Bring It On!

Buried In Junk Mail

April 17th, 2007 | by Ken Grandlund |

junk mail

I get a lot of junk mail. Almost 140 pieces last month alone. I thought spam was supposed to get rid of junk mail. Instead, I also get about 350 pieces of e-mail spam a month in addition to the junk mail I get in my physical box. Most of the spam gets caught in various filters or traps, but I still have to clean those filters out. I wish my mailbox had a filter. Or better yet, a shredder.

As an experiment, I decided to save a whole month’s worth of mail. All of it. I wanted to see just how much junk mail I was really getting. For purposes of this study, I decided that anything that was not a legitimate bill, an authorized magazine subscription, or personal correspondance would be categorized as junk mail- even if it came from an entity I had previously or was currently engaged in some form of commerce with, so long as this new correspondance was of another nature. Basically, if it was an offer, plea, advertisement, special offer or anything except those listed above, it was junk mail.

The pile in the picture is the resulting junk mail pile, minus the tri-weekly newspaper-like fliers with grocery ads and miscellaneous great deals. Between my wife and me, we received 13 credit card offers, 11 refinance deals, 7 promises of cheaper indurance, 7 survey questionaires, 43 different advertisements, including 5 from Cingular- the company we already use for cell phone service, 28 pleas from charitable organizations, 10 political fundraising pleas and one unordered magazine. My daughter even got some junk mail, an advertisement for a kids magazine. She’s eight.

If I could take a picture of my e-mail spam it would be at least twice as tall and you’d probably see a similar breakdown of categories- a bunch of refinance offers, insurance promises, political and charitable pleas and surveys, and of course, the ever present penis enlargement miracle cures. (At least I don’t have to touch those ones with my real hands!)

During that same month, I received a grand total of 29 legitimate pieces of mail. Just over one piece per day. Yet every day my hands were full coming back from the mailbox.

So what’s my point? There are any number of social or political parallels I could apply to my junk mail story. I could equate the overbearing amount of junk mail to the incessant stream of bullshit coming out of Washington D.C. and especially the White House. Or I could analyze the enormous amount of wasted resources that are consumed creating, delivering, and disposing of all this junk mail. Or I could complain that like pets, society has become to resemble its junk mail, all flash and little substance.

All of those descriptions are true. But they still don’t change the basic fact that a lot of people are wasting a lot of time sending everybody else a lot of junk. We’re getting buried in it. And we’re going to soon have another mental disorder to deal with- Junk Mail Fatigue. With so many real problems mankind could be working on, we’re perfecting the art of mass mailing things no one will ever look at.

What bothers me most I guess is the sheer waste of it all. The unnecessarily wasted paper, ink, fuel that are used up in the whole process. At every step along the way, energy is consumed, resources are used up, people are worn out, and for what? So that I and my neighbors and friends can take a handful of paper and toss it in the recycle bin or worse, the regular trash? Why do I need 5 different advertisements from my own cell phone company during the month, and then the same adverts in my monthly bill? Would my rates be lower if they stopped wasting so much money advertising to their own customers? Why does the charity that I donate to about four times a year send me pleas 8 times a year, each time stuffed with more address labels than I can ever use? And why do charities that I’ve never donated to send me free writing tablets, calendars, and nickels? They are asking me for money and they’re sending me nickels? Hello? Anybody home? And if I didn’t sign up for your credit card after 7 years of special offers, what makes you think I’ll do it now?

For the sake of our environment, national security, and energy conservation it is time to rein in the out of control junk mail industry, if for no other reason than to preserve our postal sanity. I know it’s not as important as ending the war in Iraq, or getting health care for all Americans, but for all the reasons listed, it’s got to be a close third. And if it’s not, well, it damn well should be.

[tag]junk+mail, resources, environment, national+security, energy+conservation[/tag]

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  1. 8 Responses to “Buried In Junk Mail”

  2. By manapp99 on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    In Colorado and Montana “do not mail” bills to allow people to get on a list like the do not call lists were killed due largely to pressure applied by the National Letter Carriers Association, the postal workers union. Both bills were sponsered by Dems and were pulled to appease the union. To hell with the environment as long as the union is happy. The link is here:

  3. By Thomas Mc on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    350 spams in a month? Consider yourself lucky. I get more than that every day.

  4. By steve on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    Imagine the savings to the environment if we did something about this. I hate the mail I get. I mail it back. I’ll mail the shreddings back. I’ll mail screws and bolts so it weighs more so the company has to pay a higher rate. I have even attached a Business Reply envelope to a brick with a note stating my name and address and that if they attempt to contact me again I’ll sue. Crazy shit!! Mailing labels are basically blank checks. They say if you tamper with them it’s illegal or whatever, but really it isn’t. If everyone mailed something heavy back to the credit card supplier, I am sure it would stop. I got the mail down to 2-3 credit card ads a month doing this. I recently however joined a bunch of mileage and hotel plans. Now the stuff is starting to add up again, so it looks as if I am going to have to do it again. Lead weights this time.

  5. By Paul Watson on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    Personally, I shove all the junk mail straight into the recycle bag. I don’t get much as the UK does have a service you can join to avoid most junk mail and you’d better believe I’ve signed up to that. This means that most of the stuff I get is now the hand-delivered stuff from local fast food places.

  6. By windspike on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply


    good advice. Using the business reply envelopes is a good idea. They foot the bill, and there is nothing lost but a bit of your time. And, no doubt, that would put a smile our faces dropping them into the mail slot.

  7. By Tumerica on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    Glad you brought this up, Ken, as it pisses me off on a daily basis too. I get 100 spam-mails and at least 10 pieces of junk mail per day. I’ve considered calling up every junk-mail sender and asking them to remove my name, but that would take hours of time I don’t have–or don’t allow myself the frustration of having anyway.

    I did read about “mail-preference services,” that offer to remove your name from junk mail lists if you opt in. One such entity is the Direct Marketing Association, at, with this as the actual link to the “How to Get Off Mailing Lists” page. Don’t know if it works, but what have we got to lose but a few pounds of junk and a little less of a feeling of being used by marketing entities for potential access to our wallets?

  8. By tammara on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply


    finally something we agree on. i’ve been sending back those envelopes for years. with shredded junk mail, bits of garbage, rocks and anything else that is handy when i am loading them up.

    sort of satisfying.

  9. By steve on Apr 17, 2007 | Reply

    You know Tammara, if I didn’t talk about politics here or share a conservative opinion about a social issue, you’d probably agree with and enjoy what I say as if I was a regular friendly person that you worked at an office with. Could I say anything more?

    I also enjoy mailing back letters regarding the environment. Way wacky stuff that is sort of true in a way. My other favorite is telling those people that call from the credit card companies with a “special offer” that the real steve is a deafmute and that I am actually his guardian that does his business for him… but this credit is just between me and the caller. What steve doesn’t know, won’t hurt him. Then I start shouting loudly with the phone turned away “mmmmpff!!! Mmmmpppfff!!! MMMMMMM!!!!”

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