Getting off Mailing Lists

July 9, 2023
Just when you think you have

There's nothing like a flood of holiday catalogs - followed by an even bigger flood of post-holiday sales catalogs - to make families think about trying to get their names off mailing lists.

Unwanted catalogs and other unsolicited mailings create clutter in a home, take a toll on the nation's forests and require time and energy to clear away.

So it's good news that consumers have more options for getting off mailing lists. Some of the opt-out programs are sponsored by mass-marketing trade groups, but a growing number are run by groups with ecological goals.

"It's a problem of annoyance, " she said. "People want to be left alone, and they have a right to be left alone."

"But when it comes to things like catalogs, prescreened credit card offers, spam, things like that, they're not sure what to do, " she said.

So the forum has developed a how-to list titled "Top 10 Opt Outs" that is posted on its Web site at .

Dixon noted that eliminating unwanted mail cuts down on the amount of personal information in circulation, removing a source for identity thieves.

Families seeking to reduce catalog and other mass-market mailings can contact the Direct Marketing Association, which runs the Mail Preference Service.

In the past, consumers had to opt out of all lists. But an updated Direct Marketing Association Web site launched in January at allows consumers to opt out of - or even opt into - a particular company's mailing list. As part of the update, the Direct Marketing Association also dropped a $1 fee for the online service.

The other major source of unwanted mail, prescreened credit and insurance offers, can be addressed through the opt-out service maintained by the consumer credit reporting industry, mainly the credit agencies. Families can get their names off lists through a Web site, at, or calling a toll-free number, (888) 567-8688.

Pat Kachura, senior vice president for corporate responsibility at the Direct Marketing Association, said families at any time can contact catalog issuers directly and ask to be removed from their mailing lists.

"But going to a single (Internet) site can be more convenient, " she said.

Kachura said that 4.5 million consumers currently are registered with the Mail Preference Service and that about 930 million mailings are suppressed each year as a result.

Families can also now get outside help in getting rid of catalogs, from services that collect a number of consumer requests and forward them to catalog mailers.

In October, the Ecology Center in Berkeley launched its Catalog Choice site at . Consumers indicate which catalogs they don't want to receive, and the service notifies the companies to stop mailings. The service is free.

The group, which funds projects focusing on sustainable production and consumption, said it already has more than 555, 000 participants who have opted out of more than 6.7 million catalogs.

"We know consumers can do it themselves, but they weren't, " Teller said. "We have lots of things to do in our day, and this is one thing that wasn't getting done. At best, consumers were just dropping the unwanted catalogs in a recycle bin."

Another ecologically minded service is, based in Ferndale, Mich. It takes its name from the estimated weight of the junk mail each household receives each year. Households pay $41 for a five-year membership, and some of the profits are shared with environmental groups such as American Forests and

"We started by sending out an e-mail to about 100 of our friends and relatives, suggesting how they could get off mailing lists, " DeVries said. "But no one did it."

His group takes information from consumers and contacts catalog issuers - as well as coupon issuers, nonprofit groups and other mail solicitors - for them.

"We've actually had some people contact us with the names of 200 catalogs and mailings, " DeVries said.

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