Six Pounds of Junk Mail, Or, A Case Against the U.S. Postal Service

 

Yesterday I returned home from the office to find an enormous packet, wrapped in plastic, on the front porch–a set of catalogs from Restoration Hardware so big that, as the postman had apparently discovered, it wouldn’t fit inside our mailbox.

This made me angry. I didn’t ask for these catalogs. Far from it. The last time anyone in our family set foot in Restoration Hardware must have been six or seven years ago when I bought some towel hangers for the kids’ bathroom–and resolved, after paying what struck me as a staggering sum for some metal hoops finished in chrome, never to return. But this packet of catalogs arrived all the same.  

It contained not one or two but five catalogs I did not and do not want:  RH Outdoor & Garden, RH Interiors, RH Tableware, RH Small Spaces, and–no, I’m not making this up–RH Objects of Curiosity. I was so angry that I carried the packet inside, then climbed on the bathroom scale with it and once again without it and then calculated the difference: six pounds. Six pounds!

Restoration-Hardware-2-of-2.jpgIf a teenager had dropped six pounds of garbage on my front yard, he would have committed an act of vandalism and I could have called the police. But as long as they do so through an agent of the federal government–namely, our postman, who, come to think of it, had to be even unhappier to tote that six-pound packet than I was to receive it– the marketing department at Restoration Hardware may dump six pounds of garbage in front of my house entirely legally.  

Note further that FedEx and UPS only deliver items to my house that I have ordered or that have come from people I know–not once have I ever found myself heaving an item from a private delivery service into the recycling bin. But the United States Postal Service? Amid the odd item that I truly want, mounds of junk mail, six days a week.

Does this make sense?

It can’t–it just can’t.

The solution? Well, I’m not sure–to tell you the truth, I have yet to calm down enough to think it through. But if caller ID enables me to pick up the telephone only when someone calls to whom I truly wish to speak, and spam filters enable me to receive only emails I really want, then why should it lie beyond the wit of man to develop some sort of filtering system for mail?

For that matter, if in this age of FedEx, UPS and Internet we abolished the U.S. Postal Service altogether, what would we really be losing? I’m not saying we should abolish the postal service–as I say, I haven’t thought this through just yet. But I repeat:  What would we really lose if we did so?

And now you’ll excuse me. I have to take six pounds of garbage out to the recycling bin.

There are 54 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @LeslieWatkins

    I’m amazed they have this kind of ad budget. Four-color is amazingly expensive, especially on glossy paper wrapped in plastic. Are you sure one of your family members didn’t inadvertently get on the mailing list? In any event, in answer to your question about Saturday delivery or delivery at all through the USPS, the only people it would hurt are letter writers, like my 94-year-old mother, because letters are the only thing that will be lost/missed when this is gone. I’m guessing it will happen only after e-mail becomes the norm (though from what I hear from my 17-year-old, e-mail itself has become passe, and now I’m feeling left behind!).

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @NathanielWright

    You’re right. I never get scads of spam after purchasing things from Crate & Barrel — especially not after I “unsubscribe” or even after changing my email settings to say that Crate & Barrel emails are spam.

    Never.

    How about calling RH and asking them to stop soliciting you? How about using these catalogs to make papier mache?

    I’m not one to defend the post office as a model — they are inefficient and over priced — but they aren’t the only ones who transfer junk mail and if they didn’t exist junk mail would change providers.

    Besides, how else would I get my 20 pounds of political fliers each season without the post office?

    Oh, and I prefer my print copies of Imprimis to the digital version.

    • #2
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    @TheMugwump

    You’re worried about catalogs?  Seriously?  It’s capitalism, my good man, you should be celebrating the shear bounty of what’s available whether you want it or not!  And get rid of that recycling bin.  Have you any idea how much gasoline and diesel we waste by segregating garbage for multiple pick-ups?  Save the aluminum for yourself; it’s currently worth 60 cents a pound.  The rest can go to the landfill.  Strike a blow for freedom!        

    • #3
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    @BlueStateBlues

    And to add insult to injury, they printed the catalogs in mirror-image type, to make them even harder to read!

    • #4
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    @OkieSailor

    Ditto about the recycling bin plus it takes more water and electricity to make inferior recycled paper than to make first quality new paper. What are we short of water (locally) electricity (due to regulation) or trees?  As to your question, though I pay most all of my bills online through my Credit Union I have resisted signing up to have bills emailed to me as I’m afraid they might get lost in the clutter. So now the only mail I “look forward to” is bills. Everything else is unsolicited, time-wasting junk. I do, however, occasionally sell something on Amazon.com and find the USPS is generally the cheapest way to ship.

    • #5
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    @RichardRussell

    At the 92067 post office they cram two dumpsters-worth of rubbish into our mailboxes every morning, and in the afternoon we all dutifully go there and pull it out of our mailboxes and put it into the two dumpsters they thoughtfully provide for that exact purpose. On the day that they deliver the Penny-Saver, three dumpsters. 

