Business Reply Mail

I received a letter from my bank today. Before the fold, it contains this simple text:

Matthew—We’re writing to remind you it’s important for us to receive the missing information indicated below by November 5, 2009.

“Oh no,” I thought in a panic. I’m in trouble with my bank. I must have missed something important.

I then unfolded the rest of the letter.

It’s a promotion for Accidental Death & Dismemberment insurance. It’s important that I sign up soon if I want to receive their promotion.

This is one of those things that really bothers me. I’m used to companies playing dirty tricks, but my bank—not just any bank, but DCU, which is usually above these things—trying to fleece me into believing that they’re sending me an important communication about my account, when it is actually a promotion? It left me somewhat upset.

I plan to write a letter to the bank. But in the meantime, I decided to engage in a bit of petty, passive-aggressive protest. I wrote a quick one-paragraph e-mail expressing my resentment for their practices and stuffed it in the Business Reply Mail envelope they sent along.

But then I got to wondering: just how much was my protest going to cost? And how are they billed? Will taping pennies as I’ve heard about drive up their costs?

I went to the source, and the answer is kind of depressing. The “Basic” plan costs them 74 cents per parcel. Score! But if you read on, it’s not nearly as fun. If they receive a lot of replies (891, apparently, not really that many) the rate drops to 8.3 cents each. If they use “Qualified” mail, which seems to consist of setting up a virtual ZIP+4 ZIP code and using barcodes for faster routing, the rate is 5.2 cents. If they receive more than 42,778 cents, they should go for the “High-volume QBRM” plan, which, after an outlay of about $2,500 to set up, costs them a mere seven-tenths of a cent per reply.

It does seem that there’s a weight limit of 2 ounces on the cheaper “Qualified” BRM, but I don’t know how it works. I can’t imagine that the USPS actually weighs every incoming message to make sure. So I don’t know if my fantasy of an envelope weighing more than 2 ounces actually gets me anywhere. If it does, note that there seems to be no reason to go beyond 2 ounces, so don’t waste your pennies.

I simply wrote them a concise letter and stuffed it in the envelope. While I’d love to think that I’m sticking it to them, odds are that I’m costing them 0.7 cents. The greater cost is probably in the 20 seconds it will take someone to open the envelope, glance at the letter, and throw it in the trash. But I don’t really care. I feel like I’m sticking it to the man.

Unfortunately, the reply goes to the insurance company, not my bank. I plan to write an actual e-mail to my bank, intended more at expressing my disappointment, and less at wasting their time and money.

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