Monday, March 03, 2008

Yellow Book - Shame on You

When I came home on Friday, I discovered that my street had been attacked by Yellow Book. This must happen a few times each year (depending on how many competing phone directories distribute books to Southie).

Each time I'm greeted by piles of bound paper at my doorstep, I think the same exact thing - what a waste. The energy to distribute and manufacture these, the raw materials used to print these, and our time to dispose of them properly.

It's almost as if I feel like some random person has thrown a 12-pack of empty cans on my doorstep. I didn't want them, but the responsible thing to do is to put them in the recycling bin on Tuesday nights.

I brought the four Yellow Books into our downstairs vestibule, where they still sit days later. Never mind we only have three units in this building. They must have figured that one of us wanted a second copy, just in case we misplaced the first one.

During our walks, Rosie and I have noticed a number of still-wrapped books sitting outside of my neighbors' front doors.

Why can't we order these books and have them shipped IF we wanted them? Why does Yellow Book automatically assume we appreciate their annual tome, because clearly, many of us do not. (I mean, having worked in the media for so long, I get why they do this - circulation numbers are inflated by number of books distributed, and ad rates reflect these figures.)

It kills me to see this waste - primarily from an environmental perspective , but now as a media advertiser, it shows how they are selling unfair numbers to their clients.

It's 2008. Anything in your book, I can get online for free. I can opt out of emails. I can opt out of junk mail and pre-approved credit card offers. But I can't stop the Yellow Books from coming.

Tomorrow, if they are still in the entryway, I will take that as a sign to put them in this week's recycling.

Please stop killing trees. Or show me your carbon offsets, and maybe I'll consider forgiving you.


Jason said...

To follow up, during my coffee break this morning, I noticed in my analytics that someone with an IP address from Yellow Book's regional offices in King of Prussia, PA landed on this site.

First off, welcome! Way to have some Google Alerts set up correctly, or to have somebody on top of scouring the Google Blog Search.

Second, it full disclosure, Yellow Book does have recycling info on their website, and a link to info about local recycling efforts.

However, I still maintain that these books are unwanted pollutants of our neighborhood, and the onus should not be on residents to recycle these if we didn't ask for them in the first place.

Suldog said...


I empathize. When MY WIFE and I actually wanted a phone directory, we called to have one delivered. We received deliveries of phone directories for (I am not making this up) 17 days in a row. When we called on the fourth day (yes, we waited that long) the rep suggested we go door-to-door to our neighbors and see if they wanted one. Um, no. When we called on the ninth day, we were assured it would stop. We didn't call again, just having fun seeing how long it would go on. 17 days. Amazing.

eileen said...

I got hit with the latest delivery as well. What a waste of paper!

Paulangi said...

Lest anyone think this issue of wasteful Yellow books is being overblown, I read somewhere a while ago that a huge amount of landfills is comprised of JUST old telephone books--something in the double digits.

ken said...

The EPA will confirm that Yellow Pages only make up 0.3 percent of all the landfill space.

Paulangi said...

Hmmm...I stand corrected. Thanks, Ken. I did get motivated to check out an EPA site, where I found the stats that 38% of municipal solid waste in landfills is paper and paper products and 15% of that is "Directories," which, if my math is correct, is around 5%. Not "double digits," as I stated, but still surprisingly large (at least to me). What's more, directories are hard to recycle (weak, short fibers) and don't break down--even after decades (dense).

mermaidshoes said...

it's just hard to think of any other company that's 'allowed' to leave its product on your doorstep for you to deal with! why is this an acceptable business model?

Meaghan said...

This drives me crazy as well. My delivery of yellow books to my condo in Southie is still sitting on our front steps, awaiting it's trip to the recycle bin tonight. What a waste! I googled opting-out of this and found this link:

Liz said...

I am happy to report that on my walk yesterday morning to the #7 Bus stop, just about every recycle or trash bin along the way had both the Yellow Book & Verizon Yellow Pages ready for disposal. Of course there are still several stoops with the piles still on them. I guess they will get them next week! What a waste.

Tommy said...

Jason, consumers can “opt out” of receiving telephone books at or they can call the publishers.

This organization will contact the publishers and inform them to stop delivering books. This is a free service for consumers. If I need a book we will call. Otherwise I “opt out” from receiving it.

Here are phone numbers of the publishers if you would like to call them instead:
— ATT/ Yellow Pages: 1-800-479-2977
— Verizon: 800-555-4833, press 4, then 5, then 2
— DEX: 1-877-243-8339, press 2
— Yellow Book: 1-800-929-3556, press 2

Either way we have to stop the nonsense of dropping books off to be thrown away and fill up landfills.

Alaura said...

Hi Jason, I'm a Yellowbook employee and I thought you might find it useful to know a couple things about Yellowbook's production process. It might set your mind at ease, or at least dispell some false perceptions out there.

