For fifteen years my only address has been a PO box in Hollywood. It’s been over a decade since I lived in Hollywood, but for some reason I’ve hung onto the box. I never get mail at home and I don’t give out my home address. The only people who know where I live are those I’ve invited over. Everything else — tax documents, birthday cards, magazine subscriptions, and the yearly check-up reminder from my optometrist — goes to a tiny box at the post office that unlocks with a key.
It’s not a security issue; it’s all about convenience. Or at least it was. I was a bit transient in college (I can remember seven apartments I called home between the ages of 18 and 21) and I wanted to have one, unchanging place to get mail. It made sense then. Now that I own a house on the west side, however, it’s become very inconvenient to bike 45 to 50 minutes every week or two to pick up whatever’s there.
But even worse than the ride is opening the box, seeing a week’s worth of mail and having 95 percent of it be junk. American Express thinks I should have four cards instead of just one. Chase Manhattan misses me as a customer and wants me to sign up for their pre-approved super platinum account that has benefits no other bank can offer. State Farm wants me to call them right away for a free quote on auto insurance. The Columbia music club has more hip-hop titles than ever before and thinks 10 CDs for 1 cent is an unbeatable price.
Last Saturday, I literally filled my backpack with mail and when I got home, it took me 45 minutes to go through it. There were exactly three things in there that I needed: my bank statement, my mobile phone bill, and a letter from my granny. The rest was all junk. It took me another ten minutes to shred it all, which you have to do because you don’t want John Q. Criminal forging your John Hancock on any of those pre-approved Citibank offers. That’s how credit is ruined.
That’s also how trees are ruined. If this much paper is wasted on me every week, and you multiply that by the 300 million other people in this country, it’s amazing there are any trees left on the planet. I get that membership has its privileges, but I don’t need an offer of an additional card or a letter about credit protection every single day. Or ever, for that matter.
But there may be hope. As I shredded my last unwanted missive, I noticed a tiny “opt-out” at the bottom. Evidently, there’s now a “do not send junk mail” list you can put yourself on to avoid aggravation and save trees. (888) 567-8688. I dialed the number, pressed 1 for English, and proceeded to opt-out of prescreened offers for five years. (In order to opt-out permanently, a form had be printed, signed and mailed back. This seemed counter-productive in terms of saving trees, so I opted instead to opt-out for five years.)
After providing my information, I was told by the dulcet and intoxicating recorded remale voice that my request would be completed within five business days. (She also said that although my request became effective with Equifax, Experian, Innovis and TransUnion within five business days, I may not see an immediate reduction in the amount of offers I receive because my name may have already been provided to some companies that have not yet mailed their offers to me. In fact, I may continue to receive offers for several months.)
I felt so good about the trees I was about to save that I took it one step further. I contacted my bank, cell phone provider, satellite dish, and American Express to switch to paperless statements. Instead of receiving them at the PO Box, I’ll get a nice free e-mail telling me how much I owe.
So, now it seems I only need to ride to Hollywood post office every six weeks. That’s about how often my granny writes. I suppose I could close the PO box and give Granny my home address. But what if I move again in 30 years when my mortgage is paid off?
To Opt-Out online, click here.