Bugged by U-T Litterbugs

Calls to the U-T, the police, and the City haven’t stopped the indiscriminate paper tossing.
  • Calls to the U-T, the police, and the City haven’t stopped the indiscriminate paper tossing.
  • Image by Alan Decker

Am I the only one who can see them? All over my neighborhood are plastic bags filled with newspaper advertising. The circulars are everywhere.

I live in Pacific Beach and first noticed them in December. On my way home from my Saturday-morning walk, I spotted several lying in the street in front of my apartment complex. I hate it when guys come into the complex and place a circular before each door, but I really hate it when they leave them out front.

The circulars are distributed by the San Diego Union-Tribune — it says so right on the plastic bag. They are a subpublication of the U-T, delivered not just to the paper’s subscribers but tossed in front of every residential building.

On my morning walk the following Saturday, down Opal between Mission and Bayard, it was the same thing, about 50 newspapers lying around. I noticed several from the week before, their plastic bags missing and the damp and sun-bleached newsprint decomposing. Now we had a new crop strewn on the streets and sidewalks.

I resolved to resolve this problem.

I figured the first step was to contact the U-T directly, just in case they were unaware of how their advertising was being distributed.

This is the email I sent:


Every Saturday the UT has an advertisement. Instead of delivering them to the door, they are just left on the sidewalks. Pacific Beach is now covered with these, nobody picks them up, and they are all over the place. I think this is littering, and you should stop doing it.


Their response:

Dear Russell, 

I apologize for the inconvenience. Your address has been added to our “do not deliver” list for Local Community Values and your request has also been forwarded to the appropriate distribution company. 

U-T Customer Service

Second email:

Hi Jimmeace,

I don’t think you understand. I’m not just concerned about my own place, but the entire town is strewn with them. Please see the attached photos. They are from ONE SINGLE BLOCK of a street.

Here is their second response:

Dear Russell,

I do understand how frustrating this can be. Our system only allows us to look up address by address so I am unable to do anything at this time for the entire block. Each resident would need to call in to be removed. If there is a homeowners association that can provide a complete list of addresses faxed to our office we can make sure the third party company who delivers this publication is notified and the addresses removed from their route. The fax number to our main office is 619-293-2331.

U-T Customer Service

I did not know what to do next, but since littering is against the law, I called the Law.

I called the San Diego Police Department’s non-emergency line, and the dispatcher sent out an officer. He understood my problem but felt I had not given the U-T a fair chance. He said I should call them instead of emailing. He also gave me the number for community service officer Alan Alvarez.

My first call to the U-T seemed to go well. I had a chat with Aaron. I explained what the U-T was doing to the city and suggested that maybe they did not understand how their circular was being distributed. He said he understood and promised that someone would call me back.

I did not get a return call. The next day I gave the U-T another call and talked again with Aaron. He seemed surprised that no one had called me. As we were talking, we were disconnected. I called back, someone else answered, and I was told that Aaron had left. So much for trying to work directly with the U-T.

That same day I took another walk and chatted with neighbors. Everyone I talked to had noticed the problem, but I was the only one who had called the U-T. Sally on Loring Street was almost as upset as I was. She had walked up and down her block picking up circulars out of the street. She complained that the plastic bags were useless, too narrow to use for picking up dog poop.

On Opal Street, I caught the distribution guys. I stopped them and asked who had hired them. Someone at the U-T, they said, a guy named Oscar. Their SUV was stuffed with thousands of circulars. They tossed them from the front seat. I reached inside, grabbed a bunch, and threw them up in the air. “See! That’s what you are doing!”

Just then, a woman walking to her car came upon the scene. “Pick those up!” she shouted at me. “That’s littering!”

Oh, the irony. “Yes!” I said. “Please, call the police and have me cited for littering. That’s my whole point!”

I called Officer Alvarez on January 3. He agreed that littering was going on. He told me to call the Environmental Services Department of the City of San Diego.

I called Environmental Services. Lisa understood because, fortunately for me, the U-T was tossing them at her house, too.

Here is her reply:

Hi Russell,

I received all the pictures. I will review and decide where to go from there (call and/or letter). Our Public Information Officers handle all media related issues. I appreciate your time and concerns and the phone call to clarify exactly what they are doing, littering vs. handbill distribution.


I guess I have done my duty. I tried to do something that I think is good for San Diego. I never did hear back from Lisa or the U-T customer service department.

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Thanks for the story. U-T litter is in the east county too, those SOBs. Will send off an email requesting a stop to their littering.

