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The Washington Post burns through its share of paper. Its Sunday edition alone, bulked up by a sheath of advertising inserts and classified ads, can tip the scales at around 2½ pounds. That, of course, is just for the people who want it.
The Post Co. also distributes its brand to people who don’t request it. Logan Circle resident Michael Sirvet says he’s been getting something called the Washington Post Shopping Guide “forever.” When he finds the weekly promotional piece in his mailbox, he follows a simple routine that involves throwing it away.
The guide, however, became something more than an annoyance when Sirvet came back from a vacation. “I had 10 days of mail with these two papers smashed up,” says the 41-year-old Sirvet. “It was getting in the way of my other mail.”
The Post, for Sirvet at least, has turned into the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. He claims that since the beginning of this year, he’s called the paper more than 10 times in a futile effort to get himself removed from the mailing list. “The first couple of times, they were nice. After the third or fourth time, I asked to talk to a supervisor,” he says.
“”It just boggles my mind. It’s now kind of humorous in a Kafka–esque way.…It’s a waste of paper,” says Sirvet, a self-described “tree hugger.” After repeated pleas to the Post, Sirvet even called the U.S. Postal Service to ask whether it could stop a particular piece of mail from ending up in his box. The answer was no.
Rima Calderon, vice president for communications and external relations at the Post Co., declined to answer most questions about Sirvet and the shopping guide, including basic ones about who gets the guide and how many editions are mailed out each week. Calderon did say, however, that Sirvet is the only opt-out problem the guide’s staff is aware of.
Last week, Sirvet received the Sept. 18 shopping guide, which contained pullouts from Shoppers and Rite Aid.
“I’m just not a big shopper,” says Sirvet. “I’m not a heavy-duty consumer. There are people who use coupons—-I just don’t use them that often.”
(City Paper photograph by Darrow Montgomery)