The Bereavement Register has set up a website [link to rememberingyouthischristmas.com removed; the site has now been taken offline, JB] encouraging people who have been bereaved to write a Christmas message to their deceased loved one(s). If you have been bereaved and agree with the terms and conditions [link removed, JB] of the website (only four pages long) you can type a message of no more than 140 characters (including spaces) into a web form. While doing so, you can listen to a piece of music (©) composed by an employee of the Bereavement Register which makes Bach's Goldberg Variations sound like elevator music. Every detail has been thought of; the website even tells you not to enter your bank account details - a useful piece of advice for those who know someone on the other side still owing them money.
The messages collected via the website will be sent "into an area of deep space" at precisely 1am (GMT) on Christmas Day. As a comma separated text file, in case you were wondering. And just because us Earthlings can't be sure that the intended recipients will be able to open .csv files, your message will also be published on the website and appear as a Tweet on the accompanying Twitter page (unless, of course, you tick an opt-out box).
Really, how desperate for PR can you be? Sure, people have every right to grieve as they wish and expressing your feelings is an important part of the grieving process - but this stinks of shamelessly exploiting people for whom Christmas will be a difficult time. Let's be clear, the Bereavement Register is not some sort of charity. It's part of REaD UK (that lowercase 'a' is not a typo), a company that specialises in creating suppression files and which is the proud owner of 'lifestyle databases' containing personal information about millions of UK citizens (which are sold to junk mailers, who can then use the information to target you with yet more junk mail).
The Bereavement Register is 'just' one of eight different suppression files produced by REaD UK. It contains the names and addresses of people who have died, and is sold to bulk mailers who can use it to compare the register with their own mailing list. It's PR strategy is to present the service as a charitable and effective way of stopping junk mail sent to the deceased. It is not. According to REaD UK you can expect to be sent some 80 pieces of addressed junk mail in the first twelve months after your death. The average person alive gets just under 80 pieces of junk mail per year - clearly the service is not making much of a difference.
The Bereavement Register is a good idea in principle, but it has a fundamental flaw; that is, it's run as a for-profit business. As is the case with any suppression file, there are heaps of bulk mailers who either can't be bothered or can't afford to buy the Bereavement Register - how else can you explain the extraordinary amount of junk mail that is still being sent to people have died?
If the Bereavement Register is really so concerned about the "extreme upset" caused by junk mail sent to the deceased, why don't they produce a suppression file that is free? Why doesn't REaD UK urge its friends in the junk mail community to develop a system that would simply require any junk mailer to use such a free suppression file? Levy a tax of a penny on every piece of addressed junk mail and the industry would have £40m annually to spent on such a scheme.
Then, and only then, could REaD UK claim with dry eyes that this website has nothing to do with using the bereaved for a PR-stunt.