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Warranty Cards and Junk Mail

One purpose of the cards is to create mailing lists

Q. Should I fill out and send in the warranty cards that come with holiday presents?

A. If you have a receipt (which you should attach to the user's manual and file away), most products remain under warranty for the designated period whether or not you submit the warranty card.

In reality, the main purpose of these cards — they're sometimes called registration cards — is to create mailing lists.

By giving your name and address and answering questions that have nothing to do with guaranteeing the product — about hobbies and income, for instance — you are creating a profile of yourself that may then be sold to other companies for use in marketing campaigns. For instance, if you check a box on a card that you enjoy skiing, you can expect to receive solicitations from companies providing skiing goods and services.

Warranty cards are usually not mailed to the manufacturer, in fact, but to a third-party business. The nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse reports that most are addressed to a Denver post office box of Equifax Direct Marketing Solutions, which compiles buyer profiles and sells them to other companies.

But if you don't have the receipt — and with presents you often don't — it's a good idea to return the card in case you ever want to make a warranty claim. Returning the card will also allow the manufacturer to contact you if there's a recall or some other problem. But when you fill out the card, give only your name and address and the relevant information about the product. That will help head off those come-ons for ski vacations.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

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