30 August 2006

Unsolicited mail rant

We received in the mail today (at home, not in Iraq) a NASCAR DVD that I had neither signed up for or ordered. In other words, it was unsolicited mail.

Big deal, everyone receives unsolicited mail. Unfortunately, it's become part of our culture. The difference with this particular piece of mail is that the sender asked me to pay $9.95 if I wanted to keep the DVD that we already received.

When something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. According to the United States Postal Service:
Do I have to return unsolicited merchandise?

If a company sends you a gift in the mail, but you didn't request it, the item is yours, and you are under no obligation to pay anything (regardless of the mail class).

You, the consumer, may only legally be sent two types of merchandise through the mail without your consent or agreement:

  • Free samples which are clearly and conspicuously marked as such.
  • Merchandise mailed by a charitable organization that is soliciting contributions.

And in these two cases, you can consider the merchandise a gift if you wish. In all other situations, it is illegal to send merchandise to someone, unless that person has previously purchased or requested it.

If you do not wish to pay for unsolicited merchandise or make a donation to a charity sending such an item, you may do one of three things (in each case, by law, you have no obligation to the sender):

  • If you have not opened the mailpiece, you may mark it "Return to Sender," and the Postal Service™ will return it with no additional charge to you.
  • If you open the mailpiece and don't like what you find, you may throw it away.
  • If you open the mailpiece and like what you find, you may keep it for free. In this instance, "finders-keepers" applies unconditionally.

Furthermore, it is illegal for a company that sends you unordered merchandise to follow the mailing with a bill or dunning communication.

If you are aware of violations of the federal law prohibiting the mailing of unordered merchandise, or if you have personally had difficulty with such items--especially if you are sent statements insisting on payment for the merchandise--you should contact you local postmaster or the nearest Postal Inspector.

Note: These rules are codified in Title 39, United States Code, Section 3009.

The companies that send these unsolicited items are counting on the fact that most people are generally cooperative and will pay for something when asked, even when unsolicited. As far as I am concerned, its a scam and even if I like the movie, I won't pay a cent for it.
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