For years, my mother received a steadily escalating stream of packages. In the early nineties, when she was still living in Hot Springs, I started seeing a lot of boxes from United States Purchasing Exchange. Mother’s only explanation was that it was a noble entity with the lofty purpose of opening up trade with China. Years later, stumbling upon an invoice, I noticed that USPE had a sweepstakes. Of course!
That Publisher's Clearing House has long targeted the elderly is widely known. Mother ordered much more than magazines from PCH; she ordered all manner of junky stuff, with several boxes often arriving in a single day. She quickly stashed them under a bed, in a closet or in the garage before we could notice them (or so she thought). The Prize Patrol's arrival was always two weeks or thirty days or sixty days away.
Even as early as 1991, Mother's credit card bills revealed that she was spending around $400 per month on orders from USPE, Michigan bulb, and PCH. Multiple orders to Michigan Bulb in a single day were not unusual. Later on, the list grew to include sweepstakes run by such venerable brands as Reader's Digest and American Express.
Can you guess what our Christmas presents were like? Cheap jewelry, flimsy kitchen paraphernalia....
Once I gained control of my mother’s mail in 2004, my sister and I returned 16 packages to PCH in the first two weeks alone. When I cleared out the house to sell it in 2005, every nook and every cranny of every room, closet, piece of furniture, and the garage that didn’t contain boxes of junk mail were filled with thousands of dollars worth of these trinkets, many of them still in unopened packages.
United States Purchasing Exchange and Michigan Bulb went out of business, but Publisher's Clearing House is still going strong.