Dead Letter Office
June 13, 2008 3:01 PM   Subscribe

What happens when I tell catalogue people I am dead?

Somehow -- I suspect it was the Folio Society, because it seems to be mostly book companies, British culture companies and classical music clubs -- my name and address has been sold to a list mill. This is addressed mail, not "Occupant" or "Current Resident" mail.

Conventional Internet spam wisdom is "never tell them you don't want their catalogue, because that just confirms the address is valid and raises your spam value rating." Does the same apply to junk mail?

And if so, what's the best way of dealing with it? I have considered drawing a line through the address and putting "UNSOLICITED" on the mail, then leaving it sticking out of the mailbox for the postal person to return to sender, but I'm worried that that's not a recognized reason to send mail back. "DECEASED" is more fun (and kind of cool), but I'm concerned that it, along with "NOT AT THIS ADDRESS," will result in the post office proper thinking I am dead/no longer resident and bouncing legitimate mail. My name, in theory, becomes valueless and is removed from lists (rather than becoming confirmed and therefore more valuable).

I am in Canada, and we do not have an equivalent to the options listed here. I think nipping this in the bud, and telling these companies I am "dead," either by "DECEASED: RETURN TO SENDER" post or by calling their 1-800 numbers, is the best method of getting my name conclusively removed from their lists, because dead people generally do not purchase things by mail order or otherwise.

But are there ramifications to being catalogue-dead that I am not considering?
posted by Shepherd to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: In the US most of the time calling them to tell them not to send the catalog works 99% of the time.

Presumably this is because sending a catalog is much more expensive than sending spam.
posted by aubilenon at 3:05 PM on June 13, 2008

The only problem I can think of would be if the company took it upon themselves to inform credit reporting services about your demise - an unlikely problem, but it might be an annoying one if it happened.

Why not write on it "Return to sender - catalogue crushed my pet hamster as it came through the letter box"?
posted by Mike1024 at 3:35 PM on June 13, 2008 [3 favorites]

Conventional Internet spam wisdom is "never tell them you don't want their catalogue, because that just confirms the address is valid and raises your spam value rating." Does the same apply to junk mail?

Nah, snail mail mailing lists are not that sophisticated. Just call them and tell them to remove you. They'll warn you that it will take a 4-6 weeks.
posted by desuetude at 4:01 PM on June 13, 2008

Best answer: I kind of work in the industry, and depending on how legit a business is, if they get complaints/bad records, they'll bitch back at the data provider and you'll be removed. That said, just call them and tell them to take you off of their mailing list.
posted by mhuckaba at 4:27 PM on June 13, 2008

FYI, we do have an equivalent in Canada: CMA Do Not Contact Service, though it's new and I have no idea how effective.
posted by drycleanonly at 4:58 PM on June 13, 2008

About twenty years ago in the States, a few people had problems collecting the pensions because of this, but I'm pretty sure that times have changed in that regard.

It's fun to freak out the telemarketers, but c'mon, they're the bottom of the food chain. They're telemarketers because nothing else has worked out. They're abused for minimum wage.

My new way of entertaining myself is to be nice to the poor SOBs, but tell them to register complaints against the company and not to call me again. They actually get recorded and rated on their responses. So say something terrible about the company, tell them not to call you again, and say something nice about how helpful they were.

When it comes to publications, forget the diseased. They just keep sending their catalogues figuring the new occupants want their crap. You just need to say no
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:11 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For companies that include a postage-paid envelope, I have had great success stuffing everything they sent me into that envelope along with a note saying "Please remove me from your mailing list", and sending it off. I have done it several times and never received another communication from the offending companies. (See here for an explanation).
posted by sanitycheck at 6:37 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have had good luck calling places and asking to be taken off the list. They already know you're a valid address because they bought your name from a list. Generally companies that spend money for direct mail are actually legit enough to have the decency to stop mailing you if you ask. I'd just call.
posted by radioamy at 7:35 PM on June 13, 2008

Canada Post declares that it is their MISSION to deliver the mail as outlined in the Canada Post Corporation Act. So, while a "No Junk Mail" sign on your door will stop the unaddressed flyers, they will continue to deliver Addressed Admail. They really don't care what the name is. As long as the postage is paid and the address is valid, they will deliver it. However, an interesting wrinkle in the law is that if mail is refused, it is not considered delivered and must be returned to the sender. I've wanted to make a sign to refuse all Addressed Admail, and but Mrs. KH is fond of a particular catalog that comes via Admail, so this legal argument has remained untested. If you try this, I'd love to hear how it turns out.

I've also started to return any spam with enclosed prepaid envelopes with a DO NOT SOLICIT message. Can't say if it's effective, but it sure makes me feel better.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:14 PM on June 13, 2008

I enjoy returning unsolicited mail by marking it 'RETURN TO SINNER'.
posted by troybob at 9:40 PM on June 13, 2008

I have done it several times and never received another communication from the offending companies.
Didn't work for me with the ACLU. but maybe they just keep getting my address again from new sources.
posted by J.R. Benedict at 8:54 AM on June 14, 2008

Unfortunately, "deceased" didn't stop telemarketers or junk mail coming for my grandfather even years and years after he'd been dead. I remember having a sputtering Dead Parrot sort of discussion with an insistent telemarketer some six years after he died, where they kept wanting Erv put on the phone to talk with them because he'd ostensibly ordered some product. I finally "caved" and gave them the number of the cemetery he was buried at and told them to try to contact him at his new place of residence.
posted by klangklangston at 9:32 AM on June 14, 2008

If you really want to cut down on unsolicited catalog mailings, Catalog Choice is effective.
posted by gum at 11:27 AM on June 14, 2008

« Older Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow   |   Why did M Lamar Keene really come clean? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.