Catalogs are coming to town

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! NEW YORK – ‘Tis the season when mailboxes start overflowing with holiday catalogs. That’s because in-home shopping has become increasingly important to the nation’s retailers, especially ahead of Christmas and Hanukkah. Seven in 10 Americans shop from home via catalogs, on the Internet, by mail or over the phone, according to surveys by the New York-based Direct Marketing Association trade group. But while many consumers may welcome the opportunity to browse for gifts from the comfort of their living rooms, others see the avalanche of paper as a signal that it’s time – again – to try to get off those pesky mailing lists. Among them is Sean Sheehan, outreach director at the Center for a New American Dream, a consumer group in Takoma Park, Md., that advocates controlled, environmentally sound spending. “To begin with, it’s a quality-of-life issue,” Sheehan said. “People are already harried, and they don’t find coming home to a giant pile of junk mail to be calming.” Sheehan added that people who want to be careful consumers also don’t appreciate being bombarded with pitches to buy, buy, buy. The biggest problem, he said, is that it’s extremely hard to stay off mailing lists. “Anytime you make any purchase with your credit card or with your address attached, the company can add your name to its mailing list,” he said. “That would be OK, but then many sell it to every other company on the planet and you start getting things from companies you’ve never heard of, or have no interest in.” So Sheehan sees the preholiday season as a good time for consumers to launch a personal campaign to get off mailing lists. The Direct Marketing Association operates a “mail preference service” consumers can use to opt out of mailed solicitations. “The DMA for 30 years has offered this service,” said Amy Blankenship, director of the DMA’s home shopping information center. “From the merchants’ point of view, if there are truly people who don’t want to hear from you, why waste the time and money sending them things?” People can opt out of mail solicitations by writing the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, N.Y., 10512. Consumers must include their names, home addresses and signatures, and there’s no fee for the service. Consumers also can go to the DMA-run Web site and opt out of future solicitations for a $5 fee. Another way to avoid future deluges of catalogs is to contact The Abacus Alliance, an international company that maintains databases used by mail order and catalog companies. Consumers can have their names removed by writing Abacus, P.O. Box 1478, Broomfield, Colo., 80038 or by e-mailing their name and address to [email protected] Sheehan recommends consumers also call the toll-free numbers listed in most catalogs and ask each company to remove their names from future mailings. The New American Dream group has other suggestions on its site at, including an appeal for consumers to lobby for a federal “Do Not Mail” list similar to the “Do Not Call” registry kept by the Federal Trade Commission. There are, of course, consumers who like catalogs but feel overwhelmed by the volume ahead of the holidays. Linda Rothschild, a professional organizer who operates the Cross It Off Your List company in New York, suggests people quickly dispose of the catalogs they’re not interested in. “Have a place set aside where the ones you’re keeping go, perhaps a basket or a box or a shelf,” she said. Regardless of the system, you have to get in the habit of throwing a company’s old catalog out when the new one comes in “or you’re going to have a 3-foot pile in no time,” she added. Another way to control the volume is to tear out the pages you want and get rid of the rest of the catalog, Rothschild said. “I ran into that situation myself last weekend,” she said. “In one of the catalogs, I found three or four things I thought would be appropriate for specific people. I ended up saving three pieces of paper instead of the whole catalog.” Another alternative, she added, is to keep just the page that has the catalog’s toll-free number and Web address and get rid of the rest.last_img read more