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Catalog Choice and LL Bean 3rd party Opt Outs

Gidday,’s Customer Service received a very interesting email from LL Bean about 3rd party junk mail opt out requests. It details that LL Bean will now only accept catalog opt outs from approved 3rd party services.

I expected to find the DMA but I was shocked to find the was the other approved service and goes on to say that we should be referring our members to these 2 services!!! Yes, I had to re-read that few a times.

“…If your customer prefers to contact us through a third party service, we do have established relationships with the Direct Marketing Association ( and with Catalog Choice ( Requests made through these organizations will be honored….”

It doesn’t sound very “non-profit” of to forge a relationship with LL Bean and at the same time shut out all the other services that send opt outs to LL Bean such as, and

Does the “Just say No” policy from the DMA exclude from this policy or has worked really hard because they have so many opt outs and can’t send them any other way except by file transfer now there by tainting the relationships companies like have had with companies like LL Bean for 7 years?


5 Responses to “Catalog Choice and LL Bean 3rd party Opt Outs”

  • CatalogChoice has a better business model than stopthejunkmail. I am a member of both, but I think that CatalogChoice has better long-term viability because they don’t charge consumers for their service. Reducing the massive waste represented by catalogs requires a service that is incredibly easy to use for consumers. Over 98% of catalogs sent out don’t result in a sale. That is a massive waste of resources for everyone. Charging consumers (as stopthejunkmail does) limits the popularity of an unsubscribe service, and limits the potential impact of the service. I don’t unsubscribe to catalogs because I think my efforts will make a difference, but because I know that if a lot of people do the same thing, it will make a difference.
    Stopthejunkmail is a good service, but charging consumers is just the wrong model. I don’t blame LL Bean for restricting their opt-outs to a couple services. Particularly since those services don’t profit directly from the opt-outs (although I recognize that both the DMA and CatalogChoice can profit indirectly from these opt-out lists).
    BTW, I don’t have any affiliation with CatalogChoice. Chuck Teller and I both worked at PeopleSoft in the past, but I don’t think we ever met. In fact, I didn’t know he was behind CatalogChoice until I saw your posting about his interview.

  • Dave, We charge for our service because we do not have the backing of vc’s or foundations like The overbrook foundation which has given, through various non-profit organizations such as the ecology center, the National Wildlife Federation and The Natural Resources Defense Council, 100’s of thousands of dollars to develop and support their growing business. We would love to offer’s service for free but that would put us out of business and we would no longer be able to help consumers attain their goals. It would not be a successful business model. We are a small business that has been promoting direct mail choices for 7 years and is new to the business with lots of dollars to promote their service whether it is free or not.

    I am not sure where your 98% statistic comes from but if you want statistics on why direct marketing is the most effective way of marketing try this website by Kevin Hillstrom.

  • Margot,

    I definitely see why stopthejunkmail took the approach that it did. But I still think that CatalogChoice is the better model today. Free to consumers is the right way to do business if you want to attract a huge market. This article from last month’s Wired does a good job of explaining the rationale:

    The 98% statistic is based on my understanding of how direct marketers measure success. It is my understanding that if a direct mailing (catalogs in particular) result in a 2% response rate (meaning 2% of people buy something), that is considered very successful. There are many ways to interpret this statistic, but one is that 98% of the other catalogs are wasted. I understand that direct marketers also look for other “soft” benefits of direct marketing, so a catalog that does not deliver a sale might still be considered useful. But in my view it is a marketing method that has gone past its useful life, mainly because of scale. Chris Jordan’s piece “Toothpicks” does a good job of visually explaining the size of the waste involved in direct marketing:

    I do see a risk with CatalogChoice getting exclusive rights for opt-outs with catalog companies. It has nothing to do with their non (or not-for) profit status, or shutting down competitors, which is just part of business (non-profits are businesses too). But there is a risk that they will be co-opted to the direct marketers because of the relationship. Whether this happens or not depends on the character of the people running CatalogChoice and how they react to the pressure they will definitely get from direct marketers. But clearly it is better than the DMA, which is just a lobby group for the industry.

    I think it is likely that the risks of exclusive opt-outs for CatalogChoice are out-weighed by the benefits. The main benefit being that Direct Marketers will realize they no longer have full control over consumers’ marketing choices. And free is definitely the right price for that control.

  • Dave, The key to your comment is the word “Today”. 7 years ago it was not viable to offer an internet service for free, even 2 years ago. Non-profits would never have even considered the internet for their marketing needs and the same could be said for a catalog companies themselves. Internet business models have changed over the years and so has the perception of how consumers use the internet for shopping and every days needs.

    We are hoping that we can remain in business because we offer a complete solution, we are a one stop shop. We offer our members a service to opt out of catalogs and all the other types of direct mail companies out there today. We have all the information a consumer could want about how to opt out of junk mail all in one place. If a consumer were to use for catalogs they would also have to go to about 15-20 other services to reduce the other types of junk mail.

  • Margot,

    I agree that the model that CatalogChoice uses is based on timing. I am not at all faulting your approach which has been helping people for a long time. Stopthejunkmail was, for a long time, the only viable option for controlling your direct marketing choices. This change in the market is going to affect a great number of companies, including direct marketers. People’s expectations about what they should pay for, and how much they should pay, are changing dramatically. That means new opportunities for some, and hard times for others. I certainly don’t see the new “free” market as a solution for everything. Someone has to pay for goods and services, even if it is not initially obvious who that someone is.


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