Opt Me Out! The United States Postal Service Needs an Overhaul

Summary:The volume of physical spam I receive, aka junk mail, is now becoming an absolutely intolerable situation. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the entire US Postal Service is in order.

The volume of physical spam I receive, aka junk mail, is now becoming an absolutely intolerable situation. Nothing less than a complete overhaul of the entire US Postal Service is in order.

My friend and colleague David Strom, over at his site Strominator.com, in a reaction to recent congressional hearings about possible changes to the United States Postal Service, has proposed a very interesting idea -- that Netflix should take over the USPS. His reason? Netflix has been an effective user of the postal service with its standardized DVD mailers, their elimination of stamps and a corporate culture that is the polar opposite of the way USPS works with its own employees and treats its customers.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

I'm not going to debate whether Netflix is necessarily the best steward for the USPS or if the USPS should follow a Netflix-like business model. Indeed, Netflix itself is more and more getting out of the business of sending DVDs snail mail and are moving towards Internet content delivery with devices like the Roku and their Instant Play service. What I will say is that the USPS is woefully outdated, inefficient and wasteful.

[EDIT: I previously added "and costs taxpayers way too much money to run." The USPS is a government-run corporation and income generating entity for the US Treasury and receives no tax dollars, apparently. However, when it was formed in 1971, it received a 3 billion dollar subsidy from the US Government. The 2008 USPS Annual Report shows an approximate 3 billion dollar capital contribution from the US Government. ]

It's time that the Postal Service enters the 21st century and adapts a number of modernization methods, the most significant being how to deal with junk mail.

Yes, junk mail. Physical spam. The never ending pile of dead trees that seems to stuff our mailboxes every week, which includes all sorts of commercial mails we never opted-in on, or knew we opted-in on by virtue of joining any number of mailing lists for companies we thought would handle our personal information in a discreet manner. Just as certain types of robocalls should be made illegal and we have the ability to opt-out of telemarketing calls through a government web site, we should also have the ability via a web site to opt out of entire classes of mail sent through the USPS.

How do we do this? Every type of commercial/bulk mailer should be required by law to use a bar code that classifies it in a number of pre-defined categories, which will get sorted via electronic scanner prior to delivery. The major ones that we want to be concerned with is Legal or Time-Sensitive Official Correspondence, Municipal/Government, Financial (Bills), Health (Lab reports, medical records, medication), Periodicals (Magazines/Newspapers) and lastly and most importantly, Bulk Marketing Materials (Catalogs, Get Rich Quick Letters, Coupon Mailers, etc).

As with the National Do Not Call Registry, I should be able to register my home address and opt out of anything that fits in the Bulk Marketing Materials category, which alone should reduce the pile of crap that accumulates on my mantle by my front door by about 95 percent, and allow me to find the stuff that is actually important.

[EDIT: Apparently, the Direct Marketing Association has created a website where you are able to opt-out of THEIR managed lists. You can try it out at https://www.dmachoice.org. I've registered and opted out of catalogs and magazines and a whole bunch of other junk, but apparently to opt out of credit offers you have to go to an external website, OptOutPreScreen.com that asks for your Social Security Number. There is also CatalogChoice.org, which allows you to fine tune your catalog choices but does not allow you to opt out of ALL of them in one fell swoop. As to the effectiveness of dmachoice.org and whether it works or piles more junk into my mailbox, I'll let you know in 90 days.]

Mandatory registration of commercial bulk mailing entities and electronic sorting and "physical spam assassination" will also reduce the amount of paper waste that is occurring and reduce de-forestation and our global carbon footprint, because once companies get "Do not mail" notifications from the USPS's database, they won't waste postage on sending stuff that is going to go right in the garbage when the USPS scans it and checks it against their "Do not mail" database and sends them a monthly electronic "Bounce" reports on garbage volumes from rejected addresses.

If businesses try to game the system by attempting to re-categorize their physical spam as something other than "Bulk Marketing Materials" I should be able to read their number off the barcode and file a complaint on the USPS "Do Not Mail" website which should have real consequences if businesses that do commercial mailings of bulk marketing material get high bounce rates. Is snail-mail spam making your life a living hell and making it harder to sort out your most critical correspondence? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Topics: Mobility, Browser, Hardware, Software Development

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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