Kennesaw Retiree Battles Unsolicited Mail
Self-described “consumer activist” William Harris takes charge against unwanted AJC deliveries.
“I am simply one individual who is trying to get a large, faceless corporation to do the ‘right thing’,” said Kennesaw resident William Harris. Harris, a 64-year-old retiree, is a self-described “consumer activist,”and the operator of more than 100 different blogs, many of which are centered around specific consumer rights issues.
In late 2009, Harris said that he began receiving unsolicited copies of “The Evening Edge,” a supplemental advertising flier released by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“I don’t subscribe to the AJC. Haven’t for seven years," said Harris.
“I have no interest in any of their advertising sections, and I demand that the AJC stop throwing litter on my property. They have been warned several times and have even told me it would stop, but it has not.”
Harris said he made complaints to both the Kennesaw City Council and the Kennesaw Police. “I had made up postcards and sent them out to businesses that advertised in the toss away publications,” Harris said. He also said he sent several postcards to representatives of the AJC.
“I made my usual contacts asking it to be stopped,” said Harris. “It stopped, it started again.”
In Jan. 2010, Harris filed a complaint with the Atlanta branch of the Better Business Bureau. That spring, Harris said he began receiving unsolicited copies of “AJC Reach,” an additional advertising flier.
“My complaints had no lasting effect, and I finally wrote them and put on my blog that if I got another AJC Reach or AJC Evening Edition on my property, that I would get a temporary restraining order against them,” said Harris.
“I began to see strange vehicles in the area parked for hours at a time on my street, the driver not getting out or going into any house,” said Harris. “I have three cameras that monitor the street in front of my house, so I quickly picked up that something was going on. I complained three times to the P.D., a neighbor complained, and finally the Chief got back to me with the info that it was people from the AJC. Seems that on the days in which the AJC’s third party delivery firm made the rounds, they were there to make sure no unwanted papers landed on my property. So it wasn't a case of child molesters or potential burglars, it was just the AJC 'staking out' my house.”
Harris said that since that time until now, his subdivision seems to be on the AJC's "do not throw list."
Last fall, Harris sent a letter to Cox Media Group President Sanford H. Schwartz. In the letter, Harris criticized the Atlanta Journal Constitution Executive Selection Committee for choosing American Circulation Innovators (ACI) as the firm’s primary distributor. Harris said ACI had a “poor history” in the Dallas area, and believed their contract with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was made on a low-bid basis.
“Litter like this is unacceptable no matter what the source,” stated Harris. “Keep in mind that we are talking about 1.7 million such flyers weekly in metro Atlanta. It isn't just a few thousand here and there; it is a major source of litter in the whole of Atlanta [and] these statistics come from the AJC and the firm they hired to toss this stuff.”
Although Harris is concerned about the environmental effects of the flyers, he said that his primary concern about the deliveries is the safety of homeowners.
“I am concerned with litter and the environment, but also I am really [upset] that they are putting a bull’s eye on my property for any nogoodnik that is looking for some stuff to take the pawn shop. This means that such toss away papers will pile up and serve as an invitation to any burglars that no one is in residence. I don’t want to come home to find my home has been cleaned out because some criminals have noticed the pile up of these ‘Evening Edge’ papers.”
Harris said he once discovered approximately 13 flyers in his driveway, most of which he considered “soggy and unreadable.”
“I am disabled and not as able as I once was to clean up the yard,” said Harris. “Having to go down the hill to pick up litter is a problem, but my main concern – which I have told the AJC about several times – is that I am frequently away. This only marks your home for any potential burglar as a place that is inviting with no one in residence. I want to stay lucky and one way to do that is to keep those off my property.”
In April 2010, Harris said he received a letter from a Cobb County attorney. Citing Section 102.5 of the Cobb County Code, the attorney informed Harris that the flyers were not constituted as litter under county or state legislation and that the county or state could not limit the distribution of the flyers on the grounds of protected free speech.
“It makes money for the AJC and they could continue to make money, just less of it, if they went back to mailing them out,” said Harris. “[I just want them] to stop tossing onto lawns, driveways and sidewalks these two advertising supplements.”