DMA’s Mail Preference Service: Once a fraud, always a fraud

By | September 23, 2009

Since 1971, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) has offered a service called the Mail Preference Service (MPS).  The alleged purpose of the MPS is to allow consumers to register which kinds of direct marketing mail they want, or to opt out completely.  DMA members are then supposed to scrub their mailing lists against the MPS lists and not send mailings to people who don’t want them.

Why would an association whose members make their money from direct mailings offer a service to allow people to opt out?  While they cloak their motives in all kinds of fancy language about consumer choice, protecting the environment by reducing unwanted mailings, etc., the real reason why is to offer voluntary self-regulation to dissuade the states and federal government from regulating the industry.  And it works — the mail direct marketing industry is essentially unregulated.

However, as noted, the DMA’s members don’t actually want consumers to opt out of their mailings, so they’ve always made it difficult and annoying to sign up for the MPS.  For example:

  1. Enrolment expires after three years.
  2. There is no notification from the DMA when your enrolment is going to expire.
  3. Obviously, the DMA and its members are intimately familiar with utilizing the U.S. Postal Service’s change-of-address lists to update their mailing lists when people move.  They could easily use the same lists to update the MPS, thus obviating the need for entries on the list to expire at all, but they don’t do this.
  4. Long after everybody under the sun was doing things like this on-line, the DMA continued to require people to send in forms by U.S. Mail to enroll in the MPS.
  5. When they did finally start letting people enroll on-line, they charged a fee, and the enrolment Web site was awful. (I’m not certain, but I think there was a time during which they were even charging a fee for enrolments sent in via the U.S. Mail.)
  6. They’ve finally started letting people enroll on-line for free, but the (new) Web site is just as awful and doesn’t work, and they don’t care, which is what has prompted me to write this blog entry.

Last year, I enrolled everyone in my family in the MPS using the previous version of their Web site.  Yesterday, I tried to use the Web site (http://dmachoice.org/) to confirm the status of our enrolment, and I discovered that they’ve redesigned the site, and my old login credentials no longer work.  Clever!

I therefore set out to register with the new site and enroll us in the MPS again, just to make certain we were enrolled.  They only allow up to five names to be associated with a single account on the Web site, so to register all seven members of our family, I have to create two accounts on the Web site.  Unfortunately, the Web site uses your email address as your username, so if you only have one email address, you can’t register twice on the Web site and therefore you can’t register your entire family if it has more than five people in it.  Brilliant!

Fortunately, my mail server supports extended addresses, i.e., messages sent to jik+foo@kamens.brookline.ma.us, jik+bar@kamens.brookline.ma.us, etc., will all be delivered into my “jik” mailbox.  Note that “+” is a perfectly legitimate character to include in an email address.  Unfortunately, the DMA Web site does not accept email addresses with “+” in them.  Amazing!

Fortunately, I administer my own mail server, so I was able to create a new address for myself “jik-dma@…” (note “-” instead of “+”), register on the site using that email address, and use the newly created account to register five of the seven members of my family.

I then attempted to repeat the process, this time with another newly created email address, “jik-dma2@…”.  Alas, it didn’t work.  I filled out the registration screen completely and clicked the “Submit” button, but instead of being shown a confirmation screen and receiving an account activation email message, I was shown a blank screen (except for the menu bar) and no activation email was sent.  Excellent!

I tried clearing my cache and cookies and registering again; that didn’t work.  I tried with two other computers, two other browser versions and two other Internet connections; none of them worked.  Wonderful!

I sent a request for help through their Web site.  A day later, they responded with, basically, “Yeah, sometimes the Web site doesn’t work.  Too bad!  You’ll just have to print out the form and register via U.S. Mail.”

Isn’t that just so precious?

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25 thoughts on “DMA’s Mail Preference Service: Once a fraud, always a fraud

  1. It works fine

    It has worked pretty good for me about the only junk I get is to Resident.

    Reply
  2. Ken Roberts

    I was in the mail production industry for 30 years. At one time to use the DMA do not mail list you had to be a member, pay for the data and then pay to match it against your house list. Nobody ever did that on the small level only the big players like Reader’s Digest, Publisher’s etc. At some point in time they added a “flag” to the mandated move update file every mailing was required to be bounced against but again, nobody every requested us to pull Do Not Mail flagged records.

    What kills me is I moved recently and filed a moved notice with the USPS. They must have sold my name and new address to every direct mailer in the universe. I’m getting tons of mail I’ve never heard of before.

