Is writing "Return to Sender" on junk mail and mailing it back to the sender effective at preventing "snail mail" spam?

I heard the sender has to pay postage twice, and if enough people did this, they would probably be reluctant in sending me more useless credit card applications, etc.

However, I've heard that this method isn't effective when the letter says "Electronic Response Requested" (or something along those lines).

  • This question does not really seem to be asking how to solve a problem, so I've closed it as off-topic.
    – michaelpri
    Dec 3, 2016 at 19:11
  • @michaelpri The problem is receiving too much junk mail.
    – Geremia
    Dec 5, 2016 at 17:45
  • I would call receiving anything more than 0 pieces of junk mail to be a problem worth solving, and I have heard of this solution. The answers were very helpful. Dec 9, 2016 at 8:57

2 Answers 2


This is completely ineffective. Most junk mail (at least in the USA) is sent in a mail class that doesn't even provide return service; all you accomplish is to task the Postal Service with transporting the mail piece to a Dead Letter Office, where it will be destroyed, if it isn't destroyed at an earlier step in the dead letter process.

Functionally, there is no way to get off junk mailing lists; many bulk mailers simply buy listings of all valid addresses in a particular geographic region and send their pieces to Every. Single. Address. These are often the ones marked "Resident" or addressed to someone who might have moved years before (with "Or Current Resident" appended). Even on more targeted lists, like customers of particular businesses (those that ask your address at checkout, or issue loyalty cards, for instance), once you're on the list, you probably can't get off it.

Best I can suggest is that you might be able to heat your house for "free" (you'll spend some of your labor, but little to no money) if you can manage to get on enough junk mailing lists -- there are a number of videos on YouTube on the subject of converting junk mail to homemade stove or fireplace fuel. There are many documented cases of people managing to completely stop paying for winter heat with similar methods (though if you live in a region prone to air quality issues, burning bans may affect this).


Generally speaking - no. The sender won't care, they've budgeted for it.

The only way I have found that works most of the time, is to write "Addressee Deceased" on the envelope and then return it to sender.

Even the most dedicated senders don't want to send mail to the dead.

  • Have you tried that? Is it indeed effective?
    – Geremia
    Dec 2, 2016 at 16:25
  • @Geremia:. Yes I have used that trick. As I mentioned, it usually works, but not always.
    – Chenmunka
    Dec 2, 2016 at 19:30

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