A Call for Truth in Direct Mail Advertising

I received the envelope below in the mail yesterday, and I was 99% sure that it was some form of advertising.

junk_mail

However, there’s always a little bit of doubt when I see words like “Urgent – Requires Immediate Action” or “Business Mail – Penalty for Tampering” on the envelope, or when I can see what appears to be a check made out to me inside the envelope.

So I reluctantly opened it, and of course, it was just a promotional piece for a local car dealer, who I now have no desire to do business with as a result of what I consider deceptive advertising.

If you are proud of what your business does, why don’t you display your name on the outside of the envelope, as well as clearly state what the purpose of the mailing is?

There’s an analogy I can use here.

The FDA requires proper labeling on the outside of food products, so that consumers have a good idea of what is inside the package. As a result, consumers can make a decision as to whether they want to buy a food product just by reading the outside label, instead of having to buy the product, open it up, and taste the product.

Why can’t the FTC require a similar form of truth in advertising when it comes to labeling mail that is sent through the USPS?

Such requirements might include that the name of the company sending the mail is clearly labeled on the outside of the envelope, as well as a basic summary of what the contents of the envelope are. Words such as “important” or “penalty for tampering” would not be permitted. Giving the impression that there is a check inside the envelope would also not be permitted, if there really is not a check inside.

You might be thinking that if businesses were required to start implementing such regulations, then no one would open such mail. And that’s exactly my point. Let consumers decide just from looking at the envelope if something is worth opening, rather than tricking them into opening something they might have no desire to look at it.

Of course, if such regulations were to pass, there could be problems with some direct mailers making dubious claims that the contents of the envelops are all natural, or organic, or perhaps even non-GMO.

But even that’s better than where we are now.

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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