Junk Mail

February 10, 2007

About six months ago, US Airways sent me a letter telling me that my frequent flier miles were getting ready to expire. But, they offered to let me use my miles to purchase magazine subscriptions.

I had a couple of thousand miles. Not nearly enough for a flight but enough for plenty of magazine subscriptions. I was wary because I know from experience that magazines tend to pile up if you don’t make a concentrated effort to take time to read them. But, I figured I could always give them to Michele and she could take them to work and leave them in the waiting room.

So I sat down with the list of magazines they were offering. There were only a few that looked that interesting. My first pick was six months of the London Financial Times. It cost over three times as many miles as any of the other selections but since a normal subscription is $99 a year, it was well worth it. Next I checked off Wired, ESPN the Magazine, Business Week, and Newsweek. I hesitated before choosing Travel and Leisure as I was afraid it would be nothing but a bunch of glossy ads and overpriced vacations (I was right) but with nothing to lose, I went ahead and got it. I was still only 1/2 way through my points and I’d found everything on the list I wanted. Michele looked over the list and found one magazine, Jane. With miles to burn, I went ahead and got a couple of magazines for Michele’s waiting room, Parenting and Working Mother.

Within six weeks the magazines started piling in. Along with the magazines came another exciting gift. Junk mail! Tons and tons of junk mail. My name had been sold to mailing lists everywhere. Mailing lists that think I am a wealthy, technology loving, world traveling, sports loving new Mom. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the Disney corporation has come a-calling. It’s like someone stuck a faucet of junk mail into our mail slot.

Here is a little over two weeks of mail.


I never got the Financial Times and I have no idea who to call to complain to. And out of all the magazines I ordered, the only one I will renew is Wired.



  1. Not sure if this is true, but I was told that if you call the airline, they won’t let your miles expire.

  2. time to get an industrial shredder

  3. Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

    The proposed statewide “Do not mail” is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing – and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

    I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

    The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today’s [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today’s merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman’s mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

    Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer’s right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

    To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

    We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes. http://www.nomorejunkmail.org

    Ramsey A Fahel
    Arvada, CO

  4. US Postal Service won’t let you refuse mail.

    If the US Postal Service would abide by its own rule, each homeowner could easily stop junk mail from getting into their mailbox by putting a written notice on their mailbox expressing their preference.

    The US Postal Services practices are supposed to be according to the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM). The DMM contains provision 508.1.1.2 that says, “Refusal at Delivery: The addressee may refuse to accept a mailpiece when it is offered for delivery.” I interpret this rule to mean that if a homeowner wants to refuse an unwanted mailpiece (i.e. junk mail), the homeowner can do so when the mailpiece is offered for delivery. More to the point – refuse it before it is put into the mailbox!

    In practical application, since the postal carrier comes to homes at different times each day, the homeowner cannot be waiting at the mailbox to dialogue with the mail carrier about each mailpiece. The only realistic way to interpret 508.1.1.2 therefore is that the homeowner should post a notice on the mailbox telling the postal carrier about the homeowner’s preference. The notice to the postal service must be specific and unambiguous. For instance, a homeowner should certainly be able to write, “No mail that is not addressed to the Jones” because that does not require the postal carrier to make a subjective judgment. On the other hand, it would not be acceptable to write “no junk mail” because the definition of “junk mail” is subjective and the mail carrier cannot decide.

    Unfortunately, the US Postal Service has written to me that they will NOT honor a notice refusing mail, not matter how specifically it is worded, because the postal carrier does not have time to sort through the mail at my mailbox to pick out the pieces that are not addressed to me. Therefore, the US Postal Service is passing their sorting and disposing task onto me by putting all the mail they want into my mailbox, even though this seemingly violates 508.1.1.2.

    Since the U.S. Postal Service will not abide by 508.1.1.2, homeowners need to stop unwanted mail at the source (i.e. by blocking the sender from sending it). We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.



    Ramsey A Fahel

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