Dear Dot: How can I stop the onslaught of catalogs?

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Dear Dot,

Can you help me figure out how to stop all the catalogs I get in the mail? A terrible waste of paper!  

–Virginia, Santa Barbara

Dear Virginia,

It can feel like something of a mystery in our digital age how catalogs have not only refused to die but continue to pile up through our mail slots, often unbidden. After all, a marketing email costs mere pennies to send while full-color catalogs can cost 100 times that. But the Harvard Business Review reported in 2020 that catalogs had been growing in popularity since 2015. Companies continue to send catalogs because they work. We spend more when we purchase from a catalog and we are more likely to make repeat purchases. What’s more, unrequested marketing emails are often filtered-out spam while unrequested catalogs will be delivered to us via the USPS, which is obliged to do so as long as the catalogs have the proper postage.

All of which is to say, Virginia, that catalogs seem here to stay — 5.6 million tons of catalogs and other direct mail advertisements that end up in U.S. landfills annually — but that’s not the same as saying there aren’t steps to ensure that we don’t become buried beneath the full-color pages of Restoration Hardware or L.L. Bean. 

You can blame a company named Abacus for putting your name on mailing lists so, to opt out, go to its parent company Epsilon’s website or call Epsilon at 1-866-267-3861. 

You can also log on to the non-profit Catalog Choice, which gives you the option to cancel specific catalogs (and other pieces of junk mail) for free. 

In order to ensure you don’t wind up back on a bunch of companies’ mailing lists, stick to shopping in person at stores owned and operated by locals. The money you spend there stays in your community and you contribute to a thriving local marketplace made up of often unique products. 

And if, when you’re paying for your items, a pleasant salesclerk asks if you’d like to be put on their mailing list, make sure it’s a digital one before you enthusiastically agree. 

Opt-outedly,

Dot

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