Two years ago, I got a letter from Reader’s Digest – all I had to do was put the stickers (included) enclosed in the designated boxes and return it in the pre-addressed envelope (included) and, as a very special person who lived in my area, and had been especially selected I could be in the running to win a prize of whatever number of dollars. I knew it was a marketing ploy – but you’ve got to be in it to win it, so I returned the material as requested. Little did I know what I was about to unleash. Over the rest of the year, I received multiple letters from the company, all in rather large impressive envelopes marked URGENT and other blurb designed to give the impression that the recipient was a winner – of course the contents revealed that I was only getting to closer to the finish line – BUT the money was already in the bank vault and it could have my name on it! After the first six or so letters, I became quite intrigued by this correspondence because of its, what-seemed-to-me misleading nature – and I decided to keep completing them and sending them in. The correspondence became more and more complex, with little envelopes enclosed to open, things to scratch, large official looking mock cheques and certificates, certifying that I was – nearly a winner. I’m not a stupid person, but the material in each letter became so complex – multiple letters, certificates, scratchies, stickers etc that towards the end of the year I was having trouble working out what to put where and what to return and what to keep – so I could confirm that I was indeed the winner IF my name should be the lucky one. And there was usually a sweetener – buy this for so many days on approval and you received extra entries or whatever – or a free book, yours to keep, no obligation, but send a cancellation letter to the company or return within a month so you didn’t keep receiving monthly books to buy etc – the details are a bit foggy now (information overload!) On and on it went. Of course at the end of the year, I had won nothing. But I had bought a book – I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.
Then barely had the year ended, than I started receiving the mail again. This time, after the first few, I decided to keep the letters and see how much correspondence there was over the year. Additionally, I started receiving emails – again, after the first several, I decided to keep them and see how many I received over the year. As the year went on, the letters and emails became ever more urgent and excited, even though I was not responding in any way.
At the beginning of this year, I weighed the collected letters – they weighed over a kilo – and there were over 30 emails. Multiply this by the many thousands – ? hundreds of thousands – that are sent out each year, and it adds up to a HUGE amount of paper, ink, transport costs etc. It must be profitable for the company to continue doing this, but at what cost to the environment?
Early this year I marked all the collected envelopes RTS and bounced all the emails. I hoped Reader’s Digest would enjoy receiving some of their own treatment and remove me from their list as a troublesome customer. Did it make any difference? Not a bit. I continued to receive mailings and emails. I then marked all the envelopes RTS – please remove my name from all your mailing lists and I continued to bounce the emails. I think they’ve got the message at last.