Evidently my rant about the USPS and their 5 day work week hit a nerve.


I got lots of feedback to my column on the USPS and its brainstorm about going to a five-day workweek.  (see all comments and original article here)

And most of them were pro-mailer, agreeing that the USPS needs to wake up.  

However, I did get a few responses from environmentalists offering up some vicious attacks on our industry. I took the most readable — including this great illustration of how uninformed the masses are when it comes to our industry — and posted my response to it on my blog. For your review, I’m posting the comment and my response here.

Comment from Mel:

“I agree that the USPS needs to revamp the way it does things, but if it can reduce our costs by going down to 5 days a week, then I am fine with that.

“As for direct marketers, sorry but that is fine by me if they are put out of business. Maybe they could learn to earn an honest living instead of annoying me and all of the others that can’t stand them.

“Oh wait, there is a law against them! And talking about going GREEN … if direct marketing were abolished, how many trees would we save? How much would our carbon footprint be reduced? Looks like a win-win to me.”

My Response
“Thank you Mel for your comment. I’m not sure what law you are talking about. Maybe you’re referring to CAN-SPAM (that’s for e-mail) or the Do Not Call law, which applies to telemarketing. To my knowledge, there’s no law against direct mail. In fact, and maybe to your amazement, less direct mail, or a USPS five-day work week, would not reduce any costs as you state. Costs would actually go up, not down.

“Direct mail powers the U.S. Postal Service. Without it, the next time you mail a letter, utility payment or Xmas present to your nephew Billy, you would need to take out a small loan.

“OK, I exaggerate to illustrate my point, but the truth is many direct marketers look to deliver offers that are relevant to the people receiving them.

“If you want to learn more about the actual impact direct mail has on our economy and our society, I suggest you take two minutes and read the Facts About Direct Mail section on the Direct Marketing Association’s Catalog Preference Web site. You may be very shocked to learn how wrong you are!

“The honest truth is, we DON’T want to mail you anything if you are not going to buy from us. It wastes our money, our time, and it just makes you mad enough to write comments like this.

“You should also know that many direct mail companies are more green than you think. They use recycled paper when they can and soy-based inks. They buy their paper from paper mills with a commitment to forestry re-plantation.

“More and more, mailers and catalog companies are doing what they can to go green. But is this enough? In a word, NO! We’re getting there though.

“Here are some suggestions for you:

1. Recycle any direct mail you’re not interested in.

2. Contact catalog companies who send you their catalogs and ask to be removed from their future mailings.

3. DON’T buy anything from a catalog, otherwise (and here is the relevancy issue) you will be tagged as a “mail order buyer” and will receive other catalogs of products which have an affinity to your last mail order purchase. In fact, don’t buy anything mail order, or respond online to any offer!

4. Opt out of receiving business mail using Catalog Choice: http://www.catalogchoice.org/.

5. Use the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service to manage or stop direct mail offers:http://www.dmachoice.org/.

“We’re happy not to mail offers to you if you don’t want them (it saves us a bunch of money). Just let us know as described above, and we won’t send you any more mail.

“Oh, and one more thing, and I apologize in advance if this sounds a bit snarky: The less postal mail out there, the more e-mails and spam you’ll get clogging your inbox, and some more telemarketing calls as well.

“Hope this helps,
Jim.”

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7 Responses

  1. Mel wrote, “As for direct marketers, sorry but that is fine by me if they are put out of business…”

    Amen, Brother Mel, amen!

    My significient other and I are doing our part to make the “Closed” signs go up. After a year of persistently hounding the junk mailers and filing PS1500s for the ones who didn’t understand our “don’t mail” message, we now receive no more than three or four pieces of junk mail a MONTH.

    For the few recalcitrants still mailing, we have within arm’s reach a box of envelopes, a book of stamps, a pen, and stack of preprinted PS1500s.

    Perhaps with the amount of junk mail we receive well under control, it’s time for my s.o. & I to begin agitating for Do Not Mail legislation.

    • Why are you such a hater Hazel? If you are going to spout off at least be informed about what you are spouting about. Here are some FACTS about the industry you want to kill (they come directly from the Direct Marketing Association and are published on their site).

      Facts About Direct Mail

      Some people come to the DMAchoice mail preference service planning on completely stopping all the direct mail they receive, because they think that doing so will help save paper and the environment. But before you do this, here are some numbers you may find interesting.

      Direct mail is a green way to shop. If Americans replaced two trips to the mall each year with shopping by catalog, we’d reduce our number of miles driven by 3.3 billion—a 3 billion pound reduction in carbon dioxide and a savings of $650 million on gas alone.

      Mail represents only 2.4% of America’s municipal waste stream.

      The production of household advertising mail consumes only 0.19% of the energy used in the United States.

      Mail is made from a renewable resource. The vast majority of paper produced in America today comes from trees grown for that specific purpose. The forest industry ensures that the number of trees each year is increasing, so trees are not a depleting resource. In fact, forest land in the United States has increased by 5.3 million acres in the past three decades.

