Almanac

News - June 25, 2014

Residents protest catalog deluge

by Barbara Wood

Nancy Reyering and six other volunteers from Woodside and Portola Valley made a delivery to the Restoration Hardware store in Palo Alto last week that they hope might send a message to the home furnishings store's corporate headquarters.

Using two pickup trucks and four hand trucks, the volunteers returned nearly one ton of the catalogs the company recently shipped to local residents, protesting the waste the unwanted catalogs represent.

Via UPS, Restoration Hardware has been delivering to each home a bundle of as many as 13 large catalogs, wrapped in plastic and weighing up to 17 pounds.

With the catalog drop-off at the Palo Alto store, Ms. Reyering included a letter asking the corporation to "consider taking a stand as the first truly 'green' retailer by eliminating the printing and mailing of any catalogs."

Ms. Reyering who in 2013 was named an "Environmental Champion" by Woodside's Sustainability and Conservation Committee, wrote that "the most environmentally friendly approach, by far, is not to create and ship these unnecessary, unwanted, and wasteful catalogs."

She also has sent the company a spread sheet with the names of more than 120 people who want to be taken off Restoration Hardware's mailing list.

After the volunteers began bringing stacks of catalogs through the store's front entrance, store employees quickly asked the volunteers to move the rest of their delivery to the store's back door. At least four employees with handcarts immediately hustled the stacks of catalogs out of sight.

Employees handed out fliers with what appears to be the company's pre-printed response to complaints about the environmental effect of the catalog deliveries.

"Heavier load = lighter carbon footprint," the fliers say. "Our 13 source books now come to you just once a year, all together in one package. Combined with our carbon-neutral shipping practices and our responsibly sourced paper, that adds up to a significantly reduced impact on the environment."

Ms. Reyering and the other volunteers — Peter Marsden, Lauren Mang, Erin Broderick and Seldy Nelson from Woodside and Brad Peyton and Laura Stec from Portola Valley — were not buying the explanation.

"They're counting on people having really busy lives and not really thinking about it," said Ms. Reyering, who is on the town's Architectural and Site Review Board and the Open Space Committee.

"I think this is crazy," said Ms. Broderick, a high school student. "Grocery stores aren't allowed to give us paper bags!"

Ms. Broderick said that her neighborhood appears to be just receiving the Restoration Hardware catalogs and she will volunteer to return them to the store for her neighbors.

"What if every business did the same type of marketing?" asked Ms. Stec.

At the Palo Alto store, Restoration Hardware employees said they were not allowed to comment to the press, and said they could not find a phone number for public affairs at corporate headquarters. When contacted via email, a company representative simply emailed a press release and a link to the company's website and ignored questions about the delivery.

The protest unfolded after Ms. Reyering received a 15-pound delivery of unwanted catalogs at the end of May. Incensed, she posted on a community website that she would collect unwanted catalogs from others and return them to the store.

The response was overwhelming, as local residents dropped off at her home nearly 2,000 pounds of the catalogs, including 120 unopened packages. She heard from at least 80 other people who said they had already recycled the catalogs or returned them to the store on their own.

"Having to take the time away from (a new baby) to get rid of that stupid catalog was really annoying," one person wrote to her. "I am not sure RH realizes how much they have wasted people's time in addition to wasting the Earth's resources."

Others refused the delivery at their homes and had the package of catalogs returned to the store. (To refuse a UPS delivery and schedule a pickup of a package, call the UPS toll-free number, 800-742-5877, push zero, and ask for a customer service representative.)

Ms. Reyering said she finally had to cut off the project because people brought more stacks of catalogs each day and she was having trouble getting in her front door. She said her UPS deliveryman told her he had made 85 deliveries of the catalog packages in one day. Ms. Reyering did have plenty of assistance, though; so many people volunteered to help with the return to the store that she had to turn down 14 of the 20 who offered.

One explanation for the chain's sending out so many catalogs may be that it pays off in sales. An article on the Motley Fool investment advice website says: "As the catalog shipments from Restoration Hardware have grown larger over the years, the retailer's revenue has risen dramatically as well."

The article says that Restoration Hardware has received complaints in the past about the size and number of its catalogs, but the deliveries "did succeed in getting the retailer the attention and the customers it wanted." Last year the company's revenues increased by 33 percent, the website says.

While Ms. Reyering says she has not heard back from Restoration Hardware, her protest has received a lot of attention. By Friday, June 20, she had been contacted by two television stations and the online story had received dozens of comments on both the Almanac and Palo Alto weekly websites.

"I think the reason it's hit a nerve is that people are tired of junk mail. It's not just Restoration Hardware. It's the phone book ... it's the monthly catalog from places no one shops," she said.

She said she hopes that even if Restoration Hardware does not stop sending catalogs that it will send them only to those who request them. "Sure there are people who want this stuff," she said, "but they should have to take the step to opt in."

Restoration Hardware is not the only culprit, she said. "Think about all the stores that send us the one catalog a month," she said. "The wastefulness on every level is appalling."

Those interested in unsubscribing from future Restoration Hardware mailings can do so on the company's website or by calling customer service at 1-800-910-9836.

At dmachoice.org, consumers can opt out of all types of unwanted junk mailings.

Ms. Reyering said she hopes her protest inspires many people to unsubscribe from junk mail lists. "If that's true I can die happy," she said.

She said she has also been hearing a lot about people who are inundated with unwanted telemarketing calls. "We'll work on that next," she promised.

Go to tinyurl.com/Tips-619 for information on how to reduce unwanted mailings, credit cards offers, and telephone solicitations.

Comments

Posted by Richard Duda, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2014 at 9:44 am

I thought this article was well written and quite informative when I read it this morning in the print version of The Almanac.

When I went to the web site recommended at the end of the article (www.tinyurl.com/Tips-619), I was taken to the web site for DMAchoice.org.

It looked legitimate (and perhaps it is), so I registered and set up an account. However, when I went to the section of the web site for blocking credit-card offers, it asked for my date of birth and social security number! That immediately raised a mental red flag. There is no way that they need to know that information to block solicitations, and that is exactly the information that identity thieves want to get.

I immediately deleted my account and logged off. Curiously, when I once again tried to go to www.tinyurl.com/Tips-619, it no longer worked.

As I said, perhaps DMAchoice.org is legitimate. However, I caution anyone from giving out their date of birth and social security number to any organization that does not have a compelling reason for needing it.


Posted by Barbara Wood, a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 28, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Richard -
DMAchoice is recommended by the Federal Trade Commission and is definitely a legitimate website. I tried it out. The website you went to for opting out of pre-approved credit offers is also recommended by the FTC. It does ask for your SSN and date of birth; but it also says it can process your request without that information. I believe your SSN and DOB are used to make sure you are really who you say are and not someone posing as you.
The tiny url does seem to still be working.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields