Return to Sender

In the annals of junk mail my most favorite item of junk mail to receive is the charity-provided return address label.

My eyes go all aglow when I spy one of those thick envelopes in the mailbox. I always make sure to open the envelope with extra attention. I must be careful not to rip even one of those beautiful pre-printed freebie labels.

I love pre-printed address labels enormously, but not quite enough to actually pay for them. Have you ever seen how much the bank tries to charge you for a book of return-address labels? We’re talking $5 or $6 (plus tax and shipping) for a pathetic couple hundred labels. Sure, the bank teases you with 8 free labels in every book of checks, but with online bill payment I’m using fewer and fewer checks these days and I just can’t get by on 8 labels. Perhaps those greedy banks wouldn’t even need to be bailed-out if they didn’t gouge us on those exorbitantly-priced return-address labels over the years.

I once considered buying a roll of return-address labels that were advertised in the back of Parade Magazine. They were quite reasonable priced but I was afraid that by buying anything from Parade Magazine I’d find myself permanently labeled as a fan of Madame Alexander dolls, commemorative kitty cat collector plates and mock-denim slacks. And let’s face facts – aside from “In Step with James Brady”, “Ask Marilyn” and “Howard Huge” Parade is a terrible magazine. It’s like Reader’s Digest for morons.

You might be interested to learn that I don’t like writing my return address by hand for three reasons:

1) Although my last name is short, my street name contains 9 letters and my town name contains 10 letters. That’s a lot of letters. I wish I considered that before we bought the house.

2) My handwriting skills are poor. I never fully mastered cursive writing as a child so now I either write in all caps block letters (like a serial killer) or a mixture of upper case, lower case and half-script (like a serial killer); and

3) I always forget to refill the ink reservoir for my antique dip and nib pen collection.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the moral dilemma: Am I obligated to donate to the charity just because I used their (un-asked for) return-address labels?

You might be interested to learn that I don’t feel guilty for using the return-address labels without actually sending money to the charity for three reasons:

1) People will get a letter from me with a “Save the Seals” return-address label and they’ll naturally assume that I support supporting the seals. And since I’m widely acknowledged as a trend-setter and an influencer, people might be more inclined to personally “Save a Seal” in the future, should the occasion arise (perhaps if one were visiting Sea World, for example). In fact, my endorsement of “Seal Saving” is probably worth a lot more than whatever donation they were hoping to get out of me in the first place. Quite frankly, free return-address labels are getting off pretty cheaply for an official endorsement from yours truly.

2) Not using the labels would be wasteful and an environmental travesty akin to seal killing. The labels have already been printed. They’ve already been mailed. The energy cost of manufacturing and shipping the labels has been incurred. Think of the huge carbon-footprint that’s affiliated with charity-provided free return-address labels. And now I’m supposed to spit in the environment’s face by chucking them in a landfill? No way.

3) Any charity that can afford to go off all willy-nilly printing free return-address labels for the whole world is so wasteful and poorly run that they probably don’t deserve my donation in the first-place. They might as well just take a stretch Hummer to a fancy black-tie award dinner celebrating their achievements in fundraising on behalf of the Seals, those frauds.

No, I think I’ll stick to my original plan of using the labels guilt-free and giving donations to local organizations that aren’t sophisticated enough to get in on the whole return-address label scam.


You might be interested to learn that one of my favorite charities is My Brother’s Table located in Lynn, MA. With the economy tanking, cold weather threatening and Thanksgiving right around the corner, local soup kitchens like MBT will need our support more than ever. There are plenty of worthy charities to support, but what could be more important than feeding the hungry in your neighborhood today?

Plus, they never waste my donations on return-address labels.


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