She's dead Jim, but the junk mail continues

She's dead Jim, but the junk mail continues

Summary: Is there a way to get marketers to stop sending junk mail to the deceased? It appears not.

TOPICS: After Hours

Elizabeth, my wife of 25 years passed away two years ago after a protracted battle with a rare form of cancer. All-in-all, it was an ugly situation.

All of the schools, charities and organizations Elizabeth contributed to continued to send her mail soliciting donations. At first, whenever one of these unwanted messages would appear in my mailbox, I'd call the customer service line and ask that they stop sending mail. Did that stop the messages coming to my mailbox? No.

I was remarried, sold the house and moved.  Mail addressed to Elizabeth followed me to my new address. I continued to call the companies and still the mail continued. It appears to grow in volume each time the organizations sell their distribution lists to others. Some marketeers have learned my new wife's name and have started sending material both to her and to Elizabeth.

I moved again. The mail for Elizabeth followed me to my new address.

The most irritating organizations sending this unwanted mail are the political parties and candidates.  I'm now seeing messages from three different locations and can't get them to stop sending messages. Calling and writing to them doesn't stem the flow of unwanted messages.

I've taken to crossing out the address, writing "deceased, return to sender" on the mail and putting them back into the mailbox. So far, this approach hasn't stopped the flow of unwanted mail.

It is clear that there is no way to stop the deluge. Marketeers don't care that they're wasting their money and causing irritation.

Topic: After Hours


Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. In his spare time, he's also the managing partner of Lux Sonus LLC, an investment firm.

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  • Did you fill out a change of address with the post office?

    If you don't inform the post office the mail won't follow you. I still get mail from a tenant that moved over a decade ago because they didn't fill out a change of address form with the USPS and didn't tell their creditors or anyone else they moved. Don't tell them.. then the mail will pile up at the old address!
    Thomas Kolakowski
    • Post office forwarding isn't granular

      Unfortunately, the U.S. Post Office doesn't provide a granular forwarding option. If forwarding is used to route important messages to a new address, the new address is provided to marketers if they request forwarding. So, Mail will follow a deceased person as well as those still living.
      • I think he's saying you don't need to worry about it.

        Utility companies & other creditors already have options to update your mailing address strictly within their own systems (either online or with the monthly payment voucher). Family & friends can be updated by telephone, email, or even sending them a letter saying, "Notice the new return address on the envelope!". And any important organizations, magazine subscriptions, or other soruces of mail that you *do* want to receive will usually have some way (online, mail, telephone, etc.) of updating your mailing address.

        In other words, if it's important enough for you to read, there's a way for you to update it with only those sources you want to have the information, but it will involve a lot of work. Taking the easy way & just letting the USPS know your address means that *everyone* can get mail to you.
  • A partial solution

    Go to (Direct Marketing Association) and click "Register the Deceased." They will need enough information about the person to validate the request. You'll need to provide a real email address for yourself (I'd lie about my other details). It will take months for this to be effective, but it works for most commercial junk mailers.

    This is a case where we need a federal solution similar to "do not call". However, rules of perverse incentives require that the US Postal Service sustain profits from the half of their deliveries that are junk mail.
  • That's why it is best not to tell them!

    If you just update the addresses with things like CC and such manually it stops there. The problem is that that is very time consuming. Our former tenants were a tad shady and didn't notify the USPS so all their collection notices and such still come here. They only moved across the street, so they will pickup that mail from our box. When we moved none of our stuff followed us except the things we sent change of address forms to.
    Thomas Kolakowski
  • Yes there is!

    i think that there is an way to stop all spammers, just start punishing the companies that owns the product/service that is announced, put pressure on politicians for to be created a law that allows punish the one who sells the unwanted product advertised.