Persistence of Smithsonian

The previous owner of my house is still on the Smithsonian catalog mailing list.

As those of you who've been around for a while know, I moved into my condo in November of 2003. That's over 26 months ago.

So I've gone through the following procedure about 25 times:

  1. I receive a Smithsonian catalog addressed to Ms. Anderson, the previous owner.
  2. I call Smithsonian's toll-free number.
  3. (optional) Sometimes, I navigate through their phone tree only to find out that their "leave a message to be removed from our mailing list" voicemailbox is full.
  4. I eventually speak to a live customer service rep.
  5. I explain how long I've been trying to be removed.
  6. The rep takes Ms. Anderson's information and assures me that this time she'll really be removed from the list.
  7. (optional) Sometimes, the rep expresses surprise or confusion over the fact that Ms. Anderson is listed as having been removed from their list several times.
  8. A month passes.
  9. Repeat procedure.

(Note: "Repeat procedure" is as close as a tech writer can get to that most glorious of stage directions, "Repeat play," from Samuel Beckett's play Play.)

At this point I've passed beyond annoyance and into mild amusement. I've asked them to have a manager call me about it tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure I've spoken to managers about it before, to no avail.

Tonight, the customer service rep suggested that I call my congressperson. I think she had in mind that by doing so I could get put on do-not-send-junk-mail-to lists, but that wouldn't help; it's not me who's on the Smithsonian list, it's Ms. Anderson. I suppose what I should really do is send her name and my address to the Direct Marketing Association. But that sounds too much like giving up. :)

5 Responses to “Persistence of Smithsonian”

  1. jacob

    How about: you call up, pretend to be Ms. Anderson (I suppose you might want to get a female friend to do this) and say “Hi, I changed my address, and I really don’t want to miss your marvelous catalog. Could you start sending my catalogs to <insert random address here>?”

    If the address doesn’t exist, the post office will give it back to them, and they probably already have a procedure to deal with that.

  2. jacob

    Whoops — the quote was “could you start sending catalogs to <insert random address>”. That’s what I get for not previewing.

  3. jacob

    And I did preview and it didn’t help — seems I can’t use angle brackets even if I use the HTML escape characters (they preview OK but don’t post OK). Third try: “could you start sending catalogs to *insert random address*?”

  4. Aaron

    Wouldn’t it be easier just to throw the catalogs away?

  5. Jay Hartman

    I would like to add my “mail order persistence” story. Several years ago, I ordered a Winnie the Pooh (WTP) plate for my wife from a company that I believe is called “Danbury Mint.” After they delivered the plate (which was nice) I got solicitations from them probably every other week for almost every WTP-themed item imaginable, from keychains to music boxes to nightlights. Everything but WTP sex toys. I never ordered any other item, and my numerous conventional efforts to stop the flow of their mail and catalogs failed.

    Then, one day (randomly) a friend of a friend who worked at Danbury was at our house. I told the Danbury woman the problem, and she laughed and said I was stuck on the list forever. Then she tried my carrot cake. When she asked for the recipe, I said, “quid pro quo!” and she traded a promise to remove me from the mailing list in exchange for the recipe. It was a serendipitous trade for me…the Danbury mail stopped coming about three weeks later and I haven’t heard from them since.

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