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Opinion: A Modest Proposal - Occupy the Bank's Mailboxes

Tuesday, November 01, 2011 - 11:58 AM

I'm a big fan of people coming up with ways that regular people can collectively work on social or political problems without any sort of government assistance. There is just something I don't like about the kneejerk "there outta be a law!" every time someone comes across something they don't like going on in our society.

I like this idea of people moving their money out of banks that took TARP money, especially if they move it into Credit Unions, which are better for our economy, and I like the idea of shifting more spending to local businesses, which keep more profits local rather than send it off into the hands of shareholders around the world.

So I had a good chuckle when I came across a YouTube video making it's way around the web showing a guy with an idea on how regular people across the country can stick it to the banks, hurt junk mailers and help a struggling Postal Service all in one fell swoop. His idea is essentially to take all the junk mail we get that comes with a postage paid return envelope and shoot it back to them. If you want, you can just send back what they sent you, blank, or even shove some other junk mail you got that day in there for good measure, which will end up costing them more. Going the extra mile entails finding heavy and rigid things to fit in there, both of which make the postage more expensive.

What's not to love about this? The guy in the video wants to stick it to the banks, but I say we do this with every sort of junk mail, and this idea of personally taking things into our own hands a bit is a great one.

The reason junk mail is constantly clogging our mailboxes is because it is so cheap. Banks hawking their products spend a ton of money trying to sucker in new people to get their cards. Making each contact a bit more expensive for them might flip the cost/benefit for the junk mailer, and if millions of people would do this, it would cost the junk mail industry perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars to keep up their current stream of garbage, and in the process take money out of the pockets of annoying salespeople and putting it into the hands of a Postal Service that could really use the boost right now.

I got a bit of credit card junk mail the other day, that was going to find itself in the recycle box later this week, but has now been stuffed with about eight pieces of junk mail (creative folding can get an awful lot in there!), and some scraps of a cereal box that hopefully will add some weight and rigidness.

I'm not with the 99 percent or the 1 percent. I think all special interests should be curbed in some common sense ways, not just corporate ones, and I don't think the federal government should bail out the Postal Service. I am, however, among those who would like to see less junk mail in my mailbox, and the idea of costing the bank that sent me this rubbish a little bit in postage and processing is well worth the 60 seconds (and two pieces of tape... it was pretty darn full) I spent on this. That a bit of that will go to the Postal Service is a nice cherry on top.

Costing them a couple quarters isn't going to change anything, but if people took this perspective on more things in their life, and really put their money where their mouths are, we could have a larger impact than anything the government might do. Punishing companies that needed government bailouts by moving your accounts, being a pain to junk mailers, buying local, buying American (or at least not buying Chinese or buying products from countries who are our allies) are small & easy things we can all do to collectively improve our world without any government involvement or cost.

Solomon Kleinsmith is a former nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates.

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Comments [2]

A concept described as 'cross-breeding junk mail' has been around for a number of years. It works as follows:

Save, in one pile, the postage paid return envelopes which come with junk mailings.

In a separate pile, save the junk literature, clipped to remove any trace of your identity.

When the piles reach a suitable size, shuffle the envelopes. Then, randomly, place the junk literature in them.

Drop them into any convenient USPS mail box.

It's rather like paying the toll for the car driven by a complete stranger behind you. You've no way to know the outcome, but you've an imagination, no?

Nov. 02 2011 07:57 AM
JayT

Of course, one of the main reasons the Postal Service is hurting right now is because companies send less junk mail nowadays in favor of email spam, since it is cheaper. So if this approach really took off, it would give the Postal Service a slight temporary boost, but it would also kill them in the long run as banks stopped sending junk mail.

Nov. 01 2011 06:00 PM

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