Gone but not forgotten

by | Jan 8, 2016

My Dad died many years ago. Not quite as many years ago my lovely and ever patient Mum was still receiving bouncy, happy post for my Dad telling him that the new car registrations were soon coming out and that it was the absolutely perfect time for him to buy a new well known brand of car.

Tempting isn’t it?

My siblings and I are evil. It’s wrong and I make no apologies. We wanted to write back suggesting séances or a day trip to the crematorium for the sales person. But as any long suffering parent can identify with, the matriarch of the family told us off and we consigned the letters to the recycling bin.

According to 2013 ONS statistics, there were just over half a million deaths (source). Looking at the data for 2000 it shows there were nearer to 550,000 deaths. Using an average of half a million a year, in the last 15 years 7.5 million people have died.

When you put it like this, it means the chance of you having dead people on your database is quite high.

My family obviously have their own, slightly warped, way of dealing with the situation, but for many people the pain caused by receiving post – or worse, a phonecall – for their loved one is deeply distressing. There are no words you can use to alleviate this. There is nothing you can do to un-make the anguish. Yet organisations are still reluctant to suppress deceased names from their database.

Unlike movers, where there is only a financial argument, deceased suppression comes with both a moral and a financial one. Morally it’s the right thing to do. When asked directly no one is going to say they find it perfectly acceptable to be mailing dead people thus causing their relatives distress, but clearly this alone is still not enough of an incentive. The main argument for not suppressing dead people is cost.

You can’t physically see the upset you’re causing by sending this mail, but you can physically see the cost of buying data you are not going to use. But this is where the argument falls down, because mailing dead people does have a negative financial impact. The cost of print and postage, even when it’s subject to a Mailsort discount is substantial and far exceeds the cost of a deceased flag. These people are never going to respond. The person who picks up the mail or receives the phonecall is never going to respond positively, and if you think otherwise you’re on a fools errand.

It’s a harsh reality that you can’t and shouldn’t avoid, so unless you have a Ouija board to hand, I reckon you should probably think about a bit of a data spring clean.

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