The green monsters

It’s not a great time to be a print cataloger, and I’m not even talking about postal rates and paper prices. Your business is under attack by environmental enthusiasts that want to help people get off your mailing lists.

Last month brought the launch of CatalogChoice.org, a free service that allows consumers to opt out of receiving catalogs from specific retailers. Some 20,000 people signed up in its first week.

CatalogChoice.org joins GreenDimes, which sells a “Junk Mail Reduction Kit” for $15 that promises to reduce the amount of unsolicited postal mail consumers receive by 75%-90%. Another called 41pounds.org charges $41 to contact catalogers on the consumers’ behalf and get them off their lists for five years. And the Stop the junk mail.com site offers to “Protect your Privacy and Stop Postal Junk Mail for $19.95 per year!”

What does all this mean to you? If a consumer doesn’t want to be on your list, you have no business — or reason — to mail to them. The problem is, these services may inspire more people to board the “take me off your list” bandwagon without understanding what it means or realizing the value that targeted catalogs provide.

And if the “stop junk mail” train picks up more speed, we’re headed toward Do-Not-Mail legislation, which is already proposed in 15 states.

You already know you should continue to clean up your lists and to mail smarter; it’s too expensive these days not to. But many of you could be doing a better job at this — I am getting way too many duplicate catalogs. It annoys me — and I love catalogs. (Another case in point: My mother passed away nearly a decade ago, yet some of you are diligently trying to reactivate her this season.)

You might also want to keep on top of legislative developments and trade group efforts to lobby on behalf of the industry and improve public perception about what you do. What you can’t do is be complacent, because forbidden prospecting is worse than expensive prospecting.

P.S. Multichannel Merchant bids a fond farewell to managing editor Mark Del Franco, who is leaving business journalism to begin a career in financial communications. We’ll miss his gregarious nature, his unflinching reporting, and of course, his steady stream of jokes. (Okay, maybe not all of his jokes…) Good luck, Mark!

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