Stuffing envelopes: What’s it all about and how does it work? Are there any real opportunities or is this just another scam?
Question from HBT reader: How can I tell if the stuffing envelope information I read is legitimate?
To start, it’s worth noting the distinction between a job and an opportunity.
We all know what a job is from our experiences in the world of employment. Someone hires you, expects you to fulfill a job requirement, and they pay you.
Think about all the things an employer ask of you before employing you. They have you fill out an application, perhaps ask for a resume, they offer certain benefits, they withhold taxes from your checks, and so on.
Anyone that says they will pay you for your services is required by law to collect certain information from you.
At the very least, the one thing that is required of any company that issues a check to someone for services rendered is this:
They must obtain your Social Security number or Employer Identification Number for the purpose of reporting your earned income to the IRS.
So, it can be said that if someone doesn’t ask for your SS number or EIN, then they are promoting an opportunity.
The problem with envelope stuffing offers is that these folks often give you the impression they are offering a job, when in fact they are not. This a read flag you may be dealing with a work-at-home scheme.
Warning Signs of an Illegitimate Opportunity
Here are some key features of illegitimate offers that you should watch out for:
- No contact email address or phone number for you to ask questions and get more details.
- You must send money before getting ALL your questions answered about the offering.
- The address to send payment is a mailbox, not a physical address.
- The ad makes promises of quick money with little effort.
- The ad focuses mainly on the greed factor. It spends a lot of time telling you how good it feels to have money, but does a poor job of explaining the details of the offer.
Envelope stuffing is an example of people who use persuasive skills – they create an illusion of “easy money” – to entice people to send in their money. They want you to get really excited about making lots of easy money, to the point that the “how-to” details of the offer are something you don’t consider.
Make no mistake, earning money takes effort. Money can come easily, but only after you invest time and effort.
The Real Deal on Stuffing Envelopes
Here are the key areas of envelope stuffing which are not revealed to you by promoters. Read over these points and you’ll understand why these programs are flawed:
Direct Mailers Already Perform This Service Affordably
A company typically doesn’t need home-based stuffing of envelopes. It costs less than 50 cents per envelope for direct mail services. Often much less.
What’s a Starter Kit?
Often the people behind these offers ask you to pay for a Starter Kit. What do you receive with the Starter Kit? They don’t say in exact words. Most of the time you’re told it contains everything you need to get started.
Never Pay For Disclosure
Often times you are asked to send in a “good faith” payment before getting details of the offer and to prove you’re serious. Any legitimate operation will give you full disclosure beforehand. Never pay for disclosure. This is a dead giveaway that it’s a scam.
What’s A Processing Fee?
Sometimes the up-front payment is called a “processing fee” that covers the promoter’s expenses. Expenses for what exactly? Everything you need, of course. And what do you need? A starter kit! What’s a starter kit? Everything you need!
Someone Else Must Stuff An Envelope Before You Get Paid
You only get paid for “stuffed envelopes” when someone else you recruit stuffs a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE), up-front fee, (“good faith” payment), into an envelope and sends it to you. You don’t actually get paid for stuffing the envelope that is sent to others. You must generate sales and/or leads to get paid. When other people are scammed into stuffing an envelope with money, then the “stuffing” cycle is complete.
Free Stamps and Envelopes Cost a Bundle!
A popular promotional point of envelope stuffing schemes is the promise of free envelopes and free stamps, leading you to believe you will have no costs except for your initial “processing fee.”
Actually, you receive your free stamps and envelopes by placing advertisements asking people to send you a self-addressed, stamped envelope in exchange for free information. Needless to say, advertising the fact that you have free information is, well, not free. In fact, it costs more than if you paid for the stamps and envelopes yourself!
Very few people are willing to go to this much trouble in an age of ‘instant information’. Plus, people want information that truly is free – free information does not add up to 2 good stamps and 2 good envelopes.
When was the last time you took the effort to self-address an envelope, put a stamp on it, put this envelope into another envelope, address that envelope, put another stamp on, then mail it? When did requesting free information through a 800 number or via the internet become old-fashioned?
