Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

Screen names: the sociology of junk mail

Posted by Charles II on February 9, 2007

Jon Ronson, The Guardian: 

April 2006. The postman has just been and I’m doing the usual thing of throwing the credit card junk mail in the bin. There was one today, from Capital One. British households receive 3.4 billion unsolicited letters – mainly credit card junk – each year. That works out at nine to 15 letters per household per week (not to mention the 1,300-plus junk emails we averagely receive annually). So I get less than most people.

 I wonder: how do they know I exist? Am I randomly blasted, or is there a method? Do the junk mailers pinpoint particular personality types? …

And then I have a brainwave. I’ll devise an experiment. I’ll create a number of personas. Their surnames will all be Ronson, and they’ll all live at my address, but they’ll have different first names. Each will be poles apart, personality-wise. Each will have a unique set of hopes, desires, predilections, vices and spending habits, reflected in the various mailing lists they’ll sign up to – from Porsche down to hardcore pornography. The one thing that will unite them is that they won’t be interested in credit cards. They will not seek loans or any financial services as they wander around, filling out lifestyle surveys, entering competitions and buying things by mail order. Whenever they’re invited to tick a box forbidding whichever company from passing their details to other companies, they’ll neglect to tick the box.

Which, if any, of my personas will end up getting sent junk mail? Which personality type will be most attractive to the credit card companies?

It’s hilarious. Read the rest here.

5 Responses to “Screen names: the sociology of junk mail”

  1. Moral of the Story: If you’re a stupid, Nazi-memorabilia-collecting, sex-crazed wingnut who lives in your mom’s basement, then no junk-mail filter is strong enough to save you from innundation.

  2. My wife went to a financial seminar where she was told that having a Capital One credit card LOWERS your credit rating. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s what they said.

  3. I wouldn’t be surprised.

  4. Ramsey Fahel said

    Do Not Mail Opt-Out Law would be fair to everyone.

    The proposed statewide “Do not mail” is an Opt-Out law. Only those not desiring advertising mail need opt-out. Anyone desiring advertising mail can do nothing – and continue to receive it. Why deny those wishing to avoid advertising mail the power to do so?

    I do not consider handling unwanted advertising placed against my will on my personal property to be a civic obligation!

    The US Supreme Court said in the Rowan case in 1970, ““In today’s [1970] complex society we are inescapably captive audiences for many purposes, but a sufficient measure of individual autonomy must survive to permit every householder to exercise control over unwanted mail. To make the householder the exclusive and final judge of what will cross his threshold undoubtedly has the effect of impeding the flow of ideas, information, and arguments that, ideally, he should receive and consider. Today’s merchandising methods, the plethora of mass mailings subsidized by low postal rates, and the growth of the sale of large mailing lists as an industry in itself have changed the mailman from a carrier of primarily private communications, as he was in a more leisurely day, and have made him an adjunct of the mass mailer who sends unsolicited and often unwanted mail into every home. It places no strain on the doctrine of judicial notice to observe that whether measured by pieces or pounds, Everyman’s mail today is made up overwhelmingly of material he did not seek from persons he does not know. And all too often it is matter he finds offensive.”

    Furthermore, the Supreme Court said, “the mailer’s right to communicate is circumscribed only by an affirmative act of the addressee giving notice that he wishes no further mailings from that mailer.

    To hold less would tend to license a form of trespass and would make hardly more sense than to say that a radio or television viewer may not twist the dial to cut off an offensive or boring communication and thus bar its entering his home. Nothing in the Constitution compels us to listen to or view any unwanted communication, whatever its merit; we see no basis for according the printed word or pictures a different or more preferred status because they are sent by mail.”

    We need a nationwide “Do Not Mail” law to create a one-stop, convenient place for homeowners to give senders the aforementioned affirmative notice that we do not want certain kinds of mail sent to our homes.

    Ramsey A Fahel
    Arvada, CO

  5. If we repealed the subsidy for junk mail, it would accomplish most of that without legislation, Ramsey.

    But I agree that there is so much mail– much of it without proper return addesses that would help to separate unwanted mail from important mail– that things are out of balance.

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