1) If you crack open to the first page of your local Yellowbook (right after the Table of Contents), there's a section called "The Environment, Yellowbook and You" you'll find a statemnet highlighting Yelloowbooks corporate value of environmental stewardship. You can also find more about our approach to corptate responsibility here:
- We use certified forests in manufacturing the paper that isn't derived from waste product.
- We use soy-based inks in our printing process.
- We partner with Earth 911 for recycling events and evirnomental eduction initiatives.
- We now have a partnership with Distributech (a company that sets up racks in grocery stores and gas stations), which will aid in keeping fuel consumption down in areas that might needsecondary distribution.
- We keep distribution routes fuel efficient by enlisting the aid of the postal service for delivery of books in rural areas.
- Our sales force is in the process of becoming fully automated, which will reduce the use of paper internally.
- All of our offices are equipped with recycling bins.

2) As far as the perceived need or lack there of of printed yellow pages, Bill Gates predicted "in 10 years, the yellow pages will be extinct". That was 10 yeasr ago, and billions of people are still refering to the phone book. I have something to admit: I'm a die-hard googler. If I need a pizza, I'll most likely go to to look up a loocal pizza place ( I don't like google's local search, too many irrelevant results and not everyone has a website yet, but they'll likely have their print menu posted online). My boyfriend, however (same age as me), will reach for the phone book. Yes, more and more people are getting wired, and our company is definitely keeping pace with local search trends, but I've seen meter after meter reveal that our print advertisers are still getting thousands of calls a year from their print ads.

Alaura said...

P.S.--- Did some digging into meters... Arlex Yellow Cab's 1/4 page ads in the Greater Boston 2008-2009 Yellow Book received almost 400 calls by April of this year. Since there's a 70% follwo-through rate on yellow pages calls (probably higher specifically for taxi cabs), that company has probably made thousands out of their ad already.

Jason said...

Alaura - thanks for the comments.

I would challenge a 70% follow -through across all industries, as my job is as a marketing analyst, and we certainly did not expect 70% of all Yellow Pages leads to lead to customers.

Second, phone directories work for some, very true. Dial-up Internet also still works well for some people. Disposable film cameras still work for many. I'm sure lots of people still record TV shows into VHS cassettes. Technologies relevant in the past don't have to disappear immediately. If it works for you, great.

My point is simple - please don't assume I want one (or, 4). Please don't assume my neighbors want one. If I want one, I'll ask for one.

Social responsibility does not begin with wasting resources to distribute something and then putting the onus onto another. Social responsibility begins with you. With me. Telling people how to recycle directories, having recycling programs in place at your offices - all that is great. I would expect it.

However, if there wasn't an agenda in place to maintain circulation figures, this wouldn't be an issue.

Until these assumptions change, and until I stop seeing unwanted phone books pile up in my neighborhood, the battle lives on.

Philip C said...

Jason - Great points!
My name is Philip Cantwell and I am the founder that was referenced above by Tommy. has been criticized by the YP Industry for basically being un-American and attacking their distribution process. “I know you may not want one but you get one anyway”. is not anti-Yellow Pages. If a person wants one – great! But, if I do not want one please do not send it to me. Don’t tell me it is not big deal and just recycle it.

We have been hammered by the YP industry that you don’t have one pizza company in your neighborhood so you should not want one telephone book. What does that argument have to do with sending me six pounds of paper six times a year and telling me to like it. Is this crazy? I do not come home at night and have a pizza sitting on my door. If I want a pizza I will order one.

Aluara makes great comments on the value of the Yellow Pages. Again great!! Please use them when you sell your advertising to businesses. But again, if I do not want a book please do not send me one. I have made a decision not to use or want one. Why do you feel it is your right to continue to give them to me?

I opt out from wanting them!!

mark said...

Poor Alaura, do you drink the free Kool Aid in the Yellowbook breakroom? I certainly don't believe you have to bite the hand that feeds you, but don't defend your employers disregard for the environment to boost circulation numbers and revenue...and don't act like their environmental stewardship isn't simply a wall to hide behind because they have received so much grief from people who don't want their product.

I understand that the yellow pages is helpful for people like your boyfriend and my grandparents, and I use it to call a cab if I'm at a bar or ballgame. But I live in a house with just my wife, a dog, and high-speed internet, so when I walk outside to 2 yellowbooks on my doorstep and 1 at my mailbox (I guess my dog may need his own book?), I get annoyed and search online for ways to make them stop delivering it, which is more time consuming than it should be.

I think a fair solution would be a very public announcement in which Yellowbook, at their own expense, hires an independent 3rd party to pick up any books not claimed within 3 days of delivery. This way they can foot the bill for recycling the books as well as the inconvenience, and all I have to do is walk past it for 3 days. Then they should have to report how many books were picked up and how skewed their circulation figures are. Maybe then, when it hits them in their pocketbook, they will become more environmentally conscious.