    Reply
  3. mxisry3

    I got USPS Address

    DMA Mail Preference Service
    P.O. Box 282
    Carmel, NY. 10512

    For the Opt Out Address.

    Reply
  4. TIREDOFCONS

    P.S. THAT’S RICH!

    THE USPO WILL NOT DELIVER OUR OPT-OUT NOTICES *TO* THE DIRECT MARKETING PRIVACY VIOLATORS!

    Reply
  5. TIREDOFCONS

    P.S. THAT’S RICH! THE USPO WILL NOT DELIVER OUR OPT-OUT NOTICES *TO* THE DIRECT MARKETING A-HOLES!

    Reply
  6. TIREDOFCONS

    DMA and all the other CON ARTISTS (credit bureaus, insurance companies, banks, etc.) are ARCHIVING ALL OUR DATA IN GIGANTIC DATABASES, MERGING THEM WITH OTHER COMPANIES’ DATAMINING SERVICES, AND USING OUR OWN INFO AGAINST US.

    And our GOVERNMENT is in on it!, especially the USPO and the FEDERAL “INTELLIGENCE” (hah!) services. DO NOT USE THEIR ONLINE OPT-OUT SERVICES EITHER, because all you are doing is giving them your email address & IP number, so they know (harvest and share) EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU.

    What we have to do is VOTE WITH OUR $$$$; if a company sells your name/address/info, CANCEL ALL BUSINESS WITH THEM & BE SURE TO TELL THEM WHY.

    Reply
  7. Olav the Viking

    Whenever I get junk mail with a return post paid envelope, I stuff it with all the crap they sent plus whatever other junk paper, food wrappers, etc. I can fit into the envelope so that it bulks up and the junk mailer gets hit with the increased postage. Helps reduce the federal debt and sends a message to the Sphincter ani externi.

    Reply
    1. jik Post author

      It doesn’t have anything to do with the federal debt. The postal service is an independent financial entity. It does get some money from the federal government, but that money is for particular services and would not be reduced by doing what you propose with junk mail.

      Which is not to say that I don’t think it’s a good idea. 🙂

      Reply
  8. thirdwheel

    “Fortunately, my mail server supports extended addresses, i.e., messages sent to jik+foo@kamens.brookline.ma.us, jik+bar@kamens.brookline.ma.us, etc., will all be delivered into my “jik” mailbox. Note that “+” is a perfectly legitimate character to include in an email address. Unfortunately, the DMA Web site does not accept email addresses with “+” in them. Amazing!”

    I’ve noticed the same thing trying to use such addresses with my Google Apps mail accounts – the plus sign isn’t accepted by most sites. Then again it’s my experience that not only do some poorly-written (and standards non-compliant!) sites reject legitimate things, they can also allow things that go against the standard and can sometimes do genuine damage.

    Reply
  9. JJ

    I agree that DMA is a joke. There was a time when you HAD to provide a credit card to “allow” them to put a “zero” ($0) charge. They “claimed” it was to “verify” your “identity.” Can you say…. IDENTITY THEFT???? During that time, it was more worth it to me to register by snail mail. And you are right, they don’t notify you when it expires. But when it does, YOU GET FLOODED!

    JJ

    Reply
  10. rcy

    I sent a letter to: DMA Mail Service
    Preference Service
    PO Box 9008
    Farmingdale NY
    11735 9008

    It was returned as “Not deliverable unable to forward”

    Reply
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  12. Mark

    I like the dmachoice site. It solves almost half of my junk mail problem.

    It’s so good that I’m telling all of my reps that I want a mandatory government run do-not-mail list to get rid of the other half of my junk mail problem.

    I can see why junk mailers would want such a list. Send junk mail to people who don’t want it, and some of them you’ll lose as customers.

    The companies that don’t use the list are just stupid. Lots of companies use market techniques that annoy people and cause them to lose their business.

    Reply
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  15. Chuck

    This is why mail preference service should be run by an independent company that knows what they are doing. Take a look at our service – http://catalogchoice.org. Free to consumers … Free from merchants to get the opt-out names. Secure, well-designed. A non-profit dedicated to connecting consumers and merchants to reduce unwanted mail.

    Chuck

    Reply
    1. JJ

      catalogchoice.org is no longer free, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse…

      Reply
      1. jik Post author

        I can’t find anything at http://privacyrights.org/ or http://catalogchoice.org/ indicating that the latter is no longer free. There is a service there that’s only offered to people who donate to support the site, but (a) that’s a new service, not the original, free one, and (b) it’s a tax-deductible charitable donation, which isn’t exactly the same as fee for service.

        Reply
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