Like many Americans, you probably think that the only way you can possibly escape the scourge of junk mail is to die. Maybe it's even something you look forward to.
But not so fast. According to reader Nylene Budge of Orem, you're going to have to do better than die.
You're going to have to be unborn.
Recently, Nylene received mail for her father-in-law sent by a health organization soliciting donations. They encouraged him to donate by checking one of four boxes: $10, $15, $25 and fill in the amount if you want to go higher.
There's just one problem: He's been dead for 30 years.
As in, sorry, no donation this year; maybe some other life.
As in, he's moved to another residence and didn't leave a forwarding address.
Does this make him a deadbeat?
The letter explains that "every year, diseases of the heart and blood vessels lead to 950,000 deaths. Your renewed support could help fund vital medical research that can save lives. Maybe even your own."
Oops. Nylene's father-in-law died of a heart attack.
Note to solicitors: This would have been useful information 40 years ago.
I know, you're thinking that sending junk mail to the deceased is just one of those freak occurrences; let's cut them some slack.
"This happens three or four times a year," Nylene says.
She returns many of the letters to the sender with a note scrawled across the envelope:
The mail still comes.
A few months ago the deceased received a preapproved credit card form in the mail, which proves that anyone in America can get a credit card. Even deceased persons. Even young teenagers (personally, I would rather bank on the former).
"I opened that one and sent it back," Nylene says "I wrote them a note: 'If you're dumb enough to give a credit card to someone who has been dead for 30 years, you must be nuts.' "
Maybe it's just me, but I do wonder about a credit card company that approves credit cards for a deceased person whose credit report came to a screeching halt about three decades ago. What do they think he's been doing since then, sleeping? Hiding in a witness protection program?
Among the qualifications for a credit card, I would think the following would be high on the list:
1. Has job
2. Has money.
I wonder what payment plan they offered — First 100 years' interest free! Johnny Carson once said this about dying: "Hair and fingernails keep growing, but phone calls taper off."
But not junk mail? That does it, I'm definitely against dying.
According to one those tree-hugger organizations, Native Forest, junk mail is an annoying and troublesome problem (as if you didn't know this already), but mostly for the living and not for the lucky ones who passed away.
The average person gets only 1.5 personal letters each week, compared to 10.8 pieces of junk mail (I think they are referring to the average living person as opposed to the average dead person).
Each person will receive almost 560 pieces of junk mail this year.
That's 4.5 million tons of junk mail produced each year.
44 percent of all junk mail is thrown in the trash, unopened and unread (this figure must be wrong; it should be much higher).
They didn't say how much of it winds up in deceased persons' mailboxes.
Doug Robinson's column runs on Tuesdays. E-mail email@example.com.