What are my rights as a small business owner in terms of direct mail advertisement?

I own a small hearing aid store in the Chicago-land area. Most of my advertisement is done through direct mail. On average, we send out around 7,000 mailers every month through the Post Office.

My first qualm: I seem to get a handful of calls each month of people wanting off the mailing list. My mailing lists are bought from a marketing database, InfoUSA. I do not directly handle my mailing list, as I outsource most of my work to a printer. I don’t necessarily know how to go about taking every single person that calls off the lists nor have the time to do so. However, I don’t want to waste the money on printer fees and postage when the consumer does not want the mail in the first place. What are my rights in this situation and what am I supposed to do if someone asks to be taken off the mailing list?

Secondly, I am not too fond of consumers calling shouting and screaming at me right from the get go all over a flimsy piece of paper. Is it in my rights to end a phone call with a angry receiver of my direct mail if their tone is out of line? And if I have to find a way to remove them from the mailing lists, what information must I obtain before being forced to do so by law? For example, if I end a call because of unnecessary shouting before I get a name and address, do I necessarily have to remove that person from the mailing list?

I know this third question is kind of ludicrous, but are my direct mailings an invasion of somebody’s privacy if I have paid for the mailing lists and the postage to send them to someone’s mail box? I had a caller claim her privacy was breached by me mailing her a mailer and then threaten to sue me for invasion of privacy if I sent her any direct mail again, and I believe that an invasion of privacy is something completely different than what they were referring to if I can remember my Business Law classes. Is this threat valid and, if so, on what grounds?

Lastly, this might come across as a rhetorical question, but is it really that hard to take the piece of paper and toss it in the trash if you aren’t interested? It amazes me how much people get worked up about a silly advertisement, so much that they have to call and harass a small business owner, when they can just chuck it and be done with it. I can understand if you got one every day or week from the same place, but my mailers only go out once a month and I usually don’t reuse the same lists for at least 5 months. People are seriously going to give themselves heart attacks if such a small thing as this drives their BP that high.
I’m not necessarily against people calling me back with complaints over the mailing list (as long as they aren’t screaming my head off and spewing hate), nor am I looking to be told to advertise in a different manner. I have other advertising outlets that I use (Internet, newspaper, magazines), but direct mailing is my most effective, hence why I feel like I should find someone who can refresh me on the laws pertaining to such.

I don’t mind writing down the names for ethics purposes, but most people won’t give up their addresses only to say "You have my address!" and hang up.

Again, I’m not looking to be told how to run my business. I am just wondering if I’m missing any laws in these situations explained so I can determine such a conclusion on my own.

4 Responses to “What are my rights as a small business owner in terms of direct mail advertisement?”

  1. WRG Says:

    I was in the mail order business for years and know exactly what you are talking about.

    1. Keep a list with the all the mailing info of those that don’t want further mailing and purge them from your list each mailing.

    2. There is no law that says you have to take them off you mailing list. It isn’t like the do not call phone list. But you will need their name, address, city, state and zip.

    3. You are violating no laws even if you don’t remove them when asked.

    4. LOL No it isn’t.

  2. Jay Says:

    Shortest answer: whoever you buy your mailing list from must offer a mechanism for opt-out. Ask your provider how this works.

    People get upset about this. The best you can do is ensure that they are not on your list, even if that means that you personally contact your list provider every day with a list of names to remove from the list.

    If you don’t like dealing with this, then I’d suggest you not buy said lists. Instead, find other ways of marketing.

  3. Dr. Snark Says:

    When you send somebody your contact information in the mail, you are inviting them to call you. If you aren’t prepared for negative feedback don’t send unsolicited advertisements.

  4. jaker Says:

    Your printer must have the mailing list in order to print the address labels. Give him the names of those who want off the the list. If he doesn’t do it get a different printer.