You advertise the program using your own money. If you don’t advertise, you don’t make money. If they offer to sell you a mailing list of names and tell you to use it in direct mail campaigns, it’s worthless. The response rate to these lists are well below 1%.
The Revolving Door: The Advertisement Is The Product
Most commonly, the information, or “circulars”, or “product literature” or whatever they say you are stuffing, is really just the exact sales letter you read which convinced you to send in your money. It’s a revolving door with no actual product.
The Back Door Ploy
Sometimes you may be led to believe a booklet, special report, or direct mail circular is the actual product. But this is not the case. For instance, a special report on “Legitimate Home Jobs” may actually be a back door tactic to try and convince you that the scammer is unbiased and simply “reporting” the facts. When in fact, the goal of the report is to endorse an envelope stuffing program.
Testimonials Are Just Words Unless Verified
Sometimes you’ll see testimonials from “real people” who are supposedly making money stuffing envelopes. The testimonials are worthless when you can’t follow up with the “satisfied customer” to verify the claim. Anyone can slap up some words and call it a testimonial.
Contacting Promoter Is Met With Roadblocks
If the promoter of the program offers an 800 number it is usually not for contacting the company. Most often it is a pre-recorded message telling you to leave a message or mail your inquiries to their rented mailbox. Why would they give out this number? Because it looks good and most people don’t call it. Website addresses are usually dead ends.
Consider this, if you ever need to contact this person or “company” with a question or problem, you’ll have to write them. No phone calls. No email. Why? Because it’s a shady operation.
Is That Guarantee For Real?
To get a refund if you’re not satisfied, you’ll have to fill a certain number of orders first. Usually it’s from 50 to 250. That’s a tall order. You’ll need to advertise heavily and aggressively to get that many orders. You’ll spend hundreds, even thousands, on advertising before qualifying for a refund.
What They Don’t Tell You
Some envelope stuffing programs seem fairly straight-forward. They explain what you will do and how to do it… right there on the website or in the literature.
For instance, you may see your pay specified at $4, $8, even $12, for each envelope you stuff. You learn about the stuffing process, their direct mail and newspaper advertising methodology, and the manner by which you will get paid.
What they don’t tell you is that you may find the ancillary products or services offered through their program morally and ethically objectionable. With enough digging, you may discover that not only will you be promoting the envelope stuffing offer to others, you may unwittingly be involved in the promotion of gambling sites, alternative medicinal therapies, or other non-regulated or illegal activities.
What they don’t tell you is that if you meet the requirements to get a refund, you’ll have already earned a substantial sum for the promoter. You soon discover that it’s cheaper to give up the program rather than meet the requirements of their guarantee. This is a mute point though, since these people often pull the plug on their rented mail box and move on when things get too hot.
What they don’t tell you is that effectively promoting a product or service doesn’t happen by just placing a few tiny ads or putting up a few fliers and asking for a SASE. They don’t tell you that advertising will bankrupt even the healthiest of accounts if done without discipline and testing.
Envelope Stuffing Operations Have Been Targeted By Federal Authorities
The Federal Trade Commission will actively prosecute large envelope stuffing schemes. This is a direct indication that promoters of these scams are operating outside of the law. The FTC, working in conjunction with individual states, has leveled charges against 77 work-at-home schemes in 17 states. A good portion of these stings involved envelope stuffing operations.
Are there any legit envelope stuffing jobs?
You can stuff envelopes as an employee for your local print shop or mailing house. They probably only pay a little better than minimum wage.
Or you could start your own Direct Mail business. This is envelope stuffing at its finest, and completely legal to boot.
Another way envelope stuffing could be legit is if you sell your own product or service, or sell someone else’s product or service for a commission, and you use direct mail to solicit sales. However, direct mail is just one advertising medium to drum up sales for a legit product or service.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brett Krkosska provides how-to advice on small business and home-based work issues. He is the founder of HomeBizTools and the publisher of Straight Talk, a syndicated column that offers a unique perspective on today’s business issues.