Avid bleaders know that I collected, sorted, described, and analyzed one year’s worth of junk mail in the letter box at the Ack-comedy in Newtown.
The totals were impressive and depressing, the more so when multiplied by the number of postal addresses in Newtown. Several tons of unread material each month.
Now that I knew the world, I set about changing it. (An echo of one of Karl Marx’s more declamatory remarks.)
I had thought to stem the tide of junk mail in my own letterbox and then promote that method to others in the name of the Junk Mail Liberation Movement, of JuM_LiM, as I styled it. Some organization, effort, and persistence would pay off, I thought. Hope makes fools of us all. (Hark, that is Aristotle at a far remove.)
In the action phase, I started to keep a register of every item of junk mail in my letter box, sending it back to its origin with a letter, email, or note asking that no future items be delivered to my box number.... I did not expect it to be easy but I am made of stern stuff, after all I sat through StarTrek Into the Darkness. After that experience, anything seems easy.
I registered the first fifty items I received over a two-month period. A direct approach with a personal request, phrased ever so politely, would get attention, and lead to action. Well, that is what I thought. Hope, it deceives all.
Indeed I had feedback from one of the first I contacted that was contrite and apologetic. Ah ha, thought I, this is the right track. That was a King Street estate agent.
Not to be. Within a week I got another junk drop from that very same estate agent. There are many agents in the office and though one was contrite the others happy trespassed on my letter box to dump their junk.
In another case, since the junk drops were every two weeks, I sent three letters to one local restaurant asking to be excluded from the junk drops. To no avail. They just kept coming.
I sometimes used the Contact Us feature on web sites, or direct email. In other cases I found a postal address, either on the company web site or in the online telephone book, and sent a letter. Some web sites had no address, no email, and no Contact Us, but only a phone number and I drew the line there. No telephone calls. Nor would I go to the local restaurant (ever again) and demand exclusion. The exercise is not about confrontation, but rather to try to find a user-friendly way to diminish the tiresome tide of junk dumped in the letter box.
I also searched the web for ideas. Australia Post, amid denials that it ever delivers junk mail, suggests a No Junk Mail sticker. Tried that. For the Hair Splitters I added a No Unaddressed Advertising Material sticker. I also studied the Australian Catalogue Association web site. Its advice was focussed on addressed catalogues, as was the Australia Post web site. This advice is repeated on many other green web sites, as if it does any good, such is the paucity of creative thinking. Addressed catalogues are not the problem.
There are many web site offering a variety of No Junk Mail stickers but none that evaluate the effect of this stickers. I have it is only slightly greater than 0, but not much. Harvey Norman and Mitre Ten junk mail walkers respect my sign but not any others.
The problem is individual flyers from all manner of small businesses. The problem is not catalogues from major retailers, at least not any more.
But I did notice when I looked further afield that in both Britain and the United States there are more resources to a householder in the resistance to junk mail. The letter box is, after all, private property, and throwing one’s trash into it is a trespass. That conclusion has been reached in some jurisdictions in Great Britain. The United States Postal Service has also been vigorous in preventing interference with the mails, e.g., letter boxes stuffed with junk so that the mail cannot be inserted. All of that is better than nothing, but it does not seem to have much effect in either country.
Indeed I have seen that the cataloguers from major retailers in Australia argue that their catalogues are read by recipients (usually based on survey of shareholders’ households, always inspect the data). Be that as it may, the major retailers in my case do respect the No Junk Mail stickers. It is the local, minor retailers who do not.
In that debate I noticed that the industry association for producing the paper that the junk mail is on, also has lobbied against any legislation that would diminish the amount of junk mail in Australia. Think about that. It’s jobs...first to make the paper and then to dispose of it. Largely unproductive and more than a little destructive work, but work all the same. In the same vein I found a few angry diatribes from individuals who claim to derive a livelihood as a junk mail walker defending their right to dump trash in my letter box, and denouncing any complaint as a threat to their livelihood.
No doubt some hardworking Germans said the same about gas chambers.
What I was looking for was some way to report the offenders, if for no other purpose than social awareness. I found no recourse available in Sydney, in New South Wales, or in Australia.
In the end, a few weeks ago I gave up this round of my war on junk mail and scrapped the register I was keeping in a spreadsheet. This is a truce, not a peace. It is round two with the prospect of a round three reserved.
A bleader is a reader of a blog.
The Ack-comedy is my private office in Newtown.