The recent message by Mary Appelhof to GreenYes on the huge waste of material resources from the billions of direct mail marketing pieces sent out for credit card solicitations is part of a long history of messages about junk mail posted to this and other lists. Mary's suggestion regarding who you can contact about getting your name removed from mailing lists is helpful but, within the current legal environment, I feel it is an almost futile strategy. Trying to get your name removed from direct marketing databases is like fighting the mythical Hydra - I believe that for every success you have in getting your name deleted from one database, it gets added to three other databases at the same time. This problem will persist as long as the current system provides only "opt-out" options for individuals. This situation exists because direct marketing companies operate under the legal presumption that they have the right to send you unsolicited offers through the mail. You can refuse these offers, of course, but a waste of material resources occurs as a result. Even though many communities and waste management services now offer residents the opportunity to recycle their junk mail (including mine), unfortunately this solution is attenuated by the problems emerging over identity theft forces me (and others) to now shred any unsolicited junk mail that I deem to be of a sensitive financial nature which severely diminishes its recyclability. But even if every ounce of material from direct mailings is recycled, it's still a waste of resources if you never wanted the mailing in the first place.
The only sustainable solution to the problem of unwanted soliticitations of any kind, snail mail, e-mail, etc., is for our legal system to recognize that you own your name and you have the right to determine how it is used or who could use it. This would change the rules of direct marketing to consumers from an "opt-out" model to an "opt-in" model; that is, I am legally protected from receiving unwanted direct marketing solicitations unless I choose (by opting-in) to receive them through some form of explicit permission. To further strengthen the consumer's right to not receive unwanted direct marketing solicitations, this permission must be explicitly renewed on a periodic basis (e.g. annually).
Obviously, there will be millions of people who will be willing to be bribed by small gifts to give their permission to direct marketers. That is their choice. But I am sure there will be millions more, like myself, who won't be bribed (or at least won't sell out cheaply). The bottom line is that I want that choice which I don't have now.
I think that any future discussion about the waste problems associated with unsolicitated direct marketing that does not address the need for an opt-in marketing system is just whining and complaining. I would be really interested in knowing if opt-in solutions have been legislatively proposed or if there are any organizations that are seriously advocating opt-in direct marketing policies. We should know about these, and, support those that make sense.
Roger M. Guttentag
Read Recycling in Cyberspace in Resource Recycling
July 2000 topic : MRF virtual tours
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