[EAS] Catalog Madness

Peter J. Kindlmann pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Wed Dec 5 02:48:43 EST 2007

A little late to send you this, but still worth a try. --PJK

Stop the Catalog Madness with Catalog Choice
   by Adam C. Engst <ace at tidbits.com>
   article link: <http://db.tidbits.com/article/9232>

   Discussing ways of lightening your mailbox's load of paper catalogs
   in TidBITS may seem a bit unusual, but remember that one of the
   reasons Tonya and I started TidBITS back in 1990 was to provide an
   online alternative to weekly technology magazines like MacWEEK. Many
   of those magazines have disappeared in favor of publishing news
   online, and although most retailers now sell online too, the
   onslaught of paper catalogs, particularly around the holiday season
   (now starting in September!) seems to have increased. Don't believe
   me? There are now 19 billion paper catalogs mailed to U.S. consumers
   annually, consuming over 8 million tons of paper each year.

   We've long tried to reduce our catalog load by calling catalog
   companies and asking to be removed, faxing the back page of the
   catalog with the mailing label on it to the company with a request
   to be removed, and using the Direct Marketing Association's Mail
   Preference Service (which apparently now costs $1). I'm sure it has
   helped, but the holiday catalog flood is starting anew.


   Thanks to long-time TidBITS reader Matt Henderson of MakaluMedia for
   alerting me to a new service his company has launched in conjunction
   with the Ecology Center. Called Catalog Choice, it's an extremely
   slick Web site that automates the process of asking merchants to
   remove us from their catalog mailing lists. It's entirely free, and
   although it remains to be seen how effective it is (it can take up
   to six weeks to be removed), I rather enjoyed finding catalogs and
   asking to be removed in the Catalog Choice system. If nothing else,
   it felt like I was doing something productive.


   So far, Catalog Choice has proven quite popular, with over 250,000
   people opting out of more than 3 million individual catalogs. And
   we've quite enjoyed using it - after school, Tonya and Tristan sit
   down with the daily haul and opt out of nearly every catalog we
   receive - 57 so far. We even do this with catalogs from companies we
   like because Catalog Choice records which catalogs have been
   declined and includes links to the associated Web sites, making it
   easy to order in the future.

   Don't get me wrong - I'm not opposed to the concept of paper
   catalogs in general. In fact, I often find them more effective at
   conveying information and more enjoyable to browse than online
   catalogs. But I want to be in control of which catalogs I receive,
   and I absolutely hate receiving new catalogs from the same companies
   every few weeks. For instance, until we managed to beat them off,
   Victoria's Secret seemed to think we were members of the Lingerie of
   the Week Club. One or two catalogs a year would be more than
   sufficient, thank you very much, and if I like them, I'll keep them
   around until I get a new one. Of course, I'm old enough to remember
   the yearly Sears, Montgomery Ward, and JCPenney catalogs that
   provided hours of youthful consumer lustfulness and that were heavy
   enough to be duct-taped into boat anchors.

   But in this day and age, I just want most catalog companies to leave
   me alone. If Catalog Choice can do that, reduce the environmental
   impact of catalogs, and even save the merchants from wasting
   catalogs on me, we all win.

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