One hears much about the savvy of modern merchandisers. About how they can zero in on customers by collating mailing lists, linking zip codes to Census statistics, and other sophisticated techniques. Well, it sure isn't working in my case. The score in the last six weeks has been 109 wild pitches and no sales.
In the last six weeks at my office, I've received 83 catalogs and 26 other merchandising offers. None of this material was requested, none was related to my job, and none elicited an order from me.
Many of the catalogs had little chance of attracting my interest or my disposable income. I got 10 catalogs for women' clothing, three for women's shoes, and one for women's wigs. I am not a cross-dresser. But if I should change my mind, I know where to order.
Others were for fishing equipment, dog kennels and religious supplies for Jews. I haven't fished or had a dog since I was a child and haven't yet been Jewish.
The (marginally) better targeted offers covered a wide range of merchandise including the green (gardening supplies, plants and seeds, greenhouses, watering systems and ecological products) and the gold (objects d'art and jewelry); food for the mind (books and a journal on Chinese tradition) and food for the body (steaks, desserts, cooking equipment); and such other items as stuffed animals, sewing supplies and animal care products.
In addition, 15 companies compounded their lack of success by sending me duplicate copies of the same catalog and five struck out with triplicates. Moreover, many of these companies have been sending me catalogs for years, and I've never place a single order with them.
For the business world it was 109 mises. For the World it was 20 pounds of paper and print wasted. I'll recycle what I can (although I'm afraid much of the glossy high-color stock won't be accepted). But it would be so much better if the waste were stopped at the source.
According to Time, 63.7 billion pieces of third-class mail were sent last year. That's 29 pieces of junk mail per person every six weeks. I received 109 pieces at my office; 3.76 times the national average. I feel crushed. And cursed.
Tom Smith is study director at National Opinion Research Center in Chicago.