Great PR for the U-T. I'm hoping this will help sway voters who are sitting on the fence regarding the stadium hype. Are you listening, "Papa"?

The ones I see around North Park are mattress company circulars. I have thrown many of those away. Does anyone ever actually pick them up and read them? It seems like a terribly inefficient ad campaign. Why would you want to do business with a company that litters?

Those "throwaway" packets of ads that are distributed by the daily newspaper had their genesis in the 80's as "total market coverage." The idea was that the paper would deliver them to all households that did not subscribe to the paper, thus covering all households one way or the other. At the time, Kmart, with its considerable clout was extorting that sort of program from daily papers all across the nation, threatening to pull its preprinted ads from the paper altogether if not provided with a TMC vehicle. Some papers really made it work, but many put a half-hearted and poorly run program in place. Those that really went at it correctly put the non-subscriber package in the mail, a relatively costly way to distribute. Kmart especially favored that effort because they were just trying to put their message into as many hands as possible.

At that time I was buying advertising for a retail company and seldom if ever found TMC to help. If our ads didn't go out in a paper that the reader paid for and wanted, they did not appear to get read. But we weren't Kmart, but rather a specialty operation that was in no way a discounter.

I'd agree that this sort of approach, even if done properly, seems unlikely to be effective. But it is generally cheap, and must work for the advertisers who use it.

After constantly getting these U-T circulars thrown into our fragile flowerbeds, on top of our hedges, and under our car, my family emailed their "customer service" over six months to get them to stop littering our property. Finally, it stopped. For a month. Then it continued. No one -- no one -- we know ever does anything with these things except throw them away.

I too live in PB and have been bombarded by these pieces of litter. Everytime I see the pick-up truck or van throwing them out the window, I grab them and throw them back in their window.

I belong to PB Town Council and the Planning Group. We should take a motion before the respective bodies and have them deem this "Littering Pacific Beach",take the approved motion to the City and have the City declare that the U-T is littering and to cease and desist.

This, I believe would make it permanent and put the U-T on notice for criminality.

Ironic isn't it, that the U-T is still putting these things out, annoying the recipients and neighbors at a time when the paper is incredibly shrunken from what it was a few years ago? I'd suggest the U-T can this whole approach, or mail the things, and put the funds into making the paper look like a major city daily paper again. It is getting hard to tell the difference between the paper itself in a plastic bag and the throwaway ad packet they send out.

Mr. Goltz, Great artical "Bugged by U-I Litterbugs". Believe it or not here in Nestor we have been putting up with the same thing. A few weeks ago I finally reached my boiling point and emailed a Ms. Rita Jurczk, who's name and email address I was able to obtain from the advertisement flyers that they dump on my driveway every Friday morning. In my email I politely asked her why was it that the U-T can litter my driveway with their plastic bag full of unwanted flyers which they named "Local Community Values" every Friday. I told her that, in the past, other advertisements use to be thrown on my driveway, such as the Penny Saver, but now have to be mailed using the bulk rate, to each home and why wasn't their flyers delivered through the mail like the others. I inquired about their permit that gave them permission to litter people's driveways. She emailed me back the next day and promised me that if I gave her my address that I would be removed from their delivery list. Two weeks past and to my disappointment I was still picking up their unwanted advertisements off my driveway. I contacted her once again and told her that either her delivery person hadn't got her message, or they weren't paying attention to her instructions, to by-pass my address when delivering their litter. I stressed my point that it was much easier to remove my address then take a chance of having to pay "Bulk Rate" if I went to the City Council and got them to make you mail those flyers City Wide. The very next day I received an email saying she was sorry and would get her delivery people to remove my address from their delivery list. Its been three weeks now and she has kept her word. I haven't found their advertisements on my driveway, so it seems to have worked. Maybe your readers can benefit from my dealings with the U-T people, so I'm adding the women's name and email address at the end of my letter.
Thanks again for that great story. Sincerly, Peter T. Nestor, Ca. 92154

U-T Contact for Local Community Values Ms. Rita [email protected] (Good Luck)

Here in the Grove we have people in crummy vans tossing these plastic encased ads onto our yards. They don't care where they land, it could be a big puddle or in a tree for all they care. I'm glad to know who is responsible because every time I have to deal with this litter, it ticks me off. It's just plain littering and isn't littering a form of vandalism? I think this is what I'll do, I'm going to save mine then dump them at the new owners property-just returning property- soggy and environmentally irresponsible as they are. It's just like getting those gross Pennysavers-it took me years to get off their delivery lists and now even the letter carriers know better than deliver those to my address. I, personally don't ever even open these circulars. Advertisers! Did you hear that? We do not read them! You are not getting the "circulation" for which you paid. So much for a "new improved UT"

I feel your outrage. For over two years, I would get this useless litter on my plants and driveway. The delivery folks would gladly let them stack up when I was on vacation. I made many phone calls to stop this practice. I spoke with 10 or more people in their India call center (all with randomly assigned anglo first names to make you feel at home). Each of them would apologize and promise most sincerely that the deliveries would stop, "but it may take some time". That promise was maybe good for a week, if that. The call center did log my calls (they could cite my prior calls), so I suspect they did their part.

