Last October, I got my first credit card.
Since then, my mailbox has been inundated with credit card offers. This is on top of all the other junk mail that I already get like coupons to restaurants that I’ll never go to and fliers for Ollie’s Bargain Mart, which I’ll never set foot in again. Plus, since I’m renting, I also the junk mail from all of my apartment’s previous occupants.
When I got home this afternoon to find an “Amazing Cash Back Offer” from Discover and to learn that “I’m pre-selected to apply” for Citi Simplicity, I lost it.
Not only, is junk mail annoying, but it is so wasteful. According to stopwaste.org, nearly 100 million trees each year are used to make the paper for junk mail. I never read any bit of junk mail that I receive. It just goes straight into my recycling bin.
When it comes to just tossing junk mail, I am firmly in the majority. Ask Your Target Market did a recent survey on junk mail and found that just 2% of respondents said that they often make purchases based on receiving junk mail. Instead, 70% of respondents said they hardly ever even look at junk mail.”
Now, why is it that when almost no one ever reads its, almost no one likes receiving it, and that it is absolutely horrible for the environment, that junk mail still exists.
Well, firm offers, aka the fancy corporate name for junk mail, have the following benefits according to Equifax, Experian, Innovis, and TransUnion, (collectively known the “Consumer Credit Reporting Companies”).
- Consumers are provided with product choices
- Consumers learn about and have an opportunity to take advantage of offers that may not be available to the general public
- Firm offers help consumers to “comparison shop”, which may increase a consumer’s buying power.
Now, I must ask you, have you ever sat down with a credit card offer that you’ve received in the mail and gone “Oh my, I wonder how this credit card’s interest rates and benefits compare to the five other credit card offers I received last week. Let’s take and hour or so and look over each one to determine if any would be in my financial best interest.” I can tell you that I sure as hell haven’t.
And let’s face it, any offer that says it’s exclusive and “not available to the general public” is not exclusive and available to the general public.
Take for instance, what happened when I was flying to attend a conference a few months ago.
About halfway through my flight, when we were already an hour behind schedule and refreshments had been abruptly suspended due to turbulence, a flight attendant came over the intercom.
“Ladies and Gentleman, from time to time, ABC Airlines selects random flights to receive exclusive offers and promotions. Today, your flight has been randomly selected to receive our most exclusive offer. The ABC Airlines High Flying Executive Platinum Premium Member Rewards Card gives you the most benefits out of any ABC Airlines credit cards. If you apply in-flight today you’ll get 50,000 miles plus, double bonus miles, double bonus delay miles, membership in our super special airport waiting room club, 10% off on in-flight non-alcoholic beverages, and one free flight for the seventh-born son of your seventh son. Now this offer is only valid for the duration of today’s flight, so our flight attendants will be coming around to disturb you, I mean, distribute to you sign-up sheets and pens. Again this is our most exclusive offer and it will only be available on your flight today.
As previously mentioned, this flight was for a conference, so I was flying with some coworkers. While were supposed to all be all on the same flight, delays caused us to be split between two different flights.
Now, you would think that if our flight was randomly selected to receive ABC Airlines’ “most exclusive” offer, surely the same offer wouldn’t be given to other flights that day?
But guess what? The other flight that my coworkers were on also got randomly selected to receive ABC Airline’s “most exclusive” offer.
And guess what. On our return flight home, we were again randomly selected for this “most exclusive” credit card offer.
So, I call BS on the benefits of “firm offers”. And again, I must ask why is it that these junk offers still exist when almost no one ever cares about them, almost everyone is annoyed when they receive them, and the fact that the paper trail they leave behind is atrocious?
This approach though, is piecemeal and requires a lot of effort and individuals actions with no guarantee of life free of credit card offers and other junk mail. And individual actions like these don’t change the systemic nature of the problem of junk mail nor do they prevent companies from wasting so much paper on it.
Systemic changes require collective action.
So, here’s what I think we should do collectively. Let’s all call or write a letter to our congress person and tell them that we want a law passed to ban junk mail.
And better yet, let’s ban junk emails while were are at it because I am tired of getting an email every single day from every single store or website that I have ever shopped at.
Seriously, call or write a letter to your congress person and tell them you want a law passed to ban junk mail.
If there ever were a single issue that could unite America during these divided times, I’m pretty sure this could be the one.