December 8, 2023

Bucks Blog: Stopping Unwanted Catalogs

The holidays are coming, and right on cue, my mailbox is filling up with catalogs. I like getting some of them because it’s fun to browse for gift ideas. (Hmm. I’d spring for the $35 golden Hufflepuff Cup for my Harry Potter-loving children, but the fine print in the catalog from the Noble Collection warns it “cannot be used as drink ware.”)

But the trade-off for a few minutes of amusement is that our recycling bin is overflowing with catalogs from Land’s End, L.L. Bean, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware and the other usual suspects. Do I really need all of them, when I can just go online and see what’s on the menu?

So I took note this month when Catalog Choice, an online service that helps you manage your junk mail, introduced a new option to help cut down on mailbox clutter. It’s called Mail Stop Envelope, and it’s just as it sounds: Catalog Choice mails you a big postage-paid envelope, for a fee of $6.75 per envelope. When you get unwanted catalogs or other mail, like phone books, you rip off the mailing labels, stuff them in the envelope (up to 15) and mail the envelope back to Catalog Choice. The service takes it from there — it scans the address labels and fills out “opt out” forms to take you off the senders’ mailing lists. You can even send envelopes to friends and family as gifts.

But wait. Isn’t that the same sort of opt-out service that Catalog Choice already offers online, free?

Well, yes. But it turns out that some people don’t want to mess with entering their e-mail and catalog information online, and would prefer to use snail mail and have Catalog Choice’s staff do the heavy lifting for them. Catalog Choice said it was swamped with requests for the envelopes almost immediately after starting the service a week ago, and has already sold about 5,000 envelopes. People are sending catalog labels, yes, but also sweepstakes offers and donation requests. “This is easier for some people,” said Chuck Teller, Catalog Choice’s executive director.

The service isn’t going totally old school, though. It is working on an iPhone app that will let you take a photograph of the mail label and send it to Catalog Choice for processing, Mr. Teller said.

While I’m a big fan of online services, I can see the simple attraction of the old-fashioned envelope. Just stash it near where you sort your mail. Then, when you see a catalog you don’t want (Sorry, Brookstone. I’ll have to live without  Dave, the remote-controlled Funky Monkey.), you rip off the label, tuck it in the envelope, and recycle the catalog. When the envelope is full, toss it in the mail. Done.

Assuming, of  course, that you really want the catalogs to stop.

I do, I really do, right after I order the $49.95 wind chimes that play “Amazing Grace.”

Would you pay almost $7 to stop delivery of unwanted mail?

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