The disconnect seemed to be back here in SD. Once I figured that out, I spoke with "Oscar". I forget his title, but his promise to stop deliveries was also ineffective.

I became too busy for awhile until the recent U-T campaign of giving everyone they had already pissed off, a complementary subscription to piss them off even more! These papers were being dumped randomly with more than half out in the gutter. Eventually I counted more than 10 papers in front of a vacant house down the street. At that point I sent an email from their website explaining THEIR littering problem.

My 'complementary' subscription stopped immediately. Maybe the word 'litter' has more clout than other words? The jury is still out on the community values paper which still appears.

My conclusion is that they do not maintain subscription lists for these circulars, and they do not give a rat's behind about the litter, or who they piss off. They are going to continue as they have as long as the advertisers pay, and the costs stay the same.

So what to do?

I doubt that even one in 10 of the circulars is ever read, and you and I are footing the bill for the disposal costs. To make it worse, every delivery is wrapped in environmentally unfriendly plastic (rain or shine), too much of which ends up in our food chain. Maybe if the advertisers understood how un-green and unwelcome the practice was, and had to pay those costs, they would opt for a more targeted approach.

When you see papers piling up, have U-T come out and collect them. Its THEIR trash. Make them pay those costs too.

If there is no effective way to opt-out from this U-T litter, my vote is these circulars are opt-in subscription only, or banished to the racks at the grocery store, coffee shop, etc. Better yet, stop the printing altogether!. Email distribution is a fraction of the cost, it doesn't increase the cost of trash collection, it does not pile up in anyone's yard, and it is easy to dispose of.

OK, vent it here: http://mail.sandiegouniontribune.cust-serv.com/

Going on vacation, you stop the mail, put the lights on timers, do a bunch of other things to make your house look occupied, and what do see when you roll up to your house? Piles of UT circulars on your DRIVEWAY (which make me hate them even worse than on my porch)announcing - "There's no one home so come break in!" This dumping of official litter from the UT has to stop. DOUG MANCHESTER! Do something - you putz!

I've got it! Someone publish Dougie's actual residential street address, and then a bunch of outraged recipients show up with a pickup bed (or two or three or a dozen) full of the semi-composted circulars and dump them--not in his driveway--but the part of his front yard that is the fanciest. One visit like that, and he'll see the Light (at the end of the tunnel.) Whooee, I'd like to be there.

Here are the contact pages at the web sites for Manchester Financial group (his company) and for "Papa Doug" Manchester ...



"I called the San Diego Police Department’s non-emergency line, and the dispatcher sent out an officer. He understood my problem but felt I had not given the U-T a fair chance. He also gave me the number for community service officer Alan Alvarez."

Well there's a new one for ya. A community service officer??? What's a community service officer, I've never heard of a community service officer and I live in the community! Is a community service officer a uniformed officer who wears a badge and has a gun at his side? I'd like to know because I, like the author of the article, am active in community issues. I checked SDPD's website and I did not see a link for community officers. Are they sworn peace officers in uniform? Any other info you can shed on the mysterious "community service officer" would be appreciated :)

What's a community service officer, I've never heard of a community service officer and I live in the community!

A CSO is a low level PD employee what is unsworn and has no more power-at least no greater power- than the private person.

They are $20K per year jobs and they hire the 9th grade drop out son of the Chief over a college grad.

Next up: windshield fliers. Is littering on someone's car still legally considered littering?


...in addition to being persistent. This is an incredibly irresponsible practice which unfortunately has been going on for years.

  1. File a complaint with the BBB (https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started). Businesses tend to take these more seriously than an email or letter from John or Jane Doe. Demand that they stop delivering to your home AND that they stop throwing the papers all over the public right of way (streets and sidewalks).


  1. File a complaint with the City (http://www.sandiego.gov/environmental-services/ep/illegal/illegal.shtml). The service request type is "Illegal Dumping" Put a note in the comments section that the dumping is on both private AND public property.