    Their days are numbered. We dumped our copper telephone line this year with no ill effect. Can’t be long before the mailbox gets the axe.

    • #6
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    @Pilli

    Peter, Peter, Peter!  Where have your Conservative credentials gone?

    The ONLY reason RH or anyone else can afford to send 6 pounds of junk mail is because they get a DRASTICALLY reduced rate.  

    The reduced rates are subsidized by the US govt. since the USPS can’t be profitable on its own.

    All that needs to be done is to stop the subsidies and let the USPS operate itself as a business and not as an entitlement to bulk mailers.  Let the USPS sink or swim on its own.

    • #7
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    @BasilFawlty

    I don’t know how effective it is, but DMAchoice.org offers (for a token fee, I believe) to place you on their junk mail equivalent of the Do Not Call List.  Or you can simply write “refused” on your unopened junk mail and give it back to the postman.  This will make him even unhappier than he was about delivering it in the first place.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @ZinMT
    Blue State Blues: And to add insult to injury, they printed the catalogs in mirror-image type, to make them even harder to read! · 37 minutes ago

    :)

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DespairTroll

    Does it make sense?

    Yes, because RH wanted to mail you ads.  You don’t always get what you want in the mail, but you always get something that someone pays to send to you.

    What would we lose?

    A ton of jobs, perhaps mail service to the most remote parts of the country, plus a service that value creating entities would no longer have access to?

    The solution?

    To stop RH from periodically sending you 6 pounds of crap?  *shrugs* Stop buying overpriced furniture…?

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive
    @TheKingPrawn

    Before the USPS wised up to it, the solution, dear Peter, was to take the postage paid envelope from some other junk mail distributor, tape it to your six pounds of catalogs, and repay in kind at least one of them. Not only would they have had the six pounds of rubbish to deal with, they would have paid the freight to receive it. Sadly, the regulations were changed so that it doesn’t work that way any more. However, if your mailman is not one deserving of the traditional Christmas gift, affix the prepaid envelope to the catalogs and set them out because the USPS must treat the item as waste or dead mail.

    • #11
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    @KCMulville

    Does anyone use phone books anymore?

    • #12
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    @DonTillman

    Peter, that photo!  You’ve just handed EJ a wonderful piece of source material.

    Ooh, the Objects of Curiosity catalog?  Can you save that for me?  I never got a copy.  :-)

    These aren’t USPS “bulk mail” though, right?  That’s a serious problem; where the USPS actually subsidizes waste.  

    In this case it seems that Restoration Hardware believes the cost of printing and mailing these catalogs brings in revenue.  And that should stand or fall based on the results.

    I’m guessing that RH is sending out these large catalog packages to select past customers to see if they can be lured back into the stores.   That would make a lot of business sense.

    • #13
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    @Devereaux

    Well, I for one would not be happy to lose the USPS. ?How else can I pay my taxes ON the day they are due, get a receipt for sending it out and a return receipt that they got it – and insure that the check will not be cashed for days – and even weeks sometimes.

    • #14
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    @KCMulville

    A similar story.

    I’m a database developer. Like most people in the IT trade, I leave my resume online. Job-seeking never ends; after all, that’s why LinkedIn is so popular. 

    Anyway, I did IT work for an insurance broker for fifteen years, so my resume gets tagged with the “insurance” keyword. Anyone who actually reads my resume (i.e., does two seconds of homework) would see that I’m an IT guy. Only the most careless recruiter would see a single keyword “insurance,” pick up the phone, and assume that I’m looking for insurance work. But two or three times a week, one particular insurance company (unnamed here) does just that. I’ve frequently told them to remove me from their list, but they keep calling. So now, as soon as I hear that the caller is from that company, I immediately hang up. 

    One recruiter got mad, called back, and said that if I didn’t want calls from her company, it was up to me to remove my resume online (as if I shouldn’t seek an IT job unless I put up with her company’s recruiting carelessness). 

    I hung up on her.

    • #15
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    @RobertPromm

    These fools will soon be amazoned into oblivion.  Huge catalogs are so, well, Sears & Roebuck circa 1955.  And you know what happened to them.  First Roebuck disappear and Sears is about to.

    • #16
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    @HeartofAmerica

    The arrival of these catalogs is no different from the daily spam that you receive in your email. It’s possible that you have an online account and all the boxes were checked for  their catalog mailings. You might want to check it out. I can control my spam (somewhat), too bad I can’t say the same with my mail.

    • #17
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    @rayconandlindacon

    The US Postal Service is an anachronism, much like the rural electrification program or the rural telephone service, all of which, except telephones, were there for a frontier nation encountering new things and needing a way to soften the shock.  It’s been over 200 years since the post office made sense, almost 75 years since rural electrification made sense, and government subsidy of telephones never has and never will make sense.

    There is more than enough money in private hands to pay for these services.  Much of it stolen through taxation, from people who live lifestyles far from the ease and peace to be found in rural America.

    But, there is great power to be found in those tax extractions, and the criminal class, otherwise called politicians, will never give up such power.

