Capital One: What’s In Your Envelope?

By Linsey Knerl on 11 July 2008 (Updated 17 September 2009) 28 comments

Just when I thought credit card companies couldn’t get any more wasteful, I received the mother of all credit card offers in the mail. Excited by what I thought was something worthwhile in a rather thick envelope, I got duped. And the contents weren’t even worth reusing…..

Unlike many, I eagerly await my mail each day. Since most of my bills are paid online, if the postman is bringing it, I can expect it to be freshly-paid freelance invoices or the occasional trade mag. Of course, there is usually one or two credit card offers tossed into the mix (which I promptly discard, unopened, into the trash/recycle bin.)

Yesterday, I received a rather unusual envelope from Capital One. It was standard yellow and almost passed through into the trash, until I took a moment to feel it. It was thick, a little squishy, and had me thinking that maybe (just maybe) there was something inside of interest. It was thick, after all. (Could it be a free mousepad?)

I can’t even believe I took the time to open it. Inside was the standard “blah,blah,blah” 0% for so many days credit balance transfer offer with return envelope. And one sheet of bubble wrap.

The spendthrift in me immediately became irritated. Why waste the plastic this flimsy, worthless sheet of bubble wrap was made with to send me this? Did they really think that all I needed to do was see this offer to become swept away by their financing? Since I usually recycle any and all packing materials for my own mailings, I examined the barely usable piece of wrap (which couldn’t protect a toothpick.) Not even the envelope could be used again.

Now that I’m on to their scheme, what will they do next to get my attention? Skywriting? Messages in a bottle down the Missouri River? Tattoo placement on newborn babies? This left me considering one of Paul’s unorthodox methods to let them know it was an unappreciated gesture. Sure, the 3 sheets of paper the offer was printed on made it to me unscathed (thanks to that trusty bubble wrap), but this is a big step backwards in practicing conservation and waste-reduction.

I’ll be opting out of future offers from now on, and maybe I should contact all my other card companies before they start getting any (really bad) ideas. What other wasteful things are you seeing in your mailbox?

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Guest's picture

That's the kind of bubblewrap I like to save for when I trade seeds with other gardeners. Gardenweb.com has a great seed exchange forum, and experienced seed swappers know that seeds need protection in the mail from all the automated sorting equipment. So small pieces of bubblewrap are great for that purpose. Don't know if you garden, but maybe finding some use for the stuff would be a small consolation for the aggravation and waste of junk mail.

Linsey Knerl's picture

That's an awesome idea!  I've also heard of people placing this kind of bubble wrap in regular envelopes to keep them from being able to go through the automated mail meter service.  (Anything of a certain thickness gets special manual handling.)  Maybe this would apply in the case of mailing seeds?

As far as using it to mail anything bigger than a stick of gum (this bubble wrap is tiny, only a few inches across, very thin, and not sturdy at all), I don't think it would help much, but you've found a unique use for it!  Thanks so much for sharing!

Linsey 

Guest's picture
Amy

Ever since I signed up for Continental OnePass (frequent flyer) I regularly receive mail from a credit card company offering me a bunch of bonus miles for signing up with them. I actually think it's Capital One as well. They are mailed to my parents' house so whenever I go home I have at least 2 or 3 to just toss in the trash. They must send one at least once a month. You'd think they would get the hint after over a year of not signing up for the offer.

Guest's picture
Dwight

I once received an advertisement that was disguised as a jury duty summons. I got another that was printed on the inside of an empty box.

They will do anything to get you to open the envelope.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you are bothered by all the credit card offers you receive there is a number you can call to opt out of all credit card offers: 888-567-8688

Guest's picture
Scott

Shred them. Better safe than sorry...

Guest's picture
Emily

Fold it all back up and stick it in their SASE. I write STOP KILLING TREES all over the application. They have to pay for the return postage.

Guest's picture
Damon

The majority of these companies always include a "Business Reply Mail" envelope in their mailings (the postage on those is paid by the advertising company). I like to fill mine with the rest of their unsolicited mail (the papers w/o my name etc.) and stick it back into the mailbox to be sent to them on their dime.

If everyone did this they'd see their costs increase (postage and man power to open the envelopes and trash the contents), and perhaps slowdown on their mailings. The USPS would love the increase in monies as well.

Guest's picture
Elle

I like to cut the application and all other materials I got into small, confetti pieces. I then send it all back to the company in their SASE.

Guest's picture
Kelsey

Wow. Bubble wrap, that's a new one. You would think with the green movement and the down economy companies would not waste money on putting bubble wrap into their envelopes. I see someone gave the phone number to opt out, but you can also go to optoutprescreen.com to stop any pre-approved credit offers from coming to your mailbox.

Guest's picture
Bethany

I opted out of all the pre-approved offers several months ago and it really cut down on my mail. Of course, Capital One seems to think they are special and send me offers anyway.

Guest's picture
Aryn

I got that ad, too! And I was equally annoyed by the packaging. I did find a use for the bubble wrap, though. I considered giving it to the cats as a toy, but they scare easily. Instead, I stuffed it in with a paperback book I sold on Half.com. It didn't cover the whole thing, but the non-spine side was protected at least.

Guest's picture
Guest

You thought it was a MacBook Air, didn't you.

Guest's picture
Lynnie

I completely agree with Scott. SHRED them! Then use the shreddies for packing material :) That way you aren't wasting anything.

It's way too easy for someone to open a card in your name w/out you ever knowing it anymore. Why take chances??

Linsey Knerl's picture

(Sigh...)  In my wildest dreams... LOL

:) 

Guest's picture
Erma Kelso

What I hate to receive in the mail is an invoice from some magazine company and it looiks like you have oredered the magazine and they want you to send them money.

