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Emerging Enrager - Too Many Unwanted Catalogs and other unsolicited outreach

BusinessWeek, in its December 31 year-end issue, reported on the activities of an activist website called “Catalog Choice” which promises to help people opt out of receiving unwanted catalogs.  Apparently, so many people are irritated by the sheer mass of catalogs they receive, that since the site’s launch in October, over 300,000 people have reportedly gone there to try to stop the deluge.

Things have gotten out of hand.  In 2006, the article reports, 19.4 billion catalogs were mailed, versus 13.4 billion in 1996.  By my reckoning that means that every American receives, on average, over 70 catalogs a year—many of them clumped together around the holiday season.  Since most people live in households, that could translate into hundreds of catalogs every year.  If you don’t want them, it’s a real nuisance, that only gets worse as the numbers increase. 

The reaction of catalog based retailers is one of dismay.  They are rather reluctant to take people off of their lists—after all, catalogs are one way of reaching elusive and desirable customers, catching them in those weak moments after they get home and start flipping through the mail. 

On the other hand, one could imagine an enraged backlash leading to a significant PR problem for those companies, as consumers begin to insist on the right to be undisturbed.  They’ve already come out in their millions to take telephone numbers off of “do not call” lists. 

My personal peeve is not with catalogs so much as with the steady flow of pre-approved credit card offers that flood our house.  Since these are a serious identity theft risk, not only are they simply a nuisance to be thrown away, but have to be taken apart and shredded, causing time-wasting busywork.

So, entrepreneurs out there—any thoughts on how to capitalize on consumers’ emerging rage over so much unsolicited incoming correspondence?

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