Junk Mail Shibboleth

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Regarding Bob Portner's whining complaint about the dumpster at his son's school with the label "Junk Mail" printed in large letters (Letters to the Editor, May 3), I urge him to rethink what he said.

First off, junk mail is a term here to stay, just as junk phone calls and junk e-mail will be around for a long time. Regarding that dumpster, let me at it! My wife, Peggy, and I spent 10 years building a business that tracked junk mail -- the newsletter Who's Mailing What. The idea behind it came from Dorothy Kerr, then circulation manager of U.S. News & World Report, who said in a speech to the Direct Mail Writer's Guild in New York 20 years ago: "To be successful in direct mail, you have to see who's mailing what, which mailings keep coming in over and over again (which means they are successful) and then steal smart."

Peggy and I went through hoops and spent a fortune assembling a group of correspondents across the country who would dutifully send us their junk mail. We supplied prepaid FedEx forms and a free subscription to the magazine, plus a nice Christmas gift each year. It was a horrendous, expensive, labor-intensive undertaking. So, now Bob Portner is telling me that around the corner is a dumpster filled with junk mail! Jeez, in the immortal words of Ben Bradlee, "I'da given my left one" if there was such a treasure trove at Rippowam High back when we were living in Stamford, CT, and running the business out of the house. We could have saved thousands of dollars a year.

Further, if I were senior account executive for Kroll Direct Marketing (as Portner is) or any other supplier to the industry, I would get to the school every day a half hour early and go dumpster diving. Here are my prospects and I would know exactly what they are mailing. Bob, four words of advice: "Don't bitch; get rich!"

<I>Denny Hatch<I>

Founder, Who's Mailing What

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