Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

How to Reduce Junk Mail (AKA Unwanted Advertising Mail )

Source: Wikipedia

By Kevin R. Kosar

The key to decreasing unwanted mail is for a recipient to contact the senders of this mail to inform them that their mail is unwanted and will not persuade the recipient to purchase their products, support their cause, etc.

To this end, take the following steps:

  1. Sign Up for the Mail Preference Service. This service, which was established by the Direct Marketing Association, has a “do not mail” list that enables consumers to reduce unwanted advertising mail. Direct mailers regularly check the Mail Preference Service list and purge the names on it from their own mailing lists. Unfortunately the Mail Preference Service list does not get used by all companies that send advertising mail, and even those companies that do use the list may not remove from their mailing list the names of persons with whom the companies do business. For more details, see
  2. Refuse it. You may write on the envelope of an unwanted mail piece, “Refused- return to sender” and leave it for his mail carrier to return. Depending on the type of mail piece, the U.S. Postal Service either will return it to the sender or it will dump it.
  3. Let the Sender Know. Call or write the companies that send you unwanted mail and request to be removed from their mailing list.
  4. Stop the Selling of Your Address. Call or write companies with which you do business (e.g., magazine publishers, credit card companies, gardening supply companies, etc.) and request that your address not be shared with other companies.
  5. Stop Valpack Mailings. To stop the delivery of those light blue envelopes labeled “Valpak” that are filled with coupons and advertisements, you should contact Cox Target Media at
  6. Stop ADVO and Shop-Wise Mailings (aka Red Plum). To stop delivery of these advertisements, you can opt out of their mailing list at
  7. Don’t Sign Up for Sweepstakes. Once you do, you will find yourself getting lots and lots of advertising mail. If you want to stop these mailings, contact the senders directly.
  8. Stop Credit Card Offers. You may request to get off credit card companies mailing lists at
  9. Talk to Your Letter Carrier. Ask your mail carrier for further suggestions on how to reduce unwanted mail.
  10. Stem the Tide of Catalogs. You may opt out of catalog mailings by getting an account with It costs nothing and is quick and easy to use.
  11. Take Other Steps. Take the other steps suggested at

Be advised that it may take a couple months before the mailings begin to decrease in quantity.

Finally, whatever you do, do not let the appearance of unwanted mail drive you to distraction. Relax and take in the bigger picture:

  1. Unwanted mail is not threatening to your life or health;
  2. Junk mail provides revenue to the U.S. Postal Service, which helps keep the agency operating;
  3. Any unwanted mail may be easily disposed of by dropping it into your trash can or your recycling bin; and
  4. Junk mail may be used for other purposes. You can scribble shopping lists on it, give it to your kids to color on or cut up, use it to start fires in your fireplace, etc. Many suggestions for making use of this free resource may be found at and elsewhere online.

Kevin R. Kosar is the vice president of policy at the R Street Institute, and has studied postal policy since 2003.

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