I saw a story on NBCs Today Show in January about an elementary school that held a competition to see which class could eliminate the most catalogs from their home mail boxes. The kids, along with their parents, requested to be removed from mailing lists at home, and then the kids brought the catalogs to school to put in a big bin. 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades were competing against eash other. Many used an online service that I had not heard of, called Catalog Choice.
Herb Weisbaum as “ConsumerMan” contributed an article to MSNBC.com called “Stop the Catalog Madness!”. I came across that when I was trying to find the original Today Show segment to post here – which I did finally find on YouTube (see video post above), or click to see the original video created by the school kids (which I had not seen before.)
My husband and I stockpiled catalogs February-March before finally sitting down to request removal today with the help of the web site CatalogChoice.org. First we weighed the catalogs we collected. 16.8 pounds! It was a heavy pile. We then next measured how tall the pile was, and it was over 9 inches tall. Then we sat down together and Steve read me the title of each catalog and I used the Search feature on the Catalog Choice site to see if it was already listed. Most of the catalogs we have been receiving were listed on the site. And if you are receiving a catalog that is not on their list, you can suggest the catalog be added, and they will email you when the merchant has agreed to be included.
You might think this is a hard sell for merchants. Au contraire. Catalog Choice is a free service whose objective is to reduce the number of unwanted catalogs sent to American consumers, thereby helping the consumers, the environment and saving marketing costs for the merchants. With today’s cost of postage, paper, and printing costs, I think some merchants are getting smart and realizing that it really is better for them to not be sending catalogs to people who are literally just going to throw them in the recycle bin without looking at them.
After inputting our catalogs we had three piles. The pile on the left is the very few (I think 5 total) catalogs we received that were not already on the CatalogChoice.org web site (we requested that they be added and we will receive notification by email when they do so we can process our request).
The pile in the middle is made up of single copy catalog titles that we requested to decline – 52 titles in all. The pile in the “round file” is duplicates of the catalogs in the center pile. So, had I already put in my requests to be removed from these catalog mailing lists, not only would I have saved trees, oil, electricity and everything else that goes into production and distribution for the middle pile, I also would never have received the catalogs in the right hand pile since they are other mailings from the same merchants.
Here is the list of catalogs I was able to request to be removed from their mailing lists:
As We Change
Crate & Barrel
Doctors Foster & Smith
Harry and David
High Country Gardens
Home Decorators Collection
Johnston & Murphy
Plow & Hearth
Relax The Back
Shades of Light
Smith & Hawken
Spring Hill Nurseries
The Pyramid Collection
The Sharper Image
Time for Me
Touch of Class
Vermont Country Store Catalog of Goods & Wares
The web site notified me that four of these merchants have refused to honor requests placed thru Catalog Choice, but they provide phone numbers and web sites so you can contact the merchants directly. I got on the phone with Macy*s and spoke to Customer Service and made the request, altho I did not hear a keyboard in the background so I am skeptical that this request will be honored. I sent emails to two others thru their web sites, and Steve said he would take care of Griot’s Garage by email.
Oh, and it was very interesting when we requested to be removed from Crate & Barrel. We received a notice on the screen:
All Crate and Barrel catalogues are printed on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and contain 10 to 30 percent post-consumer recycled material. You can learn more about our environmental Initiatives on everything from furniture to packaging materials to our energy-efficient warehouses at www.crateandbarrel.com/environment.
Upon closer inspection of the catalog itself it does tout the FSC mark and statement and other things that tell you about steps the company is taking to reduce their environmental footprint. I will continue to shop there – in fact, I have a gift card from our holiday/housewarming/anniversary party that is burning a hole in my pocket. I think I am going to get a big wooden salad bowl so I can make proper Caesar salads.
It was hard to follow-thru and request removal from some of the catalogs, like Sharper Image, Hammacher Schlemmer, and Pyramid. They are fiun catalogs and we always find things to show to each other. But who needs to waste time looking at things they don’t really have the money to buy anyway?
2008 is a year of conscious reduction in our household, and getting rid of the daily temptations in the mail box is a GREAT step towards freedom.
Something else I really liked about the site is that I could tell the merchant why I was requesting to be removed from the mailing list. The options are:
* Prefer not to answer
* Prefer shopping online for these products
* No interest in products
* I want to help the environment
* Duplicate mailing
* Addressed to person not at residence
* I receive too many of this catalog
* Other – has a type-in field where you can give specific reason
Honestly on many of these catalogs, I prefer to shop in the store (e.g. J Jill, Smith & Hawken, Crate & Barrel, etc). So I selected Other and typed this into the field that pops up. I think they should make that a menu option. For catalogs I never bought from before, requested, or know how I started receiving them, I answered “I want to help the environment.” Sharper Image and Land’s End and catalogs like those are web sites that I have used and will continue to shop from in the future. It’s silly to get a catalog in the mail when you ordered from the web site. The merchant should learn to mirror the customer. If I ordered by phone from a catalog obviously I am a catalog shopper. If I ordered from the web site, I
am an online shopper. By showing up in my mailbox they are trying to entice me to the web site to shop, and I am just not going to fall for it.
One wifely concession – I let Steve keep his REI catalog.
If you are serious about getting off of these mailing lists, you will also love the Catalog Choice web site because it lets you keep Notes on the site of actions you have taken. So I documented the phone call and emails I sent today using this feature. It lets you come back and check on the status of your requests, too. It will Confirm when you have been removed from mailing lists, letting you know which ones they are.
I hope our experience and illustration of how we were able to use CatalogChoice.org might inspire you to save your catalogs for a month and do the same. You will feel better for it, and free from constant pressures to spend you hard-earned money!