Here’s a clue for companies that use direct mail: when someone calls and tells you “My mother has died, please stop sending her mail and please do not sell, rent, or give her name and address to anyone else,” I know that’s pretty unclear, and we might seem to be a little wishy-washy on it, but what we really mean is “SHE’S DEAD, STOP IT!”
When I called AARP for the first time, I had a vague hope that the tons of mail, including credit card applications, would stop. Yeah, that was dumb. I’ve called again, I’ve written at least twice, today was the third phone call… really, mom doesn’t want AARP membership, any of the AARP credit cards, AARP insurance, AARP travel, AARP financial services, AARP discounts, AARP local services, official AARP dumbbells, AARP jewelry, AARP electronics, AARP swampland in Florida, AARP “Rolex” watches, cash transfers from the AARP ambassador to Nigeria, or the AARP kitchen sink. Honest. I wouldn’t lie to you. She doesn’t want them. She can’t. She’s dead. Still. Even after all these months. That’s not going to change.
I know, I’m ranting. It’s not a problem to toss this stuff into the shredder–when I actually get my hands on it. But mail has been coming to my house and going to mom’s old house, and until recently, no one was there to get the mail. The change of address forms I filed didn’t make a difference. Mail was still delivered regularly and sat in that mailbox for weeks. Anyone who has dealt with identity theft will tell you what a bad idea that is.
And it’s not just AARP, though they are one of the most stubborn offenders. Whenever dad went to pick up the mail there would be four or five different credit card applications there, and he’d nag me about each one. “Maybe you should call AARP and ask them to stop.”
What, AGAIN? I’ve called or mailed them monthly for the last five months!
So here’s a clue, direct mailers. When someone says “My family member is dead, stop sending them mail,” we mean “We’re already hurting, it’s been a very bad year, and if you persist in selling the name of a dead person you are going to generate a lot of resentment here and you’re going to give yourself a very bad name. Our loved one’s name is worth pennies on your list, remove the name from all your lists and LEAVE US IN PEACE.”
A long time ago, when a person died, they left behind children, memories, photographs, a gravestone, sometimes tangible things that they built that might last 50 or 100 years. These days, when you die, you leave behind your name on thousands of mailing lists. You’re remembered not as the teacher who cared deeply about her students, but as account number 1415926535, who had an interest in travel, automobiles, and gold jewelry. And as long as your name can be sold for a few pennies now and then, you will live forever.