I think I will start sending thenm back empty evcelopes!

Guest's picture

I'm actually amazed that these credit card companies (and other junkmailing companies) have made it unscathed through the masses who are begging us to be more green. Not to decry the green movement or anything, but I guess it's a lot easier to bully the little guy into being green as opposed to large credit card companies.

Guest's picture
Anna_esq

I find reusing as much of my junk mail as possible curbs my irritation and gives me a cheap "thrill." First, I carefully open the envelope, remove the mail (without reading the ads) and see if any pages are blank on the back. I usually use a ball point pen to draw a diagonal line across the back so I don't mistake it for something important I want to keep. Those immediately go into the "use in the printer" pile next to my PC.

Then I remove any return envelope that doesn't have a prepaid postage stamp and put that in a second pile. Even if it has a return address or business name on it, a dab of white-out takes care of it and you can reuse it to pay bills or mail letters to your friends. They all know I'm too cheap to BUY envelopes when there are so many free ones begging for a new life.

Envelopes that have postage prepaid stamps on it go into a third pile. My kids have tons of stuff going back and forth to school and I always need quickie envelopes to throw coupons and stuff in, so I just write what it's for in magic marker and reuse.

Then, I see if there are any white areas large enough in the mail contents to cut into a 4.25" x 5.5" note paper on my paper cutter. We go through a TON of these for shopping lists, to do lists, reminder notes, whatnot. I also carefully open the original envelope and can usually squeeze one more note paper out of it.

Whatever is left over (or used for a notepaper and now beyond reuse) goes through the shredder and mixed into our soil. We have sterile, sandy soil that won't hold onto moisture, so we have a "pit" we move every year around 3 feet deep that we mix shredded paper into the bottom foot, then mix leaves and grass clippings back into the sand the top 2 feet. The paper helps the soil hold water until it decomposes, then it provides fertilizer for our garden. We also did this to lighten the soil when we lived in New Hampshre, which has clay-rock soil so heavy nothing will grow in it. Too heavy or too light ... shredded paper is a gardeners friend, and also good as a base bedding under the shavings if you have hampsters or chickens. If it's pretty and colorful, you can use color shreds as gift confetti, but NEVER use that shiney colorful paper they use for magazines in your garden as it's poisonous!!!

Thanks Citibank for all the useful free paper and, no, no matter how much more you send I will never sign up for your ripoff credit cards.

Guest's picture
Ocell

I posted a comment a while ago, I guess it got lost in the approval pile.

I was ranting about this a few months ago. It's infuriating. I got two of them, sent to the same address to the same name. It seems like now that our society is starting to pay attention to issues like sustainability, these companies would be held accountable for this kind of waste. I put the junk in the return envelope and sent it back to them.

Guest's picture
Guest

I take the offers apart. Return envelopes are used to put shopping lists on and coupons in, or turned inside out, reglued and reused, or if there's no writing on it reused as is. Any paper with a blank side is used to print out articles from the computer or as drawing paper for the kids. Blank sections are cut into smaller pieces for notes by the telephone. The rest is shredded and put into the compost pile, where it eventually becomes lovely stuff for the garden. If we get anything that resembles packing materials it's put in a box in the cellar and used when we send Christmas gifts for family (we're quite spread out).

Guest's picture
MaryJ

Ditto what the folks said above. Shred it. At least the application section and personal info. Folks digging through your trash will look for these items when they want to steal your identity.

I read an article somewhere that said the credit card companies really don't care if you send them back junk in the application envelope. It goes straight into the circular file. The benefits I see in replying are 1. you feel better and 2. it gives the post office worker something to do. Otherwise, I'm sure you can find a better use for your time and energy.

Try the optout option. It's similar to the do not call list and the no junk mail list. I just signed up a few weeks ago so I can't say how well it works just yet.

Guest's picture
Rob

I was wondering if you had tripped the capital one media followers with your post slamming capital one? I once had a post about capital one near a post about a boycott, and all of the sudden I started getting multiple search engine hits and bots. They never contacted me, but I thought it was pretty funny to watch them drool over my post.

Guest's picture
Suz

1- Good idea from a mail-order-marketing standpoint. You opened the letter, so the packaging did it's job. Ingenious if you ask me.

2- However, in the current climate with our growing concern as a society about our impact on the world, this is a HORRIBLE environmental responsibility message to send to potential customers.

Thank Goodness for the recycling can!

-Suz

Guest's picture
Robert

Check out this site:

http://officeofstrategicinfluence.com/bulkmailer/

I actually have a pile of bricks in my back yard that I've been too lazy to get rid of, and since I order a lot of stuff online, I've always got plenty of spare boxes. When life hands you lemons...

Guest's picture
Guest

I am so tired of the Capital One junk mail. We get something from them often but always, without exception, cut it to shreds and trash it. I have a feeling we aren't alone. They must think there are a lot of suckers out there to fall for this junk. What a waste of resourses this is.

Guest's picture
Guest

I can't believe the amount of junk mail that company recieves, there should be a law against it! I makes me SOOOOO angry having to throw their crap away every week, EVERY WEEK! You'd think after 4 years of no responses they'd give up, but its all automated. I hate this company with every fiber of my being.

Guest's picture
Taint Boil

Here is a funny story of a guy sticking it to the Banksters

"How I stuck it to the credit card companies"

http://patrick.net/forum/?p=25968

Guest's picture
chakla

Mail the junk back to them, minus the application form and any information with your name on it,they will have to pay the postage back to them.