Junk-Mail Junkie - Part Two

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Friday, I explained why writing "Take My Name Off Your Mailing List" and returning a letter does nothing to reduce the flow of direct mail appeals coming to your doorstep.

Today, I'm going to tell you what you can do to reduce the number of appeals you receive.

On January 1, 2001, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents (PIPED) Act came into being. It covers all transactions involving lists that are rented, traded or bartered with a charity or business in another province.

According to Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski, an "opt-out consent" is acceptable when the information collected is not sensitive - such as a name and address. The Act stipulates that the information must be used "for reasonable purposes only."

So, what do you do to stay off lists that are traded?

Look for a box to check off.

  • There should be one on every subscription, donation and membership form you fill out. It should say something like, "Do not allow my name to be traded with mailings from other organizations."

Phone, fax or e-mail the organizations that send you stuff.

  • Ask them to tell you where they got your name. Don't be shy; you'll be giving them an opportunity to explain their privacy policy. All lists are coded. This allows the organization that sent out the letter to keep track of the response rates from various lists. You may be asked to read a code on the address label, or to fax the mailing label so they can check with their list broker.

Contact the list source directly.

  • Tell them you want your name "tagged," so it isn't included in list trades or rentals. About a quarter of the subscribers of Herizons, where I work, have ticked a box on their subscription cards indicating that they don't want to have their names traded or rented.

List your name and address with the Canadian Direct Marketing Association.

  • You can do it online. Your name will automatically be screened from the mailers who vet their names through the association. The service lasts for three years.

    One drawback of this method results from the way names are sorted and struck from lists. For example, if you register at the CDMA as Susan Dale, #3-234 Agnes Street, and someone gets a file that has your address as S. Dale, 234 Agnes St. Apt 3, you may still receive mailings.

Reduce duplicate mailings

  • Do this by listing your name and address the same way each time you subscribe to a magazine or make a donation.

The use of mailing lists is only a small part of what is in Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. You can view it in greater detail.

Confessions of a Junk-Mail Junkie - Part One

Penni Mitchell is the editor of Herizons, Canada's largest feminist magazine.

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