Home Blogs Diary 2010 10

Selling out?

6th October 2010

Ever since I started Stop Junk Mail I've funded the campaign by selling 'No Junk Mail' stickers. It just seems the obvious thing to do; the stickers help you reduce junk mail and make it possible for me to run the campaign without having to petition for bankruptcy.

Strictly speaking the stickers I started out with are not 'No Junk Mail' stickers. The words "junk mail" isn't on them. 'Junk mail' simply means 'unwanted advertising mail', which can be anything from a letter from Norwich Union about yet another car insurance offer to a leaflet from a kebab outlet on the other side of town or even a free local newspaper. As a result stickers with text 'No Junk Mail' can be confusing. Are they supposed to all stop the above-mentioned items, or just some of them?

Instead of stickers saying 'No Junk Mail' I originally got two types of stickers. The first reads 'No Commercial Leaflets, No Free Newspapers', the second 'No Commercial Leaflets, Yes Free Newspapers'. Although the text is not as strong as 'No Junk Mail' they do end junk mail confusion once and for all. First of all, a distinction is made between commercial and non-commercial leaflets. Most people don't mind the odd leaflet with information from, say, a neighbourhood watch team. What they resent is the endless stream of take-away menus and other leaflets trying to sell them rubbish.

Secondly, the stickers give you the option to say 'yes' or 'no' to free newspapers. This makes good sense because people have diverging opinions about free newspapers. To some they're a useful source of information; others see them as junk mail in disguise, if not the nail in the coffin of journalism. The only way to cater for both groups is to give people a straight choice.

The new 'No Junk Mail' letterbox stickers.
New stock!

Yet, I've always struggled to explain the concept to people. Most folk, it seems, just want to get rid off 'junk mail'. They simply want an anti-junk mail sticker and don't have time for long explanations about why the 'No/No, No/Yes' stickers are better than the variety that says 'No Junk Mail'. So, guess what, after three years I've finally given in. I got a bunch of new stickers today, fresh from the press…

There are still two types of stickers. If you get the sticker with only the text 'No Junk Mail' you are in effect saying 'yes' to free newspapers. It's not generally accepted that free newspapers should be classified as 'junk mail', so if you want to stop your local newspaper(s) you'll need to get the sticker that also says 'No Free Newspapers'.

Got a definition of 'junk mail'?

The question that remains is– what is 'junk mail'? I go with the definition that's most common: 'junk mail' is commercial unaddressed advertising mail. In other words, as far as I'm concerned a 'No Junk Mail' sticker will not stop advertisements that are non-commercial and/or addressed. What will probably always be a problem though is that your definition of 'junk mail' might be quite different. Add to that the fact that leaflet deliverers will have their own ideas as to what is and isn't 'junk mail' and you'll see why the text 'No Commercial Leaflets' really is better.

Still, it will be interesting to see how much demand there is for the new stickers. I got some 'No/No' and 'No/Yes' stickers left, so for the time being I'll be selling both. Hopefully, when the Happy Day comes that Government will limit self-regulation by the junk mail industry and introduce a straightforward sticker system the 'No/No, No/Yes' stickers will find their way to millions of letterboxes after all.

Last updated: 
6th October 2010