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Junk Mail, from Jack Tierney

August 1, 2012 |

 Readers of the dailyspec are far too like-minded to give "junk mail" a balanced hearing. Once upon a time I provided copy for "junk mail" pieces — in return I received a much needed supplement to my income. Those who paid me also received an income from these pieces….prior to the internet a huge number of new investors entered the equity markets through direct mail "junk" pieces. The WSJ, NYT, and Forbes/Fortune/Business Week may have been the journals for the well-heeled, but junk mail went a long way in getting the uninitiated involved - at the time, it appeared they were being introduced to a new and exciting road to wealth creation.

And for many it worked out that way. For others it did not. In fact, it really grinds on me every time I hear them referred to as "sheeple." It's difficult to get through a day of posts without coming across at least one that heralds the market as capitalism's glorious tool which, when judiciously utilized, can provide the "common man' with an uncommonly abundant life. Contrarily, they are also viewed (along with us) as the prey upon which the flexions feast. They are probably both, but one cannot deny that through their participation, the markets have become bigger, richer, and more opportunistic fields in which to play.

Junk mail is far more than that, though. For many companies (and churches, charities, and publishing enterprises) it is the most cost-effective way to reach its "target market." It has been suggested that junk mail's existence is largely due to rural markets - I doubt that many here recall the Sears catalog, but it was the earliest and, arguably, the most successful of the junk mail genre. So, to an extent, the rural market argument carries some validity. However, catalogs became widely anticipated and popular vehicles for merchants in a wide variety of businesses. And for years, their junk mail pieces provided lots of income and lots of profits.

The modern urban dweller also benefits from direct mail. Take a close look at some to the pieces you receive before junking them. Many, you will discover, feature coupons - I realize there exists an element which looks with scorn upon the couponing experience. For that group, I would suggest hanging around an urban supermarket and watching the many who use them - they're exceeded only by those you'll find at 12:01 a.m. at a rural Wal-Mart on the 1st of any given month (food stamp day).

Most in this group are, if not well-off, relatively comfortable. This can't be said for most of those who eagerly await the next delivery and its assortment of coupons, two-for-one deals, Revival notices, and pieces announcing Poker Runs for the family down the road whose double-wide burned to the ground a month ago.

Should the Post Office go out of business, I would expect one of the current for-profit deliverers to institute a similar service - if not, the market will create an economical way of getting these messages out - and you'll still open that box and see "junk-mail." You can't kill a service on which so many depend, benefit, and profit.


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