April 21, 2004

Monetize THIS

Every time I go out to get the mail there's junk from Albertson's or Ralph's or Long's Drug or whatever, as well as PennySavers and various ADVO Systems flyers for things I don't need or want.

Oftentimes when I open legitimate mail, there's legitimate stuff in there, but there's also upsell invites and flyers for goods and services I don't need or want. These companies include these flyers and inserts because they're paid by the advertisers to do so.

I think it's time to turn the tables and start getting paid to insert flyers and upsell messages back to the companies we all do business with. Time to pay the local San Diego Gas & Electric utility bill? Fine, here's the check, and oh, here's a coupon for 15% off on your next meal at our favorite restaurant. Time to pay the phone bill? No prob, here's the check, and here's a flyer from the very nice people at Jiffy Lube. Time to pay the fees to your local fitness club? Cool, here's the check, and here's a flyer for discounts to Landmark Theatres. Time to pay off more of your credit card bill? No prob, here's the check and here's a coupon for a family of four to go to Sea World at a great discount. Potential employer has asked you to send in a cover letter and your resume to be considered for that job you heard about? Excellent, and here's a flyer for that bicycle company in La Jolla that's offering half-price rental deals through August.

For something like this to work, there'd need to be a way for consumers to get paid for inserting these flyers in their outbound mails. Obviously the scale isn't going to be there (the average consumer is very unlikely to send out, oh, 200,000 coupons or upsell flyers every month) so this is more of a "it's the principle of the thing" kind of thing. So you only get a quarter for sending out 10 flyers per month. I bet thousands of people would still go for it.


  • Fast forward a year. Something like this is put in place, and millions of consumers nationwide start including flyers and promos and upsells with their correspondence to businesses they're customers of.

  • K. is an employee of Citibank, processing thousands of bills and handling thousands of checks from customers every month.

  • K. notices more and more of these customers are including flyers, ads, promos, upsells, invitations, and coupons along with their checks.

  • K. mentions this to coworkers, who reply with, "Hey, I'm seeing the same thing with my pile of envelopes!"

  • Soon, everyone's talking about it at the water cooler.

  • Not long after that, management hears about it.

  • Management emails the executive VP in charge.

  • The executive VP in charge decides he doesn't like customers sending in these things along with their bill payments. Something about increased janitorial costs due to throwing out all this new junk mail from customers.

  • The execuutive VP in charge tells Marketing Communications to issue a notice to all customers that effective on so-and-so date, customers are prohibited from including non-billing-related items in their correspondence with the company. Any violations of this prohibition will result in either a fine or closing of the customer's account.

  • The mailing goes out on a Monday. By Friday the customers begin to call the company to complain. "Why is it that we're barred from sending you flyers, advertisements, upsell messages, and discount coupons, yet you continue to include those very things in all of your outbound mailings to us?"

  • The company ignores this very valid point from customers. But the media doesn't. A month later, there's a story on 60 Minutes. A day later, the company rescinds its prohibition, and consumers celebrate a big win...

Hey, it's just an idea...

Posted by brian at April 21, 2004 05:46 PM


You've got a good start on the idea. Fortunately we have a dumpster about 12 feet from our mailbox and we make use of it regularly for all our junk mail. So instead of bringing the junk into the house it goes right in the dumpster. There is at least on day a week where we have nothing but junk mail and it all gets deposited in the dumpster. I'm wondering how many people still pay their bills via the USPS rather than paying on-line?

Posted by: Paul W. Swansen at April 22, 2004 08:38 AM

The other practical issue is that the billing companies do not actually open the payment envelopes, the work is farmed out to other companies. And also, as more and more people use online payments of one kind or another, there is no envelope to mail back.

Posted by: BillSaysThis at April 22, 2004 05:55 PM

BillSaysThis is right. But why not just skip the part of sending it along with the bills and just pick a VP or President of marketing at a particular company you are a customer of. On some sort of web page, list the "SpamBack" member of the month and during that month, everyone who wants to participate mails 5 pieces of junk mail to the selected individual.

Aside from these ideas, these companies don't care. Obviously it's paying for them to spam.

Posted by: Ed Saipetch at April 24, 2004 04:06 PM

Two words: Form 1500/ Link to Junkbusters page describing same: http://www.junkbusters.com/dmlaws.html#form

Junk postal mail exists because it's profitable (highly) for the USPS to provide this "channel". Effectively, selling you. Dealing with 1500 requests turns this logic around. It also stops the spew.

Posted by: Karsten M. Self at April 25, 2004 11:36 PM

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