2012-02-23

Co.Exist

PaperKarma: An App That Stops Junk Mail With A Snapshot

Put an end to mailboxes stuffed full of offers for things you’d never want, while barely lifting a finger.

On average, the U.S. Postal Service processes and delivers more than 272 million pieces of advertising mail every day. That’s more than the number of first-class letters. If you’ve made a deliberate effort to go paperless, it probably feels like junk mail is all you get. It’s a mind-blowing waste of paper and fuel.

Want to get less? There is, finally, an app for that. If it works as well as advertised, it’s a godsend.

The app is called PaperKarma and it couldn’t be simpler. You take a picture of a piece of junk mail with your phone, press "send," and you’ll stop getting it. It works, they say, with magazines, catalogs, coupons, fliers, mailers, credit card offers, and white and yellow pages.

PaperKarma, founded by Seattle tech industry veterans Brendan Ribera and Sean Mortazavi, keeps a massive database of company information. They simply match your photo to the company that sent the junk mail and submit an "unsubscribe" request on your behalf. You even get a notification when the request goes through. And their database of companies, they say, is constantly expanded and updated as users send in more photos.

The app doesn’t work on all junk mail. Sometimes an advertiser simply blankets an entire zipcode with litter and PaperKarma can’t prevent that because there isn’t a list to remove you from. It doesn’t work immediately either. It can take weeks or even months for companies to process unsubscribe requests. But it sounds like the app can eventually stop just about any piece of junk mail that’s addressed to you.

PaperKarma was just released this month, so there aren’t comprehensive reviews from real users yet. But the PaperKarma blog has published several letters they received from company reps in response to unsubscribe requests. Brice Brown from Discover offers his "sincere apology for any frustration" the credit card company’s junk mail caused. He probably gets a lot himself.

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1 Comments

  • Empty mailbox

    This sounds like the most useful app I've heard of yet.  The frustration of junk mail, and the time they force you to spend to try to stop receiving it is incredibly unfair.  And the personal information in those credit card offers, or the free checks they send that you never requested are especially annoying because you actually have to open them and the shred them or tear them up well.

    And our lawmakers allow this because it keep the consumerist tax engine going.

    Unsolicited paper mail or emails should come with strict, expensive penalties.