Live From The ACMA Forum: “Do Not Mail” a Hot Potato

Washington–Nobody in the catalog industry wants to see Do-Not-Mail legislation passed. But a panel at the first-ever National Catalog Advocacy & Strategy Forum, sponsored by the American Catalog Mailers Association, it’s clear that industry players and groups need to do a better job working together on fighting it.

A five-person panel Thursday representing catalogers, the Direct Marketing Association, the U.S. Postal Service, and the controversial Catalog Choice program spearheaded contentious discussion on pending Do-Not-Mail laws and catalog preference requests.

Do-Not-Mail legislation would obviously have a “significant impact” on the Postal Service, said Marie Therese Dominguez, vice president government relations and public policy for the USPS.

Jim Feinson, president/CEO of Burlington, VT-based Gardener’s Supply, said he opposed his home state’s proposed Do-Not-Mail legislation. “We believe in the environmental responsibility of direct marketing.”

Crate & Barrel been mailing catalogs since 1967, said the home decor and furnishing merchant’s direct marketing business director John Seebeck. “The catalog is near and dear to our hearts. We get concerned because we’ve always had a direct relationship with our customers. Self-regulation is the best choice. We don’t want a national Do-Not-Mail list.”

Seebeck summarized why he believes people are looking to opt out of receiving certain catalogs. “Consumers are reacting to an annoyance factor driven by financial mailings and nonprofit mailings,” he said. “It’s about controlling the mailbox.”

Jerry Cerasale, the DMA’s senior vice president for government affairs, told the more than 70 attendees there were only three states considering Do Not Mail legislation in 2005; four in 2006; but that figure jumped to eight last year.

“Obviously, a cause for concern,” he said. “Do Not Mail is really a major issue. The popular success of Do Not Call is helping push this. It’s important to listen to customers and tell them how “green” you are.”

DMA officials encourage the catalog industry to regulate itself so as to lessen potential impact of pending Do Not Mail legislation. The DMA’s Mail Preference Service (MPS) is the official mail preference service supported by the USPS.

Catalog Choice, an online service launched last October, allows people to create a list of catalogs from which they want to receive no or less-frequent mail. “We do not support Do Not Mail,” said Chuck Teller, Catalog Choice’s executive director.

“We’re doing our best to manage expectations of consumers,” Teller said. “We aren’t out to kill the catalog channel. The consumer has spoken and they do trust our intentions. We have no ulterior motives.”

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