Wasteful Mailing Campaigns

Wasteful Mailing Campaigns

Have you received one of these 17lb bundles of wasted ink and paper in the name of ‘green’ marketing? If so, you’re not alone. In the last two months, Restoration Hardware has been sending out their mass-catalog-mailing to residents of the Silicon Valley (and beyond, I’m sure), and no one seems to be happy about it.

First of all, the magazines are arriving unsolicited to wealthy communities. Second, the bundles range from 8lbs to 17lbs and include anywhere from 8 magazines to 15. Even the local UPS delivery man has complained about the mailings, not only because of the weight per bundle, but because customers are asking him to return them (double the lifting and work for him). That inspired one local woman to take action, rallying her community behind her.

Photo of Nancy Reyering and her collection of Restoration Hardware mailings dropped off by neighbors to be returned to headquarters.

Nancy Reyering of Woodside, California posted to her local online forums – Nextdoor Woodside and the Portola Valley List Serve – to let neighbors know that they could drop off their bundles and she’d return them to the local brick and mortar store. Little did she know the overwhelming response she’d receive. In two short weeks, Ms. Reyering’s neighbors dropped of approximately one ton of catalogs: over 120 bundles and over 100 loose catalogs. Clearly the community felt as strongly as Ms. Reyering did.

Once Ms. Reyering realized she could not take the load into Restoration Hardware on her own, she took to her online forum(s) to solicit volunteers. In a matter of 24 hours she had a half dozen co-ed volunteers ranging in age from their teens to their sixties. She was pleasantly surprised by the age range, especially once she learned that the younger volunteers had never participated in any community activism before.

On Wednesday, June 18th, the volunteers met with Ms. Reyering at her home in Woodside and loaded up the ton of catalogs into two trucks. The Almanac was onsite to photograph and interview Ms. Reyering and her volunteers (article link here). When they arrived at the Palo Alto Restoration Hardware store, Ms. Reyering and her volunteers were met with the local ABC news station who covered the story during several of the news reports later that week.

While the return was not received so well by the store manager, they did take the catalogs back, but the volunteers were quickly ushered to the back entrance. Ms. Reyering presented a typed list of all the residents who had dropped off their catalogs, asking to be removed from the mailing list which the manager took. It was a peaceful stance, but a stance nonetheless. Ms. Reyering’s activism inspired the younger volunteers to collect magazines that were just beginning to be delivered in their neighborhoods.

Nancy's crew of volunteers.

So why am I writing about all of this? What does it have to do with organization? Well, Ms. Reyering is a good friend and client, and I was one of her volunteers. I volunteered because to me, this seemed to be a colossal waste of paper, and ever since going paperless in 2012, I notice how much paper we truly waste. One of my services is to help clients go paperless, because I know the benefits of living a paperless lifestyle.

While I appreciate helping the postal service stay in business, sending unsolicited mail is not only frustrating, it’s a waste of paper and resources. Wake up businesses: this is a digital world and it’s time you got onboard. I can’t tell you how many companies send me paper catalogs via postal mail (which I never signed up for) because I browsed and purchased an item online. If I’m shopping with you online, I clearly am interested in your digital format, not your printed one. But once they have your mailing address, you automatically get signed up for their catalogs – and others (because many companies will sell your names to other businesses).

Ms. Reyering’s goal was not to stop the mailings altogether, but to have an ‘opt in’ option for customers. If you are the type of person who likes paper catalogs, by all means sign up for them. But for many of us who prefer the digital format to save paper (and time spent going through loads of ‘junk’ mail), please don’t send us catalogs we haven’t signed up for.

Thankfully there are services that allow you to get off the mailing list of various unsolicited catalogs (some at a fee), but once you order from an online store, you’ll get signed up again. We need to reconsider how consumers are browsing and purchasing products while considering the environment, too. In a future ‘That Makes Me h-APP-y’ post I will highlight an app that helps you unsubscribe from unwanted catalogs and junk mail. This is a step in the right direction, but I urge you to take a stand – just like Ms. Reyering – if you feel strongly that something should change. Get your community behind you (it’s likely you’re not alone) and take a stance. I think we’ve all forgotten that the power is in our hands – isn’t that the beauty of a democracy? Let’s use it!

I will feature more on going paperless in a future blog post. I hope this post has planted a seed in your mind, and you’re interested in learning more! What do you think of these wasteful mailing campaigns?

Bloomberg investigates: Is the Restoration Hardware mass mailing campaign as green as they say? Looks like the answer is no.
More from The Huffington Post.
More from The Almanac.
See a trend?

Lauren Mang
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