The Return to Sender Myth

 Today’s Junk Mail Myth: Can you mark junk mail return to sender?

It’s tempting to think you can, in an angry fit of rage, grab a red Sharpie and write “return to sender” on all of your junk mail. Great way to exercise your powers of rejection, right? Stick it to the man with a marker and an angry shove back in the mailbox. Unfortunately, marking junk mail return to sender ends up doing more harm than good. Let’s examine why.

One would think that marking something “return to sender” would be a flag for the postal service to take a good hard look at whoever sent this mail. Are they reputable? Are they sending things people actually want? After all, that’s what major email providers do when mark an email as spam.  Back in the snail-mail world though, that’s not how things work. Here’s why:

  • Most companies that send junk  ail don’t use first class postage – it’s too expensive. The actual returning to sender piece only works on first class mail. Everything else? It just gets thrown away by the postal service. So all that effort you put into marking it and mailing it back? It just results in a larger carbon footprint – the effort it takes for the post office to transport it back to their shipping facility, inspect it, and then throw it out.
  • It would be nice to think that companies who send junk mail would receive the junk mail back from you, see the “return to sender” stamp and think, “Huh, this is someone who doesn’t want my junk! I should stop sending it to them!” Not so fast. 2 reasons why: 1) as mentioned above, it’s highly likely the company who sent you think junk mail won’t even receive it back because they didn’t use first-class postage, and 2) it costs pennies to send you junk mail. It costs real money to have a real person receive a piece of junk mail back, see it’s marked “return to sender”, look you up in their database, and manually remove you from their mailing list. Quite simply? It’s cheaper for that company to keep sending you junk mail than it is to stop.
  • There are literally thousands of companies that send junk mail. Even if your  return to sender efforts are successful and the company removes you from their mailing list, dozens more will spring up to take their place. It’s kind of like swatting a mosquito in the middle of a swamp in the middle of a sweltering summer evening.

So, can you mark junk mail return to sender? Yes but … we’ve outlined 3 reasons why, sadly, marking junk mail return to sender is woefully ineffective. After all that bad news, we’d better share some good news. Just because “return to sender” isn’t an effective technique for stopping your junk mail it doesn’t mean there are no effective techniques. Our favorite? Well, of course! With 5 minutes of your time and less than 30 bucks you can reduce your junk mail by 80-95% for up to 5 full years. You can sign up here. Or learn more here.

Not ready to sign up yet? We’ll stop your supermarket flyers for free! Just click the green button below.

Together, we can end junk mail and help save the planet.

Paul Zalewski | cofounder,


Stop Supermarket Flyers for Free



Can you mark junk mail return to sender?

Not so fast … this will do more harm than good.




  1. Kay says:

    There are plenty of free resources available to accomplish this, why should someone pay you? It is not as complicated as you make it out to be. If reducing CO2 footprint was your real motivation you’d give this info away (as many do). Sounds like another green marketing parasite to me.

    • Paul Zalewski says:


      Thanks for your comment. Here are our thoughts.

      It’s quite true that there are a number of free resources available to help people stop their junk mail. However, some actions one must take to stop junk mail do cost money (the Direct Marketing Association charges a $1 fee, for example.) We’ve also found in our research that many of the free resources available are out of date – on one popular informational blog post by CBS, two of the mailing addresses they list are out of date and get returned. As a consumer, trying to figure out all of the steps to take to stop a large percentage of your junk mail can be time consuming and frustrating, at least in our experience.

      So, why should someone pay us? Simply put there are many people (many of whom are already our customers) who would rather pay someone a reasonable fee than go through the time and effort to do this themselves – much like you might pay someone to mow your lawn. To those people who would rather do this themselves – more power to them.

      We do make money on our service. (Some of which, we must point out, goes to fulfill the service we provide, some of which goes to keep our website up and running, and some of which we donate to charities.) We consider ourselves a “for-profit social venture” – meaning that we have three goals – 1) make money, 2) do something socially responsible and 3) provide a service that some people find valuable.

      In conclusion, we respectfully disagree with your classification of us as a “green marketing parasite.” is proud to have reduced the amount of junk mail produced by thousands of pounds. If you’d prefer to stop your own junk mail, go for it!

      Paul founder

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