For the past few years, I have been keeping letters arriving in envelopes that do not identify the sender. The overwhelming majority, 26 in all, are for the products of two hearing aid companies — Beltone and Miracle-Ear.

To be clear, at 80 years of age, I am in the hearing loss demographic and I do wear hearing aids, but I am quite certain that apart from growing old I did nothing to invite overtures for either company’s products. And why would the sender not want to be identified on the envelope? Could it reflect a belief that the letter might not be opened?

The letters employ different marketing strategies. The 12 for Beltone hearing aids are all in white business envelopes and have no return address. By contrast, the 14 for Miracle-Ear hearing aids include an address but no company name on the envelope and vary in size, with some looking like invitations to a party. One even states on the envelope that I am receiving “a unique invitation” and adds a personal touch by using script for my name and address. Another envelope has an appealing decoration, although the connection between leaves and hearing aids escapes me.

Some mailings for Beltone products seem potentially misleading, as they are in the form of a memorandum with the subject line reading “APPOINTMENT CONFIRMATION REQUESTED.” To me, “confirmation” suggests an appointment already made whereas the mailing is clearly an attempt to induce the recipient to schedule a screening. Are those of us old enough to have hearing losses more likely to forget whether we have made an appointment?

Hearing aid sellers are not alone in sending old folks unidentified sender mailings. Indeed, a favorite came from an entity offering me a “free updated Medicare Guide,” with the sender identified only as “Your Local Office.” While the envelope does show an Augusta return address, the sender seems to have an expansive view of “local” since to receive the guide you have to mail your request to an address in New Jersey. At least they warn you at the bottom of the mailing that “by responding you may be contacted by an insurance agent.”

Then there is the mailing advising me that my home warranty “may be expiring or may have already expired.” Did I forget buying a home warranty? For no apparent reason, the mailing includes what looks so much like a check for $197.38 that they felt it necessary to state, albeit in small print: “This is not a check.” And where the return address usually appears on the envelope are the words: “This notice is time sensitive. Information for mortgagee only” — a curious statement since homeowners cannot be their own mortgagees.

Even virtuous nonprofits sometimes employ unidentified sender solicitations, as I have received such mailings from Oxfam and the Appalachian Mountain Club, two organizations to which I was no longer contributing. Perhaps to create a sense of urgency, the Oxfam envelope states “Please respond in 10 days,” but there is nothing to indicate they would reject my contribution if sent 11 days later.

As a child, I eagerly awaited the mail. There might be a letter from a friend, a favorite magazine or even an unexpected gift from a grandparent. Of course, that was before we could communicate instantly by email, text and social media and when we were admonished to talk quickly on the phone with a relative in another town because of the high “long distance” rates.

Although most of my mail now falls into one of two categories — worthless or objectionable — there is one constant from my youth.  Postal carriers tend to be among the friendliest people, and America would not feel like America without them. So, if for that reason alone, I am prepared to tolerate the unwelcome mail they are legally obligated to put in my box although I do think the time has come for the U.S. Postal Service to ban envelope anonymity.

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