Editorial: One Man’s Junk

Nice of The Washington Post’s Bob Levey to take up the crusade against unwanted mail. In a column last week, he ranted about the “incredible four-inch high stack that arrives in the mail each day” and offered this advice: “Open the trash can. Pretend for a minute that you’re Michael Jordan. Dunk.” (Not sure how many lists the Levey household is on, but I don’t get four inches of mail in a week.) Among the items he deemed “junk”: an invitation for “a ‘special’ look at furniture I don’t want and don’t need”; a “come-on from a video rental parlor. Thanks, but I prefer books”; and three credit card applications.

Knowing that targeted mail is better, let’s build a Levey database here, all from information found in his bio on the Post’s Web site and another site that sells his services as a speaker (only $5,000 a pop). Let’s see, he failed to mention whether he received that fall fundraising piece from Children’s Hospital, one of the two charities he helps raise money for in his column every year. Maybe he doesn’t know that individual contributions are still the overwhelming way nonprofits get their money or that fundraising direct mail is the most popular type of direct mail read, according to the Direct Marketing Association’s “2002 Statistical Fact Book.”

Not sure of Levey’s exact age, but he attended college in the early ’60s, so he’s a baby boomer eyeing retirement. A mailer with some sound financial advice is in order, especially in the year we’re having. He’s also the father of two teen-agers. What about a subscription offer to a parenting magazine or two? Or a catalog from Rover Plus Nine selling softball accessories since he plays competitive slow-pitch softball. And he’s a top-notch bridge player. Maybe his membership to the American Contract Bridge League is almost up, so that mailer reminding him to pay his dues should be arriving any day now.

Though Levey probably won’t believe it, marketers don’t want to send him mail that he’s not interested in. It may be a waste of his time throwing it away, but it’s a waste of their money producing and mailing it. And who wants to waste money in times like this? Many consumers like what they receive in the mail. Just look at this year’s response-driven Echo award campaigns. Once Levey thinks about it, maybe he’ll realize that not everything in his mailbox is junk.

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