The Quiet Man (tries to) opt-out

This is not the way I expected to start a potential flurry of blogging, but it will do.

The Discover Card application I received in the mail today pushed me over the edge. There was nothing particular about it — just another colorful offer of financing being dangled in front of my eyes by our corporate oligarchy — but it became the single piece of straw that broke the camel’s back.

Before, I was just very annoyed by the steady trickle of unwelcomed applications being mailed to me. But now I’m pissed. I called the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry’s pre-screen opt-out number and requested not to receive “firm offers of credit or insurance.”

Reason #1: I have a credit card already.

That’s right: one credit card. I have always had one credit card because, frankly, that’s all I need. I use it sparingly. When my bill comes, I pay it in full.

I don’t live opulently, don’t shop for the sake of shopping, and don’t usually buy anything I can’t pay for in cash. I wear jeans and shorts until the groins blow out (which has happened to my current selection of below the waist attire), rarely eat out, and pay in cash when I buy gas (which is now monthly), groceries, and whatever else I may need. One thing I don’t need is another credit card. Truthfully, I could probably do without the one I have. However, the corporate-tied powers that be seem happy to dictate that everyone have a line of credit, credit score, and, preferably, some debt.

Reason #2: Pre-screened applications are, for me, a waste of paper and resources.

Think about all the trees that need to be harvested just for junk mail and business advertisers. I probably get one credit card application a week, and it usually includes the basic offer page, an application, maybe some other inserts or a corny presentation devise (like fake airline tickets or a fake passport), and the mailing envelope it all came in. All together for the year, it probably amounts to 200 or more pages of paper I will shred and recycle. Others, I’m sure, just throw it all in the trash.

Though I’m a big fan of recycling, the truth about paper recycling is not exactly green. The chemicals used to bleach paper for recycling are among the most toxic and carcinogenic known to man. And you know how they are disposed? The paper mills of the Pacific Northwest dump them into nearby rivers and the ocean. Tasty.

Personally, I prefer one of the other Three R’s: reduce. (Reusing paper is an option, but you can only do it once or twice. Burning or, if possible, composting is risky. Ink is a very nasty chemical, too, and you don’t want to breathe its fumes or let it contaminate soil.) I think it’s better to not support the cutting of trees and destruction of habitat, so I have decided to impel as best I can, Ecological Intelligence style, the credit card industry to do that with me.

Reason #3: I’m tired of my postal service being exploited as a billboard.

Though the ol’ USPS is a self-sufficient independent agency that has not been directly funded by taxpayers since the ‘80s, it is the government sponsored mail service monopoly and is apparently borrowing tons of money from the US Treasury to stay solvent. In a roundabout way, that means it is yours and mine — ours. Unfortunately, it is also the credit card company’s.

I suppose Discover, American Express, and Citi have the right to send me their shit just as much as I have the right to send my grandma a birthday card. But I don’t appreciate it. Fuck them. If I wanted one of their applications, I would ask for it. Be assured, my fellow Americans at Discover, I will use the free market against you: as the unfortunate straw that broke the camel’s back, you pissed me off so I won’t carry your credit cards (as if I needed one).

Reason #4: Something I thought of while walking but don’t remember.

I wish I could remember exactly what I thought, but corporate tyranny pisses me off in general.

Emboldened by my disgust, I called the opt-out number (1.888.567.8688). Of course, a computer automated system answered, which also pissed me off. I wanted to talk to a real person and not have to make a computer understand me, despite my clear Midwestern annunciation. But I had no problems; it actually fucking worked.

(According to the automated voice, I could have also opted-out online: I’m not surprised this information was never provided in the opt-out fine print buried deep in pre-screened disclaimers. They will give you the option, but make it as inconvenient and antiquated as possible.)

I was given three options: opt-out for five years, opt-in, or opt-out permanently. They were given in that order, and I’ll let you figure out why the permanent opt-out option was last. However, I was unable to opt-out over the phone. The Whatever-Actually-Runs-The-Opt-Out-Service is sending me a form to complete and mail back, which will finalize my pre-screened rebellion.

Unfortunately, mailing the form will not stop the trickle of pre-screened offers immediately. According to the automated voice, I could continue receiving junk mail from Discover and its ilk for months. Any company preparing pre-screened offers will likely not receive my opt-out request in time. Months! Jesus. Whatever offers I receive from now on will immediately be returned to sender.


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