Sharks circling the mailbox

Like many retirees, my husband and I have been focused on getting rid of the clutter around our house. Over the years we have managed to collect a lot of stuff; stuff that is no longer relevant to our lives. But, as we continue to offload piles of things we’ve acquired over the years, there continues a flood of unwanted and useless stuff through our front door, via the U.S. Postal Service. Despite our best efforts to keep on top of it, we often find ourselves drowning in annoying junk mail.

In addition to the grocery store flyers, coupon mailings, and offers of various types of insurance coverage, most of the remaining useless pre-trash fits into one of the following categories:

shark with stamp

Let us help you acquire more debt

Amid the destruction and turmoil the 2007-2008 financial crisis caused, we found one small ray of sunshine peeking through the rubble: no more unwanted credit card offers junking up our already junky junk mail.  Although nothing had changed about our personal credit-worthiness, all of the various banks, retail chains, airlines, etc. suddenly went silent. They no longer were anxious to offer anyone with a pulse the opportunity to accumulate debt by applying for their credit cards. When the economy melted it was as if a spigot had suddenly been turned off and we were grateful for the reprieve.

Unfortunately, judging from the mail that we have been receiving lately, that reprieve is over. Almost daily it seems that we get multiple offers of cards that will earn us airline mileage, free hotel stays, or cash back on specific purchases.

Just as they did before the financial meltdown, these offers go straight to the shredder. We have the cards we need (just one and a back-up) and we probably aren’t the kind of customers they want anyway since we pay our balance off each month.

Even though you already gave, please give us more

Also junking up our mailbox are donation requests from charitable organizations and non-profits that we already give to. It’s not unusual to send in our annual membership fee and, just a few months later, receive another mailing that looks surprisingly like an annual membership fee request. We have started to keep a spreadsheet listing the organization, what we gave, and when we gave just so we can keep everything straight.

You’d think that these organizations could save a ton of money by just mailing once a year, but obviously these ongoing solicitations must work or they wouldn’t send them. It bothers me to think that these organizations I think so highly of have, as part of their fund-raising tactics, a strategy to fool people into making more than one “annual” donation.

You have several years left on your magazine subscription but how about paying in advance for several years more?

Magazines have been employing the scheme of multiple solicitations for ages. Although I’ve cut way back on my subscriptions, I still receive a few print magazines. Choosing the multi-year subscription option will usually save money but I’ve also found that it gives them more chances to send annoying and confusing solicitations. Long before my subscriptions are up, I start to receive requests to renew, extend, and send gift subscriptions to friends.

And, these are just those mailings from the magazine company. Often magazine sales companies – with no connection to the actual publisher – try to trick subscribers into re-ordering their magazines through them. These are the mailings that are made to resemble legitimate renewal notices or even invoices. I’m fortunate to live in a state that requires magazine companies to disclose the current subscription end date on their renewal notices, but they do their best to camouflage them.


As annoying and wasteful as this type of mail is, I worry about a time in the future when my husband and I may be less able to keep track of what is legitimate and what isn’t. When I took over the management of my father’s household and finances as his health declined, I was shocked by the number of sharks ready to feed on those most vulnerable. Without an honest and diligent gatekeeper, it’s easy to get eaten alive.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

21 thoughts on “Sharks circling the mailbox”

  1. You hit the nail here! I have a spreadsheet for my subscriptions and use my checkbook to track my charities. It really is annoying. I usually take a multi year subscription but last year on magazine went out of print in the middle of my subscription. There was no refund (which I really didn’t expect) or transfer to another of their magazines (which I suspected might happen). Nada. Since I only paid $10 or so I wasn’t too upset but it has made me cautious.

    1. I think we will rely on spreadsheets more and more as we get further into retirement. That would be annoying to have a magazine you enjoy go out of print. That might be happening more and more as magazines and newspapers struggle to survive. That a good reason to opt for shorter-term subscriptions.

  2. I get lots of appeals for money. Fortunately I can check quicken to see when I donated to whom, otherwise I’d be totally befuddled. What year did I write that check???

    1. I don’t use Quicken but I do highlight those types of payments in my check register so I can easily find them when I need to figure out when I wrote the check. Quicken might be a better way to stay organized.

  3. Look at the bottom of the page on all those debt offerings. There’s an toll free number you can call to totally op-out of all credit card offers. I used it and it worked! I don’t donate unless it’s in person, so I get nothing in the mail. Ditto for subscriptions. I don’t subscribe to anything, so I can’t fall for those magazine schemes.

    1. Good tip about the opt-out option! I also know you can put a freeze on your credit info so the companies can’t make inquiries. That is suppose to help too but you need to remember to unfreeze it if you are applying for a loan.

  4. I worry about this as well. In addition to the mail offers, we still get calls telling us something is wrong with our computer or generic bank and we must call now. We screen these. Then, in our spam filter are folks telling me my generic insurance payment is due and must pay up or the final, final, final offer of something – vacation getaway, warranty protection, class ring, etc.

  5. What no mail offering you free-screening for a hearing aid? I too find that I receive way more junk than actual mail. The post office surely would go bust if all the junk mail disappeared. Maybe it is a government conspiracy, lol.

    1. I haven’t received any hearing aid offers… yet. But, I’m sure they are coming. I think you are right about the post office. They are hanging by a thread and probably rely on the junk mail to stay afloat.

    1. I had to look up Harriet Carter. Wow, what a hodge podge of items to order! I actually like getting some catalogs like Lands End and Chicos. I don’t usually order from them but I always look through them before they go into our recycle bin.

  6. This is such a relevant post as our society ages! The reprieve we had where very little invitations for credit cards came was delightful!! Most of the stuff goes into my recycle can before it comes into the house. The worst thing about the junkmail, is I have to take the time to open it and shred the document if it has my address on it, especially the credit card applications. Word to the wise–shred those, don’t just tear in half and toss. Identity thieves can easily tape up an application and use it.

  7. And lets not forget those darn scooter adds!!! Free, absolutely free, we promise!!

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