bob zahn for the new yorker

Even though it’s not our fault, the vast amounts of junk mail we get makes us feel frustrated and guilty. So much paper going to waste. Try and warp your head around this: the Wall Street Journal reports that 82.5 billion pieces of “advertising mail” were delivered by the U.S. Postal system in 2010.

Years ago there was an internet service that would alert catalog companies that you wanted to opt-out, although it seems to have disappeared. But Unconsumption has just alerted us to a next-generation service that might do something similar. PaperKarma is a new app (for iPhones, androids, and Windows phones) will contact the source of your junk mail and “remove you from their mailing list.” All you have to do is a take a photo of the piece of junk mail in question. The key is to take a picture that highlights the name of the company sending the mail, like in the photo below. 


So we’re definitely curious, and hopeful. While PaperKarma admits that it their process doesn’t always work, they have some evidence on their website showing they’ve had a good deal of success. Right now PaperKarma is free, but it won’t be for long. Want to give it a shot?

Meanwhile, eHow has some suggestions for getting your name off lists. The most powerful and least taxing seems to be to registering with the Direct Marketing Association to opt out of many direct marketing campaigns by setting preferences for what you want or don’t want to receive. We want to stop feeling like that couple on a dessert island, whose junk mail follows them EVERYWHERE!

UPDATE: One of our readers emailed us about CatalogChoice. This is another free service that helps stop junk mail by allowing you to search for the offending company and doing a simple one-click opt-out. Let us know if you have other resources!

Cartoon via The New Yorker

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2 replies on “how to stop junk mail

  1. Hi Sally,
    It’s great to read your mentions of services that can help reduce the volume of unwanted mail that consumers actually receive.

    I’m glad you caught our Unconsumption post about the subject.

    Aren’t the figures from that WSJ piece mind-boggling?!

  2. Thanks Molly. We’ve always got our eye on Unconsumption because of the many great ideas we find.

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