Four Letter Words

September 18, 1998

By Michael Jessen

Nancy Baker got her dander up last week. She was angry about two four letter words -- junk mail.

As she explained to me, there is too much unwanted paper clogging up her South Slocan mail box. Nancy is also concerned that getting multiple copies of various flyers are driving up her living costs.

Bob Taylor says there is a solution to stopping the flow of unwanted mail. Just write a dated note with your signature on it indicating your desire to stop receiving unaddressed mail and stick it on the inside of the mail receptacle door.

Taylor, who works in Canada Post's corporate communications department in Vancouver, says a card acknowledging your wishes should appear in your box within a couple of days, if your box is in a post office. A rural mail box holder should just find that the flow stops. (I put a "no junk" sticker in my box four weeks ago and it worked immediately.)

Canada Post is supposed to put community weekly, biweekly or monthly newspapers in your box as these newspapers were exempted from the unaddressed mail definition, but these papers now often come stuffed with unwanted flyers. What's a person to do?

In my box I now no longer receive an Express, Pennywise, or Weekender as these papers have a policy of respecting the "no unwanted ad mail" choice of boxholders. I just pick up copies at my local store or the newstand in Nelson. Not having home delivery of these popular local weeklies is a small price to pay to avoid receiving unwanted ad mail.

Taylor has nothing but praise for community papers with such policies. "Good on them for respecting people's wishes," he said.

If you live in an area where the local "advertiser" or weekly paper does not have such a policy, Taylor suggests contacting the paper directly and informing them of your wishes.

He admitted that Canada Post only delivers about one quarter of all unaddressed ad mail so especially in larger communities with door-to-door delivery it may be necessary to make your wishes known to a number of private delivery services.

According to Taylor, Canada Post has seen less than three percent of their customers put "no ad mail" stickers on their mailboxes, although he acknowledges it varies from community to community.

A recent edition of Undercurrents on CBC Television indicated that as much as 95 percent of direct mail advertising was not opened. The problem, as the program pointed out, is that direct mail campaigns are successful with as little as a two percent response rate.

Direct mail is more likely to have your name and address on it, usually obtained from a magazine you subscribe to or an organization or political party that you belong to. Be sure to contact such groups and inform them you do not want your name sold, otherwise a lot of unwanted stuff will come your way.

By writing to the Canadian Direct Marketing Association, Station E, 607 #1 Concord Gate, Don Mills, Ontario, M3B 3N6, you can request your name be stricken from their mailing lists. (You may have to do this once a year.) A letter to the Direct Marketing Association Mail Preference Service, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9008 will stop direct mail originating in the United States.

If your business receives a lot of unwanted addressed mail, write to Southam Business and Communication Group Inc., 1450 Don Mills Road, Don Mills, Ontario, M3B 2X7, Attn: Circulation, and request your firm's name be erased from their mailing lists.

I'm sending Nancy Baker a "No Junk" sticker so I hope to hear soon that her problem is resolved. I swear, you should no longer be getting your dander up about junk mail! You now have the power to stop it.

TRASH TIP - It is estimated Canadian mailboxes receive 3 billion pieces of addressed direct mail annually and 13 billion pieces of unaddressed mail annually. Say no to junk mail and you'll help save a lot of paper, trees, printing costs, distribution costs, etc.

All columns archived here are copyright © 1999 by Michael Jessen, all rights reserved. If you wish to print an individual column for your own use, please do so. If you wish to publish any of the columns in either print or electronic format, please contact the author at to arrange appropriate payment.