Sunday, March 1, 2009

Catalog Pollution -3

On November 15 and 25, 2007, I wrote about “Catalog Pollution” and how I was thoroughly disgusted by the number of catalogs I received in the mail each day. So I began a campaign to reduce the number I was receiving by utilizing This is a non-profit environmental group that operates a web site where you can log on, check the catalogs you no longer want to receive. They contact the catalog, and that will be that.

Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be that easy. My experience was that the majority of companies ignored the requests from CatalogChoice, with some openly saying they would not honor such requests. After eight months I decided it was time to call the companies directly to get off their their mailing lists, and, equally important, to tell them to stop renting or selling my name to other companies.

I kept a record of the catalogs, date contacted, and whether I made the request via phone, e-mail or snail mail. Some companies want you to send them your mailing label, figuring, I’m sure, that very few will go to that trouble. I did.

It took me six months of mainly phone calls, and for a while I was calling companies every day, but, finally, in January the day came when I went to the mailbox and (fanfare), there were no catalogs! At first it was an odd feeling to receive scarcely any mail. Now I feel very clean when I open the mail box and there’s scarcely anything inside.

For the record, I stopped 143 catalogs from coming to our house. Of that 143 I would say that I had ordered from 10-20 companies, and that is being generous. The remaining catalogs I received were the result of my name being rented and sold repeatedly.

Now I order things over the phone. In that way I can request that my information not be sold or rented and thus receive only the catalogs I want.

I also learned that American businesses do not know how to sell. They send out glossy, full color catalogs indiscriminately in the blind hope that enough people will order something. Some companies send out catalogs once or twice a month. From one company I received 11 catalogs in 5 months and had to contact them 4 times before they finally removed my name from their system.

But I was persistent, and I prevailed. I am no longer polluting my soul with consumer pornography. I feel so much better.

© 2009 by Julius Lester

I am aware that I started to write about books I'd read and liked last year and have not continued. I probably won't. Instead, I'll add to my posts quotes from the books I liked in 2008.

"Be cheerful, be stoic, be tranquil. In the valley of sorrow, spread your wings."

Susan Sontag, quoted in Swimming in a Sea of Death: A Son's Memoir by David Rieff. He is Sontag's son, and his book is his experience of the last years of her life. It is an intense and searing book.

Julius Lester