    We have created a monster, and his name is Leviathan.

    • #18
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    @ProudSkeptic

    If I get ten pieces of mail a day, maybe eight or nine of them are junk.  The others are items that could have been sent to me as a link in an E Mail.   Cutting out junk mail would be my first choice.  Short of that, not paying overtime to postal workers to deliver it on Saturday would be an obvious thing to do.

    But that’s just me.  What do I know?  I’m just the customer.

    • #19
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    @RedRules

    I’m with you Peter. I recently got into my own place and am now discovering the ‘joy’ of junk mail. It’s minor I suppose, but the principle is the same. Who is it that is sending me this multi-page full color loose-leaf….magazine, for lack of a better word, full of “BUY THIS RIGHT NOW” advertisements two times a week? I don’t want it, but I don’t seem to have any recourse to stop it’s regular arrival.

    • #20
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    @flownover

    Suggest you forward to Lileks . I can remember his reveries over the brightly colored pages of the festive po-mo bronze, antiqued, distressed, faux -everything muted lustre of their almost chewable curtain tiebacks or whatever….. 

    The only thing of value I have found is the dual roll toilet paper holder with magazine rack . Now that is a truly functional item !

    Yes, Lileks would love another set of the Restoration Hardware catalogs, after all he is missing the Monkey Ward wishbook.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PeterRobinson
    Pilli: Peter, Peter, Peter!  Where have your Conservative credentials gone?

    The ONLY reason RH or anyone else can afford to send 6 pounds of junk mail is because they get a DRASTICALLY reduced rate.  

    The reduced rates are subsidized by the US govt. since the USPS can’t be profitable on its own.

    All that needs to be done is to stop the subsidies and let the USPS operate itself as a business and not as an entitlement to bulk mailers.  Let the USPS sink or swim on its own. · 4 hours ago

    That’s it!  And you’re right.  I should’ve thought of that myself.  Behind nearly every insane situation lies a regulation, tax, or, as in this case, subsidy.

    • #22
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    @Mvidrine

    Peter, if you want to reduce the amount of junk mail you receive, here is a good link for you.

    http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email

    You can stop prescreened offers of credit cards and insurance and remove your name from the list of the direct marketers association. I don’t know how much junk mail it will stop, but its a start.

    • #23
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    @MTabor

    Life is hard, isn’t it Mr. Robinson?

    Apologies, but I don’t take this post seriously. If you don’t want the catalogues, throw them away — that’s that.

    Trust that RH has a reason for doing what they do. Trust that if they’re wrong, the market will figure it out.

    • #24
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    @gdfsp

    For people who have an iPhone, here is a possible solution:

    PaperKarma

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paperkarma/id458837823?mt=8

    • #25
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    @philo

    BE VERY CAREFUL HERE. I can see it now…imagine a very serious looking Wilford Brimley staring you down:

    POSTMASTER GENERAL: Robinson, I’ve been, uh, reading some of your material here. I gotta be honest with you: you make a pretty strong case. I mean, just imagine. An army of men in wool pants running through the neighborhood handing out pottery catalogs, door to door.

    ROBINSON: Yeah! Ha ha. POSTMASTER GENERAL: Well, it’s my job. And I’m pretty damn serious about it. In addition to being a postmaster, I’m a general. And we both know, it’s the job of a general to, by God, get things done. So maybe you can understand why I get a little irritated when someone calls me away from my golf. ROBINSON: I’m very, very sorry. POSTMASTER GENERAL: Sure, you’re sorry. I think we got a stack of mail out at the desk that belongs to you. Now, you want that mail, don’t you Mr. Robinson?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nKlzQo3Wqo

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Wow. Talk about shooting the messenger.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @TomDavis

    Why is it that I cannot buy a commode that will flush down anything because it is not good for the environment, but why in the world do my tax dollars go to subsidize the ton of junk mail that comes to my mail box every year?

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @
    philo: BE VERY CAREFUL HERE. I can see it now…imagine a very serious looking Wilford Brimley staring you down:

    POSTMASTER GENERAL: Robinson, I’ve been, uh, reading some of your material here. I gotta be honest with you: you make a pretty strong case. I mean, just imagine. An army of men in wool pants running through the neighborhood handing out pottery catalogs, door to door.

    ROBINSON: Yeah! Ha ha.   POSTMASTER GENERAL: Well, it’s my job. And I’m pretty damn serious about it. In addition to being a postmaster, I’m a general. And we both know, it’s the job of a general to, by God, get things done. So maybe you can understand why I get a little irritated when someone calls me away from my golf.   ROBINSON: I’m very, very sorry.  POSTMASTER GENERAL: Sure, you’re sorry. I think we got a stack of mail out at the desk that belongs to you. Now, you want that mail, don’t you Mr. Robinson?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nKlzQo3Wqo · 44 minutes ago

    Priceless!

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @RonSelander

    Am I the only one to notice that this post from Peter has a distinct Dave Carter flavor?

    • #30

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