Saturday, May 17, 2008

Stamp Out Future Postage Hikes With Junk Mail

As of last Monday we are all now paying more to mail the same things.

Like everyone else, the United States Post Office is feeling the finacial pinch and looking for ways to bring in a little more moula. There are only two ways for anyone, inclusing USPS, to get more cash; bring in more and keep more. I don't know what the Post Office is doing to reduce their expenses, but I'm not happy with being part of their "bring in more" equation.

What most of us don't realize is that we all have some 'friends' (their self appointed title) that are willing to pay USPS for us. They send scores of letters everday - literally tons of mail nationwide. Why not send them mail back? They are so desperate to hear back from us they even pay for the postage!

Of course I'm talking about junk mail. Everyday I get 3-7 letters of solicitation in my mail. They want me to buy into their magazines, credit cards, polyesther pants and book club plans. I stacked up all the junk mail I recieved at Christmas one year for a week and the pile weighed more then 5 pounds!

Besides cluttering up my mail box I have to pay to throw it all away. It chokes our landfills, costing the environment. All the bleach and dyes used to print the junk goes out as poison waste into our streams. I'm not even going to get into all the trees that are cut down to make the paper that is destined for garbage from the start...

Why not send these 'friends' of ours a message back and help the USPS keep rates low at the same time? All it takes is a few minutes a day to send back the pre-addressed, pre-paid envelopes that come with all the offers.

We look forward to junk mail around here. The kids snicker mischievously as they look for interesting mail to send back in the free envelopes. After I remove anything that has our information on it (I shred personal info to be used as chick and ferret litter) the rest gets mixed up and stuffed back in. Citibank may get pizza coupons. Discover may be invited to join a book club. American Express gets an amazing offer to purchase credit card insurance.

Sometimes the kids add our own papers from school. Who wouldn't want to receive a star math paper back in the mail? Or a solicitation to buy cookie dough? Or old field trip information fliers?

The results are less junk for me to haul to the curb, a satisfying way to tell solicitors what I think of them, financial support for the post office and I always know when my new mail has arrived because the flag will be down again. If everyone in America sent those envelopes back to the companies the USPS probably wouldn't have to raise rates again for years!

And for anyone who's embarrassed at what their postman (or postwoman) would think of seeing fat envelopes waiting to be picked up on a daily basis? For the three workers I've personally asked, they love it. "It's job security!" was the general opinion.

I was also told that this is not a revolutionary new idea - folks have been sending back junk mail for years. A common trick was to tape the postage paid envelope to a brick and mail it back. The post office does discourage mailing bricks, but nice fat envelopes of your child's latest crayon masterpieces are welcome.

Some tips to remember when return junk mailing:
  1. As a rule, I never send anything with personal info on it. Kid's first names are okay to me, but no last names, school names or addresses. I also watch out for envelopes that have "offer id codes" on them.

  2. Shred all personal info to keep it out of the hands of identity thieves.

  3. Process mail on a daily basis to avoid having heaps of clutter piled on your microwave waiting to be stuffed.

  4. Pass this info on to everyone you know that is tired of junk mail and rising postal rates... I think that would be about everyone!


Robert said...

While it is satisfying to send junk to the junk mailers, I don't know that your idea will do anything to reduce the rate that the postal service is raising rates. The post office has done quite a bit to reduce costs via automation, such that increasing the mail volume is likely to increase their costs proportionately.

A few years ago I worked as a temp at a factory where statements (usually the monthly bills for companies like Verizon Wireless, AT&T/Cingular Wireless, Countrywide Mortgages, etc.) were outsourced to be printed and mailed. These letters are mailed at a significant discount from what you or I would pay, mainly because they are pre-sorted and delivered to the post office already bundled in trays tagged for delivery.Depending upon how much pre-sorting was performed on a given tray, the leters received a discount of up to 50% (to get the 50% discount, the messages were sorted as "Carrier Route", literally organized into individual bundles sorted by the specific letter carrier's route and the approximate order they would get delivered in).

While the BREs (business return envelopes) you are sending back obviously cannot be sorted like this, the pre-paid postage on these have been negotiated to a lower rate as well.

Another thing is that the law governing postal rates was changed just a couple years ago such that the USPS can (and almost certainly will) raise their rates every year going forward by an amount less than or equal to the Federal Government's posted rate of inflation without approval from Congress. If they want/need to raise rates more than the rate of inflation in a given year, then it has to be submitted to Congress for approval. With stamps now above 40 cents, it's pretty certain that there is going to be at least a 1 cent (less than 2.5%) increase annually.

Much of the increases will be going to offsetting fuel costs (much of our mail is flown in the cargoholds of all domestic flights if it has to go very far, and all flights have a certain amount of cargo space automatically reserved for mail) or personnel costs (raises, pensions, etc. for the postal workers), things I doubt are going to level off very much.

Jennifer said...

Great idea! I have torn up the contents and mailed it back to whoever mailed it to me before, but I think I like your idea better. It makes things more interesting.

RaDonna said...

Unfortunately, the companies represented by the junk mail solicitations never know about what you send back to them. Everything like that is sent from a "processing center" that handles the solicitations of many different kinds of companies. The mail you send back is also handled by a "processing center" and the orginating companies never see it.

Richard said...

thanks for this I have been saving these things and sending them back for a while I didn't consider the postal profit though all I thought about was costing the junk mailers some green for my aggravation

karen said...

A request: please don't do this to non-profit organization. Just ask to be taken off their mailing lists. They can't use their resources to fund their cause if they are paying postage for junk. The vast majority will remove you if you ask, and it will free up their resources for the need they are trying to meet.

Otherwise, have fun! ;)

Penny Pinscher said...


Good point! Actually, I never do send anything back to a non-profit...only credit card and insurance companies. Thanks for bringing that to light!

Angela a.k.a. Penny Pinscher