may be different for houses.
jacalata so why waste paper on them?
I wouldn't think the paid-by-amount-of-flyers-distributed person would really care about that.
posted by tellurian at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2006


In my experience, they have no effect whatsoever. The mail carriers still deliver the junk mail. I believe they're required to, actually..
posted by drstein at 8:34 PM on February 20, 2006


I think the crucial difference here is that it is illegal in the United States for anyone other than a postal employee to put something in your mailbox.

I believe it is the non-postal "Junk Mail" that these signs refer to. They are not requests being made to the postman, they're being made to private distributors.

In the U.S. all of that stuff gets hung on our doorknob or left on the doorstep.
posted by tkolar at 8:38 PM on February 20, 2006


They work in Australia for me very happily.

It is kinda weird that some people don't have them.

The only people who ignore mine are the people who give you a fancy catalogue and ask you to return it with what you want selected. They don't get their catalogues back.

There may be legal protection once such a sign is in place:

From a page about Australian spam and related issues
In an off-line context, a home owner grants a licence to the general public to come to the front door and knock,40 even if the licensee has no previous relationship with the resident but is visiting for promotional purposes.41 This implied licence can naturally be revoked, by means of a "no hawkers" sign on the door or a "no junk mail" sign on the letterbox, or any other method that is adequate to communicate the revocation of the licence to the licensee. Once this has been done, the licensee becomes a trespasser if he has not departed after a reasonable time.42
posted by sien at 9:02 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm in Australia, I have one on my letterbox, and it doesn't work.
posted by teem at 9:20 PM on February 20, 2006


So what do Australians call the flyers/credit card offers/catalogs that are actually mailed to their addresses through the postal system. Is that also "Junk Mail"?
posted by tkolar at 9:26 PM on February 20, 2006


Yes.
posted by Jenga at 9:30 PM on February 20, 2006


I'm also in Australia, and I had one, but it got torn off and stuck on a catalog for a cheap auto parts chain, so I guess it didn't work.
posted by threeze at 9:35 PM on February 20, 2006


I had one in Montreal, and it worked, and now I have a homemade one here in Toronto (which has worked so far). Actually, I hadn't thought a sign wouldn't work since I've had such luck with them so far.

My old Italian neighbour has an amazing sign painted with a shaky, child-like hand which reads "no Junk Mael plesse." It's one of the best-looking things I've seen.
posted by Felicity Rilke at 9:41 PM on February 20, 2006


Seems mostly to be Montreal representing here. I have a no-junk-mail sticker and it works. But, as noted, it's not just a polite request, it's got a by-law behind it.
posted by zadcat at 9:50 PM on February 20, 2006


I think it depends very much on who's delivering your junk mail. I've had them work. I've had them not work. Some delivery guys probably have excess catalogues they want to get rid of, so fill every mailbox possible, while others might not have enough for their area and are more likely to respect the signs. But the stickers are worth a try, and I'm surprised they don't have them in the US, although the comment about only postal officers being allowed to put things in mailboxes probably explains that.

Bagels, as an Australian, that page you link is revealing. You mean you don't have dual-flush toilets in the US? You don't have switches to turn on and off power points? Americans don't have needle disposal units for junkies to put their used hardware in? And how do weather broadcasts describe the weather when it's mild and not raining?
posted by Jimbob at 9:56 PM on February 20, 2006


tellurian: I was more referring to jenga's comment about the manager wanting junk given to households who'd refused it.
posted by jacalata at 10:37 PM on February 20, 2006


The signs work wonderfully in Aus / NZ, but not in the US, because of differences in who can distribute and how, and also because the USA lacks privacy legislation, so companies can sell your address and other info to direct marketers.

In places with appropriate privacy legislation, junk mailers can't mail you directly because they don't know your name or address - companies must get your permission before they can forward your details to some obnoxious 3rd party.

As already mentioned, even if you did have a list of names and addresses, no-one pays to send junk mail through the post service in Aus and NZ, because it's far cheaper to send it by the distributors that specialize in junk mail. Those distributors (in my experience) respect the signs - the mailboys (I was one once) like nothing better than to have fewer houses on their route. More "no circulars" signs means less work :)
So the result is indeed, no junk mail.

