May 22, 2012 at 7:35 AM ET
The U.S. Postal Service needs to boost revenue and it sees your mailbox as a potential moneymaker.
It’s created a service, Every Door Direct Mail, to encourage small businesses to send advertisements through the mail.
You’ve probably seen more junk mail in the last year because of Every Door Direct. And you can expect to see even more in the future.
The Every Door Direct program is simple and cost effective. For just 14.5 cents per mailing, a business can send fliers, coupons, menus or other advertising materials to people in a targeted area.
This is unaddressed mail; it does not require a person’s name or street address. The mailing goes to everyone on the carrier’s route. Another benefit: A business can buy as little as a single route (between 500 and 550 deliveries) for about $75.
“These are offers that people want because they are from the stores where they shop,” says David Mastervitch, manager of saturation mail and catalogs at USPS. “They don’t consider this junk. They consider this relevant mail because it gives them offers for the local businesses they deal with.”
The Postal Service says the small business community has embraced the service. In its first year, the Every Door Direct program generated more than $180 million for USPS.
“I think the product is going to help small business grow and help the Postal Service in the future,” Mastervitch says.
That’s what worries Chuck Teller, executive director of Catalog Choice, a non-profit group that helps people stop unwanted catalogs and other advertising mail.
“More than 1.7 billion pieces of unaddressed mail are sent every year and the USPS plans to increase this by five times, generating billions more pieces of unwanted mail annually,” Teller says. “It is imperative that the USPS respect consumer’s right to control the amount and type of advertising mail they receive.”
Teller insists he is not against direct advertising mail. He just wants people to have the ability to say no to unsolicited ads going into their mailbox.
I don’t want this!
What if you don’t want unaddressed advertising mail from a particular business in your area?
The Postal Service says you should contact the business sending the mailing. Ask to be placed on its “do not mail” list. The company is supposed to pass this information along to the post office, so the carrier will not deliver to your address.
Catalog Choice says this is not always happening. People have complained that if they ask to have a mailing stopped, some companies say that cannot be done with this type of mail. That’s clearly wrong.
Some companies respond by telling the person to contact their post office. Again, that’s wrong. The Postal Service does not maintain any sort of “do not mail” list. That is done by individual companies.
But if a company tells the post office you don’t want its advertising mail, there is a process in place to make sure the carrier doesn’t deliver it to you.
“There is massive confusion between the post office and companies about whether an individual has the right to opt-out of unaddressed mail,” Teller says.
About a month ago, Catalog Choice started a campaign, which included an online petition to the Postmaster General encouraging him to “respect consumers’ right to control the amount and type of advertising material they receive.” So far, more than 40,000 people have signed the Citizens for Mail Choice petition.
It asks U.S. Postal Service to train its staff about opt-out policies and procedures, provide clear information to businesses about how to honor opt-outs with Every Door Direct Mail and penalize companies that fail to honor opt-outs from these mailings.
Teller believes a successful opt-out program for Every Door Direct mail will be good for the post office because the mail people get will be more relevant. The Postal Service says it agrees.
“This is a new product,” David Mastervitch at U.S.P.S. tells me. “As we go out and do our training with businesses, we will absolutely talk about the fact that every business should honor consumer choice. And if the choice of the consumer is to not get that mailing piece, then you have to have a method to tell us.”
My two cents
I hate junk mail as much as the next person. But I also know that the Postal Service needs money and small businesses need a way to grow. Do you really want to pay more to mail a letter or have your local post office closed?
The mail is there for all of us. The beauty of this new mail service is that it’s simple. It goes to every door. And quite frankly, an unwanted ad in the mailbox is not the same as a telemarketing call during dinner. With the mailing, you just toss it into the recycle bin.
Still, smart businesspeople know that if someone doesn’t want to be contacted, they should honor those wishes. Hopefully, that word will get out and everyone can benefit from this service.