My experience with refusing United States Postal Service junk mail

Earlier today I discovered that I had 8.5 lbs. of mail in my house – none of it really important as evidenced by the fact that I ignore it to no ill effect for long stretches at a time – in this case, several months.

I had been refusing my mail using the process described in the USPS Domestic Mail Manual section 508 part 1.1.3 “Refusal After Delivery”.

But how did I get that much junk if I’m refusing it?  Well, I took a break because we added a new member to our family and I honestly didn’t have time to interact with mail at all – not even enough to refuse it.

But I did use this approach before for several months and here’s what happened.

At first, the mail simply disappeared.  This happened for a few weeks.  Then, one day when I wasn’t home, the letter carrier asked my wife a strange question.

Does your husband live here anymore?

My wife suspected something fishy and said that yes, of course I still lived here, and asked him what led to his question.

He said:

Oh, well, we’ve been getting a lot of mail addressed to him that is refused… so we’re going to assume that he doesn’t live here anymore and hold all of his mail.

Seriously? Threats?!? They didn’t like what I was doing so they were going to hold my mail hostage and make me go to their post office to beg for it – no doubt with a complimentary tongue lashing?

My wife responded that the mail man would need to discuss that with me first.

It took me a few days to catch my letter carrier to discuss it with him.

I asked him what the issue was and he explained that my refusal was causing a lot of confusion and frustration at the local post office.

Specifically, he was concerned that it was his sworn duty to deliver every piece of mail with proper postage to my house.

I explained that I did not in any way wish to interfere with anyone’s attempts to do so – only that, as documented in the Domestic Mail Manual, I would be exercising my authority to refuse any mail allowed by the policy.

He said that this left them in a bit of a pickle.

According to him, anything mailed first class would be sent back to the sender – at the sender’s expense (which is an easy way to use market forces to encourage organizations to stop sending junk mail – who wants to pay for useless junk mail?).

That was a hassle for them – but at least they knew what to do with it.

The problem was “bulk mail” that is delivered to everyone in an area as a service of the Postal Service.  Apparently they don’t have a process for returning it – and my junk mail was piling up in the post office.  Worse yet, they have strict policies against destroying or disposing of mail.

His proposal was that I continue to accept delivery of mail as before – and continue expending time and energy processing it as garbage or recycling.

I expressed that I was simply trying to simplify my life, and that while I planned to deal with any requested mail, the junk mail was tantamount to someone stopping by each day and littering in my living room.

I explained that I was unsympathetic to the concern that the perpetrators of this littering would now have to shoulder 100% of the burden for the trouble they’ve caused me and countless other Americans for years.

Since I have nothing against my letter carriers or US Postal Service employees personally, I notified him that I opted out of “bulk mail” and that as a result he would no longer have to shoulder my mail both to my home, and back to the post office after I had refused it.

Unfortunately, he was unwilling to accept my proposal, once again admonishing me that he was bound by sacred trust to deliver every fake foreign lottery winning notice some fraudster felt like sending.

I also explained that, perhaps he could obtain some relief by asking the USPS to amend the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM) or other policies to address his concerns.  It was a real shame that people reading and following the instructions in the DMM were causing so many internal issues – but those were issues between the USPS and it’s employees, and as a customer there was little I could do about them.

Disappointed, he smiled and said that his supervisor would be paying me a visit and I responded by sharing my schedule so she could catch me on a weekday when I was home.

Unfortunately, I have yet to discuss the matter with a supervisor as none have ever attempted to contact me.

So, there you have it… refusing mail in compliance with DMM guidelines may result in threats and attempts to coerce you to stop, but so far I have not explored the limits of adhering to this approach in the long run, so my apologies if it results in less favorable outcomes in your particular case.

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