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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 27, 2007 6:23 PM. The previous post in this blog was TurboTax Oregon kicker hassles aren't over. The next post in this blog is Portland debt clock ratchets back slightly. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

As the planet groans

In a city as "green and sustainable" as Portland says it is, I can't help but wonder why something still hasn't been done about an obvious environmental problem. A reader writes:

Just a heads up that the Qwest Dex delivery people are out in full force. They dumped 20 bags of phone books at my building on SW Curry on Christmas Day. Just this afternoon I caught them trying to drop some phone books off at my building on 17th and Hawthorne. I turned them away, and then they lied to me that they had talked to my tenants and "they all told us that they needed new phone books." I insisted that we certainly didn't need any and they moved on. 30 minutes later I went out to check the mail and -- sure enough -- there were 30 bags of phone books neatly stacked in the entryway of my apartment building. Happy Holidays from Qwest, I guess. They were driving a 1980s white van with Ohio plates PFF 1799. If you see them around let me know as I have 330 pounds of trash for them.
We've blogged about this before. Not only do we now get three phone books at our house every year from Qwest (one of which is immediately tossed), but there's at least one more that shows up from some other company during the year, only to go directly to the recycling bin.

Why can't the city come up with a system under which, at a minimum, people can opt out of getting new phone books unless and until they ask for them?

Comments (16)

I see they are swindling college students in the contract employment scam rather than illegal aliens as they did last round.

We still get 6-8 Qwest or Dex books littered on our porch every year and they go directly into the recycle bin. I would think you'd have to be a paying customer to receive them, but we haven't had a land line in years!

Easy to solve problem:

1. Find out where the distributor is located [usually in some suburban office park].

2. Collect as many un-wanted phone books as you can fit in your vehicle of choice. Most family members, friends, and neighbors are happy to donate to your cause.

3. Elect an extra set of hands for help

4. Deliver the un-wanted phone books to the distributor.

It is likely you will be stopped by someone. Simply let them know that you are kindly returning merchandise that had been left in the neighborhood.

Another thing you can do is send the distributor a bill for illegally dumping garbage on your property and or neighborhood.

I dont get them any more (I think they are afraid to come into the neighborhood)...but cant you just call the phone company and tell them you dont want them any longer?
I dont see how they are useful any more, especially with the internet & search engines. I dont even use the websites like "Yellowbook" or whatever. Just Google.
There are guys where I work that just cant function without a phone book. Every single time they need a number they are scrambling for a book when they have a computer on their desk. Makes no sense...

Navin R. Johnson: "The new phone book's here! The new phone book's here!... I'm in Print!"

I don't think you can call Qwest anymore about this. My Qwest rep a couple of years ago said the Yellow Pages was spun off from the main company and is a separate entity.

I think in addition to Dex, there are at least two other books that come out every year, and possibly Verizon being a third. I advertise my small business in the Qwest Yellow Pages at outrageous prices because it is the only one people will keep around and use. And, yes, sometimes you need to look in the book, as Googling around the Internet can be a total waste of time. And of course, there are times when you aren't near a computer.

That said, I've noticed that over the years, more of my customers come to me because of my web page than from the Yellow Pages. So I really need to get that antiquated web page up to speed.

The City has followed up since you and I blogged about this earlier this year, Jack. My latest progress report is here. But in addition to joining the multi-state committee, the City should immediately adopt standards requiring delivery bags to provide a phone number for requesting pickup of undesired books, and a way to opt out.

God, those people are RELENTLESS.

This post reminded me of a sad time years ago when, out of financial desperation, I nearly worked for a phone book distribution contractor. I even attended a "training session" out at a building at Camp Withycombe near Clackamas.

When I realized the job was roughly equivalent in stature and pay to the ones where people stand on arterial streets holding signs for mattress stores, I got the &%$!*@ outta there.

And that was WAY before cell phones and the Internet made phone books obsolete. These days I think these people are just above "meter maid" (I can't think of another name for that job) on the likability scale.

I'm actually fine with getting a set of Qwest books -- for a lot of things, old-fashioned phone books are still a lot easier to use than their Web site. But those off-brand ones are essentially useless.

How will the little kids be able to sit and see over the table at family dinners without all those phoney books?
And remember when you had to beg for an additional set and were denied if you only had one phone in the house(and it was a rotary)?
Actually, I don't need the big books either, but I do like the minature telephone books that fit easily into the side pocket of a car door and are helpful when I am driving around and think of a place I'd like to get to but cannot remember their address and cannot find a telephone booth.

We get at least six phone books from three different companies - none of which have ever been requested. My Bride uses the Dex one from time to time, but all the others go into the recycling. And of course, they're delivered in petrochemical bags, which have to be taken to a grocery store for recycling.

Its as bad here in Salem. I get Dex every year, usually with a mini version that is really handy for the car but then I get 1-2 "other company" books and lately I'm getting a spanish language phone book as well. Last year at one point I had about 6 phone books sitting in my cupboard.

The reason they don't want you to opt out is that they use their "circulation" numbers to justify their ad prices. Is this how the invisible hand of the free market is supposed to make everything all better?

Sue, above, is correct about the inflated circulation figures: every "delivered" copy means an "average" household has the book. I'm guess that "bag" is the 4 book binding, meaning you've got 120 books on the porch. Now, lets do math: it means that the 120 books that were left were all read, cover-to-cover, by the 2.6 members of the average US household (2000 Census). This equals 312 views. (Bet you didn't know you had that many people living in your building!) Multiple this math out for every dwelling in Portland, and you see why each phone book wants me to shell out a grand for a modest ad.

Most advertising is priced at CPM (cost per million). If they only delivered new phone books to people who WANTED new phone books, the relative CPM price of phone book advertising would rise, and other advertising mediums would take the money (as they would a lower CPM cost). Economy of scale helps here: printing 5 million books isn't much more expensive than printing 1 million ... only material costs, not set up, design, information verification and all the other stuff that makes publishing expensive. So print lots, inflate your numbers, and make it a trash problem for others.

It's another reason why I haven't purchased a yellow page ad -- its a advertising scam.

At the end of the day is it really all that big of a deal? Just recycle the dumb things.

So print lots, inflate your numbers, and make it a trash problem for others.

Are we talking about the Oregonian now? ;-)

I cancelled that almost two years ago, and I still get the stupid thing delivered to my door.


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