I like to think that I’m sensitive to the negative impact us humans are having on our environment, and thus I try to minimize this impact in all areas of my life where I have the ability to. I’m also very self-righteous when it comes to my rights as a consumer, and very sensitive to being swindled out of money, or otherwise being taken advantage of by commercial enterprises.
So when I get unsolicited snail-mail spam from banks, credit card companies, magazines, etc. asking me to sign up for shit that I either already have, or have no interest whatsoever in buying in to, it angers me because it’s an invasion of my privacy, and also because they’re wasting so much paper and fuel to produce and ship these solicitations to my mailbox.
I’ve devised a fun, simple, five-step process for dealing with this problem. However, I’m reluctant to put this plan in to effect, as I face a grave ethical dilemma. I’m torn between the promise of getting a cheap jab in at the man (even if it is a microscopic 40-cent jab) and not wanting to contribute more to the wasting of fossil fuels by sending useless correspondences back and forth across the country.
So here it is – Re-spam, in five simple steps:
Step 1: Take an unsuspecting piece of mail. Unrequested credit card applications are abundantly available, but anything will do. Spam mail is not hard to spot, even from the outside. Be on the lookout for ’stamps’ that induce a sense of urgency, your address in a font that looks like handwriting, and even, in one very clever (but unsuccessful!) attempt, a sheet of bubble wrap inside the envelope to make it feel that there was something substantial in there. Brilliant! (Errrr …. stoopid).
Step 2: Remove the contents of the envelope. Inside you may find a business reply mail envelope. You will also probably find a limited-time-only special offer, for you, our valued customer. You can be sure that whatever it is, this offer has been extended to only a select group of very intelligent and good looking people (like yourself) who meet the company’s high customer standards. Good job for earning this offer!
Step 3: Tear up all the contents of the envelope, except the business reply envelope. You’ll need this for later. The key here is to tear up everything, including the outer envelope in which this limited time offer arrived! Use a shredder if you’ve got one, scissors if they’re readily available, or just use your fingers and hands.
Step 4: Take everything you tore up and shove it inside the business reply envelope. There is something extraordinarly satisfying and Turducken-like about shoving the shredded-up outer envelope into the inner envelope; it upsets the natural order of things. Keep on stuffing until all the contents are nestled securely inside the envelope. It will look funny and overstuffed, but this is normal.
Step 5: Lick and close the envelope, and write a fun message to seal it off, so the recipient knows that the contents of the envelope have not been tampered with. To be polite, I would try to answer all the questions on the back of the envelope: “Have you answered all questions on your application? No.” “Have you dated and signed the application? No.” I personally prefer writing an LOLCats-style message to finish it off, but this is your chance to express yourself and be quirky. Some recommendations include “Can I haz credit card?” ”My dog shredded my application.” and the less subtle “STOP SENDING ME FUCKING SPAM YOU IDIOTS.”
I don’t know what the hit rates are for such direct marketing campaigns, nor how much these rates increase with the inclusion of a postage-paid, self-addressed business reply envelope. But I would suspect that at some point, if companies are paying out big time on their metered mail costs, but not getting any additional business in return (just a barrage of torn up applications ) then it would no longer be economically viable to pursue such customer acquisition routes. The other side of this is the environmental impact; it’s hypocritical to decry corporations for wasting valuable natural resources shipping out junk mail and, but to turn around and send that junk mail right back at them, consuming even more fossil fuels. There is an inflection point somewhere though, where enough shredded credit card applications, returned to their respective senders will permanently change these companies marketing practices, but this is treading some pretty murky moral territory, both from an environmental perspective as well as perhaps constituting an prosecutable abuse of the postal system.
Who knows – perhaps some fortunate side effect of this energy crisis will be that shipping costs rise to the point where they eventually outweigh any potential revenue to be made from new business acquired via direct mail. And the less room that is taken up in my mailbox by low-fee checking accounts at Wachovia, or invitations to become a Carbon Member at American Express, the more room there will be for those valuable 20% coupons at Bed, Bath and Beyond. Hey – at least those are useful!
Note: this is not a novel idea, nor can I claim credit for it; it’s actually been around on the interwebs for a while. But it’s a great meme that should be perpetuated, and is also lots of fun to write about! If you prefer a less labor intensive program for cutting back on your spam intake, see these really helpful hints for how to prevent it.
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