QOTD: My refusal of mail is now famous

“Charlton, Mass., software developer Peter Cooper simply marks ‘refused’ on his junk mail with his custom-made rubber stamp and drops it back in the mailbox.”
— Anne Kadet, “How to Get Off Junk Mail Lists”, SmartMoney magazine, March 2008, page 110

(Anne was kind enough to send me a paper copy of the issue of the magazine as well.)

Send it back!

My hobby web site on sending junk mail back to the Post Office is rather quickly climbing the rankings on Google for relevant queries. It’s kind of fun watching the analytics data and watching people find my site for some very relevant search queries. This project is partly ending up being an experiment in creating a site about an obscure topic and seeing how people find it, which is kind of interesting in and of itself.

Refuse Your Mail

I put together a web site with the information I’ve learned about refusing unwanted mail.

Refuse Your Mail: You don’t have to take it anymore.

Maybe this will be the start of a huge nationwide trend that’ll make a difference in Postal Service policies and get major media coverage.

Or maybe it’ll just be a cute site only read by me and a couple Random Strangers on the Internet.

(Edited afterward: I did let the refuseyourmail.info domain expire, and it’s now on a subdomain of cooperjr.name.)

Reply from the Postmaster

I actually received a letter back from the Postmaster today, pretty much confirming what I thought. They said that they have to deliver all mail with a correct address and postage, and suggested I write the people sending me mail to tell them to stop mailing me. I’ve done this quite a bit, but it’s a pain to mail everybody, and it doesn’t stop saturation mailings (where a place pays the post office to just stick a copy in everybody’s box, and the address is just “Postal Customer” so they can’t just not print an address label for me). They also reminded me that I can refuse mail being sent to me by marking it Refused and putting it back (which is what I’ve been doing all along, and no doubt the Postmaster knows it).

So, I guess I’ll continue trying to opt out of mailing lists and refusing all the mail I don’t want.

I do wonder how much of a business opportunity there is for a private mailbox place (a private Post Office box-like rental, which does exist) which does “spam filtering” for its customers based on rules, and ideally complicated OCRing of return addresses rather than trusting humans to apply the rules correctly (and probably online access to the scanned rejected images for some period of time allowing for retrieval of false positives).

My outgoing mailbox today

In my mailbox today, I have many pieces of junk mail from the past few weeks, marked “Refused”, plus the following letter I wrote to the Charlton Postmaster.

March 26, 2007

Dear Postmaster,

In accordance with DMM 508, section 1.1.4, or any other applicable postal regulation, I hereby request that you not deliver to either of us any mail from any of the following addresses, for the maximum length of time that such an order can be good for. We do not want mail from any of these places, and did not ask for it. Thank you.

  • P.O. Box 22011, Wilmingon, Deleware 19891-0011
  • PO Box 3265, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 52406-3265
  • 27 Otis Street, Westboro, MA 01581
  • One South Orange St., Wilmington, DE 19801
  • 12061 Bluemont Way, Reston, VA 20190
  • P.O. Box 85149, Richmond, VA 23295-0001

Sincerely,

Peter Cooper Jr. and Jessica Cooper
194 Berry Corner Rd.
Charlton, MA 01507-5247

Those address were just the ones from my stack of mail I refused today that seemed to be most likely to try sending more mail in the future. It’ll be interesting to see how well it works.

Your mail was refused

“After delivery, an addressee may mark a mailpiece “Refused” and return it within a reasonable time, if the piece or any attachment is not opened.” — USPS DMM 508 §1.1.3

I’ve been in the habit lately of refusing all my junk mail. I certainly don’t want to pay for removing the trash I get in the mail. Why not make the sender pay for it? (Undeliverable first class mail will get returned to the sender, while undeliverable presorted standard mail (which is most junk mail) will get disposed of by the USPS. That’s just a part of the service that a mailer is buying when paying postage.)