  1. If enough people do this, things will start to change. Pass the word to your friend and neighbors!

"I guess I have done my duty. I tried to do something that I think is good for San Diego. I never did hear back from Lisa or the U-T customer service department."

Well, no, Mr. Goltz, actually there was one other option you could have taken. An option that might portend to be omni-potent, fruitful. I bet other readers reading this know what I'm alluding to. Anyone care to guess? I know ya know....

Have Domino's deliver 10,000 pizzas to the U.T. office?

Sit in a car in the U.T. parking lot and play Norteno music loudly?

Send a smelly wet dog into the reception area?

The kicker is I have a pool, and a few years back I need to drain it to repair a leak. So I rent a pump and innocently start draining the water down the gutter.

45 minutes later the city storm water truck comes up, and threatens to fine me. Why? Well the water going down the gutter can move trash down into Mission Bay through the storm drains.

HUH? Where do all those pesky UT paper spam bags go when it rains?

After seeing a pile of about 20 of these promotional packets piled outside the small apartment complex in Pacific Beach where I reside, I called and spoke with someone at U-T who said that the littering practice has already resulted in numerous complaints and that it would be remedied. Print media is a dying breed and the unsustainable marketing practices associated with the medium is harmful to our environment. There is already enough litter in Pacific Beach without U-T contributing to it.

Found this just as I watch that sketchy white van litter my driveway again this morning.

Go after the ones who advertise in them too. If no one advertises, there's nothing they can litter the streets with.

Catch the plate, then call the police and report them for littering. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who has to stoop to throwing this useless garbage around has an array of legal issues... no license, no registration, immigration status, warrants, probation... if they start to figure out that their "deliveries" will get them in hot water, they'll stop "delivering".

~ The Wheels are Falling Off the U-T "Community Values" & "Encinitas Advocate" Throwaway Wagon ~ Doug Manchester's Trojan "grandfathering" Horse stumbles in Encinitas City & Dago County: On Wednesday 8/20/14, at 6:pm, I'll present a timeline of the U-T's plan for blanketing San Diego County with at least two throwaway publications from their collection of (9) local papers they've scooped-up since 2010, when Doug Manchester blew into town and bought up a few hotels and the Union Tribune from Copley - and began creating his own publishing legacy, by referring news releases from one news source to another, giving the appearance that they were are separately owned...... NOT! All are Manchester projects. :) tee-hee! •••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Joan from Code Enforcement just called to say that they are working on the "litter law" issue with their legal department and are not sure whether an ordinance can be constructed before Wednesday, so I would like to send over (3) additional pictures that I will take this evening of U-T's bagged-periodicals that are still left in the road, and on the shoulders of Crest Dr. I can have those photos by 6:45 p.m tonight. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••• And later, about my appearance at the August 20th town meeting: You are welcome to speak at Council if you want to. I can't guarantee that the home delivery will stop – I can only guarantee that your complaint will get to Code Enforcement with a strong urging from me that they do something. •••••••••••••••••••••••••••• On Sunday, August 17, 2014 6:31 PM, Lisa Shaffer wrote:

I've passed this on to our Council secretary to assign to Code Enforcement. I believe we have already determined that throwing a plastic-wrapped paper or ads that were not requested would be considered littering and our Code Enforcement staff should follow up on your complaint. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••• http://www.sandiegoreader.com/users/p...

I was able to call the U-T Local Values (U-T being Useless Trash) number at 877-730-8232 and have them stop littering my yard.

If you call once a day you can opt out your neighbors also.

I looked at the neighbors that had several old paper spam rolls in their yards/gutters and called the U-T to stop delivering to those addresses also. It worked. Granted it's a pain to have to wait 10 minutes on hold, but at least the area I walk is Useless Trash free now.

We succeeded in stopping delivery of this advertising to all 300 houses in our neighborhood! You can do it too!

Here's how to stop deliveries to your house and to your neighborhood:

1) Call the customer service number listed on the plastic bag: (877) 730-8232. Request that they stop delivering to your address, and to the neighbors around you. I had to call twice before they stopped delivering.

2) File a complaint with the BBB. This worked for us! In our complaint we asked that delivery be stopped to all the house in our neighborhood. We listed the 5 main streets around us. After a week the U-T responded to the complaint, promising to stop delivery, and this past weekend deliveries stopped to all 300 houses. That's a LOT of saved paper and plastic. About 100 complaints have been filed re the Union Tribune, the majority of them complaining about this very issue. Here's the link to make your own complaint: https://odrcomplaint.bbb.org/odrweb/public/NewComplaintForm.aspx?Qualified=y&BBBID=127&BusinessID=100401

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