A Financial Revolution 

December 29, 2005
What is Junk Mail Worth?
I usually shy away from making predictions, but I'm going to put one forward for the new year... I'll get more junk mail, and so will you. Did you order that nice cashmere sweater for Mom from LL Bean? Well both you and Mom will soon receive the next LL Bean catalog. How about that fruit basket you received from Harry and David. Long after the fruit is gone, you'll receive the H&D catalog.

Assuming you don't want the catalogs, what's a person to do? While I usually call the customer service number printed on the catalog and ask to have my name removed from their mailing list, Robert Beken of San Diego provides an interesting alternative: After employees at a computer store assured him the store wouldn't use or sell his personal information for advertising, Beken wrote the following short contract on the back of his check:
Computer City agrees NOT to place Robert Beken on any mailing list or send him any advertisements or mailings. Computer City agrees that a breach of this agreement by Computer City will damage Robert Beken and that these damages may be pursued in court. Further, that these damages for the first breach are $1,000. The deposit of this check for payment is agreement with these terms and conditions.
Not long after the store cashed his check, Beken received several advertisements from the store. He wrote complaint letters that went unanswered so he took the store to court. A Small Claims Court judge agreed that the check was a contract and awarded Beken $1,000 plus court costs of $21.

Now if only I could figure out how to do this with my credit card...

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