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Just as our email inboxes become choked with offers and “newsletters” from companies we once did business with, I’ve been reminded that there are still bunches of companies out there who do things the old-fashioned way and send us paper catalogs. I’ve been unsubscribing from the emails recently and decided it was time to do the same for the paper catalogs; it is, after all, catalog season.

Why bother? Ecology. We’re sufficiently busy that most of our catalogs go directly in the recycling bin, unopened. They’re not going to landfills, fine, but why waste the energy needed to make the paper, print it, and mail it long distances when we’re just going to drop it in a bin to be pulped? Better to reduce the stream.

(This is related to the philosophy Noah quoted a few months ago: “I used to put out fires all of the time. I finally figured out that it was better to get rid of the arsonists.”)

The spam legislation I’ve long derided has done one thing for us; email from legitimate companies tends to have a link somewhere at the bottom which makes it easy to remove yourself from the list, and it tends to work. Paper catalogs lack this convenience. I thought it might be worthwhile to document the hoops I’ve had to jump through in reducing the paper load to our mailbox.

Here’s the first batch of catalogs, and what I had to do. N.B. When I say, “requested removal,” that means I politely asked to have our address taken off the list, and provided the full mailing address on the catalog they’d mailed us, along with any codes which looked like they might help some hourly-wage service employee find our address and delete it. Everything was phrased as though I was asking them a favor, i.e. intended to make them feel good about helping me.

Also, every company makes the point that their mailings are often prepared months in advance, so getting our names off the lists might not mean an immediate cessation of paper. They are very apologetic about this so I have to assume it’s true.

If I used a web form to request removal, 99% of the time that means there was no indication on their site of how to get off the mailing list (although 100% of the time there is a link to request catalogs!)

  • Mini Boden: Requested removal via web form; got a robo-reply.
  • Company Kids: Requested removal via email (no form on site); no response yet.
  • Hanna Andersson: Requested removal via web form; got a polite, apparently non-automated response telling me it was done (with the usual caveats)
  • Tea: Requested removal via web form: no response yet.
  • MindWare: A FAQ on their website led me to request removal by email; at least they had that in the FAQ list! No response yet.
  • Sundance: Requested removal via web form; got a polite response but not done yet (this was early in the process and I didn’t provide enough information)
  • The Land Of Nod: This crew cracks me up. To remove yourself from their catalog, you send your name and address to their contact address with the subject line “KNOCK OFF THE CATALOGS”, as described in their FAQ. I got an automated response, but they get extra points for having a bit of whimsy in their process; they might not have a web unsubscribe form, but they do understand that someone will want to do this and they’re extending their corporate communications thinking that far.
  • Pottery Barn Kids: Turns out Williams Sonoma Inc. has a “catalog mailing preference form” in which you can unsubscribe yourself from catalogs from Williams Sonoma, West Elm, and all Pottery Barn brands. As far as one-stop shopping goes, Williams Sonoma, Inc. wins, because I’m sure PBKids wasn’t going to be the only catalog we got from them. No confirmation by email, but that’s OK.
  • Grandin Road: From best to worst. According to their website the way to be removed from their mailing list is to call their 1-800 number (which is, by the way, 1-888-263-9850). Uh huh.
  • Orvis: In line with their sustainability philosophy (although that philosophy doesn’t actually include this), they have an unsubscribe form on their website. No confirmation email, but again, that’s OK.
  • L.L. Bean: I sort of cheated here. For one thing, unlike the other catalogs, I didn’t actually get one to have in front of me, but I’ve been getting their catalogs for ages. Second, I have an account on their website, so I was able to log in and then go to “My Account” and find “Catalog Mailing Preferences” in the left navigation bar… but I can’t link you there. I suggest signing up for an account and then setting your preferences to get no catalogs. Still, thanks to Bean for making it possible to make that request online.

Maybe I’ll post another one of these when the next batch of catalogs comes in… maybe.

ETA 11/1/11:

  • Uncommon Goods, “the gifts they’ll want before they know they want them,” also has a contact preferences form. It’s a pop-up so I can’t link to it directly, but go to their home page, scroll to the bottom and click “Contact Preferences.”

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