A Land Without Junk Mail

Junk-MailAlthough I’m not a very conscientious adherent to the Tao, it must be said that some of the best things about life in Romania are what’s missing here.

After watching a documentary about junk mail in Britain I was reminded that the problem is equally bad in the United States, Canada and many other countries.

Known formally as advertising mail or “direct mail”, this is when people get sent advertising circulars, brochures and coupons to their home via the postal service. Depending on who you are, where you live, what your income level is and other factors, you can get dozens if not hundreds of pieces of junk mail on a weekly basis.

While some percentage of this mail is obviously used for the intended purpose, a lot of it is bothersome and wasteful as it gets thrown away in the trash, where it costs significant money to bury in a landfill, recycle or else burn.

Even worse, a lot of this junk mail is in the form of what many people call “scam mail” in the form of letters saying “you have just won X prize” or “enclosed is a check for X amount of money”, all of it a criminal enterprise designed to induce you to send them money.

It’s very difficult for some elderly people, poor people and others in desperate situations to avoid the temptations that these scam mail letters provide. After all, the letters “promise” a large payoff for only a relatively small fee.

But here in Romania thankfully I get neither junk mail nor scam mail. Every month in my mailbox I get exactly three letters – one from UPC (cable/internet), one from E-on (natural gas) and one from the electricity company. That’s it. No coupons, no sweepstakes “winner” letters, no Publisher’s Clearing House, no catalogs, no free newspapers, no restaurant or fast food advertisements, nothing. And it’s great.

There are some people, completely independent of the Posta Romana, who get paid to stuff advertising circulars in my mailbox, usually for “big box” stores like Dedeman (a DIY/hardware store) or Cora (hypermarket/Walmart clone) and the like, but those are pretty rare. And they have to get into the building, which doesn’t often happen, so they usually leave the ads in a pile by the front door, where I and everyone else (who wants to) can conveniently ignore them.

So it’s great for me that I and everyone else in this country can so easily escape the deluge of junk mail coming into my mailbox. But what’s often forgotten is the reason that the Royal Mail (UK) and USPS (America) and others deliver so much junk mail is that they are highly profitable to the postal services. In the USA and UK, the national post services make billions of dollars from advertisers sending junk mail through the post.

Posta Romana, still a state-owned company, is deeply in debt, partly due to ineptitude and partly due to systemic fraud (the PDL having plundered it pretty damn effectively during the Emil Boc administration). I’m glad that they’re not enticed by the prospect of sending junk mail but you have to wonder why they’re not taking that route as a way to shore up their finances.

After all, they’re scheduled to cut 3,650 jobs from their workforce as part of national budget cuts (to adhere to the IMF’s wishes) and I know for a fact that the Postal Workers Union is quite unhappy about that. But what else can they do when they lost some 530 million lei (about 160 million USD) over the last few years?

Sorry for the postal workers and their jobs and salaries but I for one am glad that I get to live in a country where only legitimate mail is ever put in my postbox. It’s one of those small things but important ones and it sure makes living here just that tiny bit nicer.

One thought on “A Land Without Junk Mail

  1. Sam: Your essay on “junk mail” is among my favorites — as I just finished tossing into the trash ALL of today’s mail (e.g., a life insurance policy I didn’t ask for, an “opportunity” to sign up to make monthly donations to our neighborhood hospital, the travel brochure for a mediterranean cruise, invitation to attend a “free” seminar on hearing aids, etc.). Glad to know there’s some place where this stuff hasn’t penetrated — yet! :-)


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