      Direct mail is critical to the economic well-being of communities, businesses and charities throughout the United States. Last year it represented more than $686 billion in sales, supporting jobs at more than 300,000 small businesses across the country.

      Hazel your opinion is valued and important. But you are clearly misdirecting your anger about something else towards an industry you know little about. Get in the know!

      Hope this helps.
      Jim

  2. My Dear Mr. Gilbert:

    We have neither the energy nor the will to hate, but my s.o. & I utilize to the absolute fullest extent what the Justice Warner Burger, the Chief Justice Supreme Court of the United States, so clearly, so unequivocally penned in Rowan _v._ United States Post Office (1970), to-wit:

    “A mailer’s right to communicate must stop at the mailbox of an unreceptive addressee.”

    Mr. Gilbert, don’t you agree those few words pack a tremdous punch in favor of us “unreceptive addressees” and leave no wiggle room for the mailer?

    Your talking points sound suspiciously like those used a few years ago when the Do Not Call legislation was under discussion; i.e., that the enactment of such would bring to a screeching halt to Life As We Know It and bring forth upon the face of the earth another Dark Ages. Really?

    (Someone bring a glass of water for Mr. Gilbert!)

  3. Wow Hazel, such anger you have. Clearly you are a fanatic who cannot be reasoned with.

    I will try one more time though.

    So it is ok if all so called junk mailers went out of business? It doesn’t bother you that you would put hundreds of thousands of people out of work just to satisfy your unjustified anger – at what?

    If you don’t like to receive mail, use Catalog Choice, the DMA’s mail preference service, or just recycle. Simple as that.

    One more thing, love it that you had to pull out a long dead Justice’s response to a case that happened in 1970. The actual interpretation of “the mailer’s right…” means that YOU as a recipient of mail have the right not to ACCEPT the communication.

    Once again, I appreciate your comment, all dialog is good, but please put your efforts elsewhere other than my blog. I think your point was made and you have sufficiently stated your opinion.

    Jim

  4. As an environmentally conscious individual (I have 6 recycling bins and bags in constant use!) and a direct marketer, I find these comments interesting, thought-provoking, and soemtimes annoying in their naivete.

    For all the talk about social and electronic media, the almost atavistic importance that people still attach to their paper mail is underscored by the fact that only unwanted mail has the pejorative “Junk” attached to it. Direct mailers care deeply abut this, because “junk” only applies to mail that does not interest the recipient, and as Jim says, that’s a waste of money and effort for the mailer. The “Holy Grail” of any direct mailer would be to mail only as many pieces as would deliver a 100% response rate.

    Direct mail marketers can always do better in improving their efforts to suppress mailings to prospects who will not respond, and to reduce to overall environmental impact of their mail operations, from production through delivery and response (I personally hate having to use reply forms and BREs when a Web response will do).

    For their part, consumers should recycle more (paper is very recyclable), and express their preferences to the DMA — something a consumer can’t do with many other forms of advertising such as TV, outdoor and print, it’s worth noting. Continual ecological inventiveness and conservation should be the goal of the industry. And persistent responsible communication will get better results for consumers than vitriolic ranting.

    Oh, and I wonder how many people who complain about direct mail and the waste of (recyclable) paper make a conscious effort to consider man-made alternative materials when building a deck or porch, or workbench in the garage, or buying a dining-room table or desk or end-table for the home? Or encourage marketers to send email offers rather than mail?

  5. For over 100 years the USPS was the #1 employer in America having more employees than anyone else, and now is still a very close 2nd. It IS NOT RUN WITH TAX DOLLARS! It is part of the government, but is self sufficient. Going to a 5 day work week will save the Postal Service money, but only at the expense of labor! This is NOT the answer! A reduction of employees will only make unemployment rise and cause massive havoc on our already suffering economy. Seriously, think about this. You say it does not matter to you, but it will when this large number of individuals become unemployed. It is obvious the Post Office needs to spend less and make more but reducing the work force will not achieve this. The Post Office is wasteful in so many ways that could save money, and raise the cost of postage for more revenue. Now before you start harping on the cost of stamps, realize that 25 years ago a soda was about .50 cents, a gallon of gas was about a dollar, & stamps were .22 cents for 1st class. While most costs have tripled since then, postage has only doubled. Also think about it, if a stamp cost .50 cents would it really affect your budget that much? In a day & age of direct deposit, online payments, e-mail, & etc. do you really “mail” that much anymore?
    The US Post Office is one of the oldest and most dependable institutions of America and lets keep those that serve us daily employeed, and find other cost cutting efforts. In the end, everything about our country should matter to everyone. The only way we can bring America back to greatness is to think about how everyone is effected, and do our part to help!

    • Angela, thanks for your passionate comments! I don’t believe I was an advocate of going to a 5 day work week. I also understand the unemployment implications. I believe that the USPS needs to generate more revenue to get out of the “self sufficient” hole they have created for themselves (meaning if I understand correctly USPS is subsidized, but someone correct me if I am wrong).

      Best way for them to grow is to keep doing proactive things for the direct mail industry like lower prices, run sales, etc. The more business mail out there, the better for the USPS, the better for our overall economy.

      Jim

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