In the USA by comparison, I, and most other people I know who grew up elsewhere, are stunned to discover you can't stop the flow here. We all go through this phrase where we simply refuse to believe that this can possibly be true, and go to massive insane lengths to try to stop the rubbish. A few months or a year later, we resign ourselves to the fact that it's inescapable here :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:09 AM on February 21, 2006


Also, all the locals look at us like we're crazy and can't understand why it bugs us so much to get junk mail we don't want. :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:11 AM on February 21, 2006


Also you can add "No circulars" which stops you getting mail that the people making it don't think is junk i.e. community newspapers. [New Zealand]
posted by meech at 12:39 AM on February 21, 2006


I'm an Australian, and I can vouch that it works pretty well. Even more effective is an Australia Post endorsed one, which is a distinctive yellow marker which says words to the effect of `AUSTRAIA POST MAIL ONLY'.

I had a junk mail delivery round when young, and I was always warned to NEVER deliver to those boxes, as it was actually enforced by Australia Post. How, I don't know, but we avoided those boxes like they were filled with angry chimps.
posted by tomble at 1:03 AM on February 21, 2006


Wow, you Aussies who it works for, please tell me where you live?!

I've never seen it work. I haven't bothered in my current home because it's never worked in the past. In fact, the suburb I'm living in now to seems to have more rabid junk-mailers than I've ever experienced :\

(well. that was as good an excuse as any to have a whinge...)
posted by prettypretty at 1:30 AM on February 21, 2006


"Ingen reklamer tak". Works like a charm in Denmark. Most junk mail has a small 'we respect a no thank you' note printed in the corner - and they really do! Junk mail with your name on it however has to be delivered.
posted by FidelDonson at 4:11 AM on February 21, 2006


Also, having moved to my own place, we got none at all with a sticker up, then we removed it because we missed getting pizza discount ads :)

NZ here. I've actually seen a sign on a letterbox that said "no junk mail except pizza vouchers". No idea whether it was effective.
posted by ancamp at 5:52 AM on February 21, 2006


In the U.S., it would not work on junk mail for the following reason:

Junk mail is mail; the sender is paying the USPS to deliver it. If the letter carrier got to your house and didn't put the junk in your mailbox, it would be a breach of the contract between the USPS and the mailer.

Junk that is not mail (that is, that the USPS is not being paid to deliver) cannot, by law, be put in your mailbox. that's why it winds up hung on your doorknob or on the mailbox (or just as often, blowing down the street). (Exception: junk from your congressman or senator. They get to send you crap for free.)
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2006


Regarding junk mail in the U.S., I recently submitted my name and address to the Direct Marketing Association's opt-in list "to receive less commercial mail." (More out of curiosity than hope.)

The service is mentioned in another Q&A, from 11/21/2006 - Isn't there any way to permanently block delivery of unaddressed junk (USPS) mail?
posted by WestCoaster at 12:30 PM on February 21, 2006


We live in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide, South Australia and it works fine for us (even in a block of flats, where the boxes are half stickered, half not).

Every summer, around Christmas time our sticker's glue gives up in the heat and we get all the Christmas and boxing Day sales junk mail. Which is really good timing. Come January we buy an new sticker and don't get anything other than the community newspaper, which my partner tells me (as a former paperboy) has to be delivered though I'd love not to get it.
posted by mule at 2:18 PM on February 21, 2006


I used to deliver junk mail for the major distributor in Perth. We were told not to put them in boxes so labelled, and I usually didn't (sometimes I wouldn't notice the sign).

There were a few variations:
1. No Junk Mail
2. Addressed Mail Only
3. Australia Post Only

I'd say this list is roughly in the order that I'd pay attention to the sign (from least to most), simply because the more "official" the sign sounds, the more you think they might ring up and complain.

(O/T: I used to hate the "Registered Lawn, Please Keep Off" signs -- honestly, who registers their lawn?!)
posted by robcorr at 10:37 PM on February 22, 2006


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