junk mail, Mailman Steve, steve padgett

NC Postman Is Latest Junk Mail Crusader

December 03, 2008 01:31 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
“Mailman Steve” spent years accumulating junk mail that he had refused to deliver, endearing him to residents on his route. A glut of junk mail has spurred many to take action.

Court Sentences Postman

On Nov. 18, a Raleigh, N.C., federal court sentenced Steve Padgett, 58, to three years of probation, $3,000 in fines, and 500 hours of community service for delaying and destroying mail, reports the Christian Science Monitor.

The man that residents know as “Mailman Steve” had collected “about a tractor-trailer’s worth” of the usually unwanted mail that often includes credit card offers, supermarket flyers, local restaurant menus, political ads, and catalogs. Postal inspectors discovered the excess mail piled up in Padgett’s garage and buried in his backyard last spring, after a utility worker notified the U.S Postal Service after visiting his home. Prior to that, the post office had received no complaints.

But according to the court, Padgett’s actions were not so much an ideological crusade against junk mail as an attempt to lighten his work load while dealing with health problems. Nevertheless, his actions drew praise from local residents, out-of-towners and even the local judge in the case.
“I don’t think he was being malicious,” said Shelley Cole, a resident of Apex’s Jamison Park subdivision, to the News Record. “We got all the mail that we needed to get.”

Residents who defend Padgett—known as a friendly and attentive mailman who once jumped out of his truck to scare away a snake that had frightened two women—say that he has been punished enough by losing his job.

Background: The junk mail problem in America

Many Americans wish that their mailmen would stop delivering the estimated 100 billion pieces of junk mail delivered annually. A five-year effort by a San Francisco-based forest-protection group called ForestEthics to create a “Do Not Mail Registry”—the junk mail version of the national “Do Not Call Registry”—has gathered more than 73,000 signatures.

Several states have introduced bills to combat junk mail, and a Web site called the Office of Strategic Influence encourages people to use “No Postage Necessary” return envelopes that often come with junk mail to punish direct-mail marketers financially by sending them heavy items like old college textbooks, and even bricks.

But relief may be on the way, as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), which represents more than 3,000 companies, released in October a consumer opt-out program called DMAchoice.

Fed-up consumers can also make use of services such as GreenDimes, which claims to remove 90 percent of junk mail from your mailbox.

Related Topic: “Can Anyone Escape the Almighty Phone Book?”

Phone books are one type of junk mail that many people wish they could stop, as many no longer use them and consider them a waste of paper. One estimate says that city residents receive “four books for every man, woman and child.” YellowPagesGoesGreen is one organization fighting to “eliminate the unsolicited delivery of Yellow and White Pages books.”

Opinion & Analysis: In defense of junk mail

Those who defend junk mail argue that the industry directly and indirectly employs more than 10 million Americans, and especially benefits small businesses, which often can’t afford other forms of advertising. And direct mail is becoming even more important for advertisers as newspapers decline. The bulk-mail market is expected to reach $176.9 billion this year, up 2.1 percent from 2007.

“The basic economic view of advertising is that there’s exactly as much advertising produced as is demanded by customers,” says John Lynch, a Duke University marketing professor, to the Monitor. “Even though it has annoying side effects, [direct mail advertising] has certain positive roles in the economy,” not the least of which, he says, is helping consumers get a better price on goods.

Bulk mail also includes solicitations from charitable organizations, many of which depend on the donations their mail garners as a significant source of fundraising.

But critics cite environmental concerns—not just about the trees turned into unwanted paper but also about junk mail’s contribution to landfills.

“Plastic is horrible, but junk mail is a big problem as well,” writes Nancy Craft of New Castle in a letter to the News Journal in Delaware, who says that, despite her efforts to get her name off of mailing lists, junk mail still arrives. She advises readers to “begin sending junk mail back where it came from.”

“Although the issue of junk mail may not be as cut and dried as some like to make it out, there is no denying the resource use, and the facts that human population is exploding worldwide while global warming looms. (This is particularly true during the season of holiday catalogs, which can threaten vital forests),” comments The Daily Green.

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