Column: Sales overload can drive one to desperate measures

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2002

&t;I&gt&uot;The right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the most valued by civilized men.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

“The right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the most valued by civilized men.” – Louis D. Brandeis, Olmsted v. the U.S., 1928

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Have you ever noticed just how much unwanted advertising we run across every day? I’m not talking about the kind that reaches us through magazines, newspapers, radio and television. I’m talking about the kind that invades our worlds through our mailboxes and telephones.

Let’s start with rainforest-destroying, landfill-clogging junk mail. Marketing executives hate when you call it that, by the way. They prefer the expression, “direct mail.” Given how the word “direct” is a synonym for “nonstop,” I can see how they came up with their terminology. There seems to be no end to the garbage I receive in my mailbox.

Catalogs from companies I have previously ordered from are not the problem. If I want off their mailing list, all I have to do is call them and ask. What I don’t like is how it seems that every other day I receive a different credit card offer. They keep telling me that it’s my last chance to respond. They never honor that promise, however. I remember actually having to find, fill out and mail in applications for credit. Now I have to write letters to have my name removed from bulk-mailing lists.

Want to know how to have fun with your junk mail? Most mail offers will come with either a postcard or an envelope to send back to the company. Few of them require postage, as the company will pay it for each response they get. How much do you suppose it would cost them if everyone who received their offer mailed back an empty envelope or a blank postcard? By the way, you can do the same thing with the subscription cards found in magazines. I hate those things.

Telephone sales calls are another waste of time and invasion of privacy. I don’t like when people call me at home and read from a script, wanting to demonstrate a cross between a vacuum cleaner and an air filter, sell me magazine subscriptions at a low rate, or offer me yet another credit card. For this reason, I ordered Caller ID from my telephone service provider, and activated the Anonymous Call Rejection feature. Nobody with a “blocked” telephone number can get through.

Telemarketers aren’t stupid, though. Some of them have found a way around the feature by having “unblocked” numbers, but calling from an area that does not offer Caller ID, thereby registering as “Out of Area,” and still getting through anonymously.

To combat this, I encourage wasting their time just as easily as they waste yours. Ask them all kinds of irrelevant questions. Let them get almost all the way through their pitch, then start coughing incessantly and ask them to start over. See how many times they will do it. Keep asking if they can hang on, then walk away from the receiver for a few minutes. The fewer calls they can make, the less business they can do. Wasting their time costs them money.

Incidentally, here are some “nicer” ways to fight back. Removing your name from mailing and call lists will get the job done, and won’t result in unnecessary expenses for the companies involved. This isn’t as much fun, but it works. This information is taken from Freeborn County recycling information.

– To remove your name from marketing and pre-approved offers of credit, call (888) 567-8688.

– To stop telemarketing calls, write to: Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9014, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9014.

– To remove your name from bulk-mailing lists, write to: Direct Marketing Association, Mail Preference Division, P.O. Box 9008, Farmingdale, N.Y. 11735-9008.

– To remove your name from specific companies, cut out your mailing label and return it to the company that sent it to you. Request that your name be removed from their mailing list.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm supporter of capitalism and the right to free enterprise. I believe that even direct mailers and telemarketers have the right to conduct business. That is their choice. However, I also believe in the right to not be bothered by them. That is my choice.

Dustin Petersen is an Albert Lea resident. His column appears Tuesdays.