EDITORIAL: Costly Shenanigans

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Why must everyone think they should stick it to direct marketers?

Rich Reinhart of List Counsellors forwarded me an exchange of e-mails he had with someone who's telling people to send the contents of their mailboxes to the banks and mortgage companies that solicit us on a near-daily basis. Yes, response rates have hit an all-time low -- 0.4 percent on 992 million credit card solicitations sent during the second quarter of 2000, according to market researcher BAIGlobal -- but this action is absurd and could end up being quite costly to everyone.

"Tired of getting all those pre-approved letters in the mail for everything from cedit [sic] cards to 2nd Mortgages, and junk like that? If the answer is, 'Yes!' read on. If 'No,' read on anyway since many of us don't care for banks and credit card companies.

As you know, most, if not all of those letters come with a postage 'PREPAID' envelope. Why not get rid of some of your other junk mail and put it in these cool little envelopes! If you didn't get anything else that day, then just send them their application back! Just make sure your name isn't on anything you send them. ... Let's let them know what it's like to get junk mail, and best of all THEY'RE paying for it ... twice! Only in America! WAIT!!!!! HERE'S THE BEST PART. You already know that the USPS has increased postage rates again. ... Now if all of us start mailing back all the junk mail we receive to other junk mailers in their 'postage paid' envelopes, we just might delay the next rate hike!!"

And Reinhart's reply?

"First, direct mail is the least intrusive form of advertising. If you don't like it, don't read it. ... For decades, direct mail (now known as Standard Mail) HAS SUBSIDIZED FIRST-CLASS MAIL. ... Our First-Class stamp would be far higher than it is were it not for the billions of pieces of direct mail -- and millions of satisfied customers. So while it may seem happily vindictive to make costs higher in hopes of driving up the cost of mail, on a more realistic note it provides great employment to tens of thousands, an important service to consumers and doesn't get in the way."

Reinhart's e-mail friend obviously didn't consider how his prank ultimately will hurt consumers as these firms are forced to pass along the possibly millions of dollars in extra postage and processing fees.

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