I don’t need any more return address labels.

I must have more return address labels than anyone in the city of Waterville.

And they are of every size, color and decoration imaginable.

Some have flowers next to my name and address; others have sailboats, lighthouses, frogs, trees, flags, maple leaves, Santa Clauses and a big “C” for the first letter of my last name.

I have all these labels because people keep sending them to me. It started more than 20 years ago. I figured it would stop after a few years, but I was wrong.

The return address labels come from all sorts of associations and charities and, of course, they all want money in return.

Years ago, I felt guilty if I did not send a contribution to places that sent me labels. But I discovered that, as soon as I sent a check, they’d send me more labels — and toss in extra items such as stickers, note pads and bookmarks.

I didn’t want or need all this stuff, but it kept coming.

I took to throwing away labels because I felt guilty if I did not send money. Then I felt guilty about throwing away so much paper.

In desperation, at one point I wrote to an organization, asking it not to send me any more labels, but they continued to flood my mailbox.

Then one day, I discussed this situation with my sister-in-law, who gave me a good talking to. She said any unsolicited mail we receive is ours — it is in no way our obligation, duty or responsibility to send money in return.

People should give what they want to give, and to organizations of their choice — not to every Tom, Dick and Harry who sends address labels, she said.

It took me a while, but I warmed to the idea.

I started keeping the return address labels I liked and tossing the rest. I trimmed off the flowers, Santa Clauses and other decorations I didn’t like.

I confess, I use a lot of return address labels. But I could not, if asked, assess the number I have thrown out or tossed into the fireplace over the years.

I still have piles of them. I keep some in my address book, some on my coffee table in a little wooden tray and some in a cabinet where I store cards, stationery and envelopes.

I am sure that I’ll never need another return address label as long as I live.

To clarify, I don’t view myself as a cheapskate. I give to various organizations, including my hospital, the college from which I graduated, and other entities I deem near and dear to my heart.

I believe strongly that one should give back, but I object, in principle, to the practice of pestering people endlessly by mail and telephone.

I especially dislike the targeting of elderly people — seniors on fixed incomes who cannot afford to shell out money, but do so out of a sense of obligation.

Many have worked hard all their lives and have given generously and conscientiously. Now it is time to stop hounding them.

I understand that competition is fierce in these tough economic times. Organizations must be aggressive in getting the word out that they need money, but isn’t there another way to do it?

Organizations that harass people ought to be ashamed of themselves, particularly when not everyone has the clarity of mind or wherewithal to understand what is being asked of them, and why.

I don’t receive as many phone calls as I used to from people asking for money, but when I do, I politely say “No, thank you,” until the caller gets sick of hearing it. That typically works and the call ends.

But now, how do I get organizations to stop sending me return address labels?

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]

 

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