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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 19, 2013 9:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was Rape of West Hayden Island: Dead links, dead birds. The next post in this blog is California wine guys moving into Amity. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Phone book waste -- now it's "for the children"

The dumping of unwanted phone books at people's front doors is an outrageous practice that ought to be outlawed, particularly in a supposedly "green" place like Portlandia. But it isn't, and the reason for that isn't clear. There's some vague talk about freedom of speech thrown around in conversations about it, but one's constitutional speech rights probably don't extend to trespass and offensive littering.

Anyway, we got a spam e-mail message yesterday from a pusher of said trash, and it reveals an interesting strategy: The publishers are enlisting nonprofit youth groups to do their dirty work for them, in exchange for funding of the children's groups' activities:

Hello, I am Mark Weyerich, the Yellowbook distribution manager for your area. As you may know, Yellowbook produces and distributes phone directories and other advertising products throughout the United States. Yellowbook currently works with hundreds of groups and organizations to help them with their fundraising in return for delivering phone books and door hangers to their communities. Group members enjoy delivering because it does not involve selling anything, it’s a great team building activity and the schedule is very flexible.

***As a company we have worked with more than 572 various groups, clubs, teams, churches and other organizations nationwide to help them fund-raise by directly paying them over $1,950,000 for projects, trips, uniforms and other goals in the past four years alone!***

The whole process is simple. I will pay premium rates to groups and offer bonus incentives for a job well done.

The come-on is followed by three testimonials -- one from a little league, one from a middle school, and one from a high school -- about how much fun and profit the kiddies had. Maybe it's a spoof, but it looks real.

The pitch wasn't for our area -- it was for parts of the Midwest. In that sense, it was even more worthless spam than if it had been directed at our region. But it shows where the p.r. battle over phone books is heading these days. Those guys are nasty.

Comments (16)

Nice scam. No SS or payroll tax to pay and you can write off your "contribution" to charity.

I don't think it's a spoof. In fact, it reads like the promotional literature you'd see for any number of dubious school fundraisers. A slightly more florid version was the same spiel I got back in high school to sell magazine subscriptions to pay for our senior prom, with about the same return. "Here, take this junk you really don't want because it's for high school kids! Buy three, and I'll get a prize!"

Funny how their rationale changes so quickly. A few years ago it was "but these companies provide jobs to people!" Fast forward, and now it's "but these companies contract free child labor in exchange for small contributions to those organizations!"

They're thrashing around trying to hang onto the faint echoes of a dead business model. But bankruptcy beckons , and Chapter 11 only draws out the inevitable.

But the premise remains the same. Keep the distribution numbers up for sales to advertisers who in reality buy nothing tangible. Meanwhile, donate a small portion to local charities for needed tax write offs and PR. A scam from a mile away. Guess what, if you buy my 2 cent widgets for a buck a piece, I'll give 20% of the profit to kids too.

Would be interesting to have a list of all the ways it's "for the children" have been used!

Can't the market take care of this? The advertisers must be paying for the paper, printing, distribution costs, and some profit for the publishers. They must think that enough consumers are using these things to make it worth their while. If/when they conclude that nobody uses them anymore, they will stop. Certainly the advertisers and publishers aren't young this for the children.

They should list all advertisers under the headings "Dumb" and "Out of Touch."

RJBob, that's not too far away from the truth. As a small business owner myself, I regularly get canned queries about advertising in the local Yellow Pages, and I promptly roundfile them. However, you have a lot of advertisers in the form of older companies where YP advertising transformed their the Seventies. In their cases, a lot of them stick to it out of loyalty, no matter how inaccurate the information may be (one of the YP collections dumped on my front porch last week still listed a comic shop run by old family friends that shut down nearly 16 years ago, because there's no money to be made off verifying that the store was still in business) or how few customers they get these days. With the rest, well, if your customer base consists of those over the age of 70, then advertising in YPs and in print newspapers still makes sense, even as those customers are dying off and not being replaced with new ones.

If these print products are trash/littering/unwanted/etc why have the call volumes to ads with unique call tracking telephone numbers in them shown a 15+% increase year over year??

Seems someone must be reading them...

I tried to un-scribe from This Week (food day paper), and this lasted for about a week. Folks can't help throwing their paper at our door steps whether we like it or not.

I do like the nice bluish colored plastic bag the phone books come wrapped in. Makes for a better gym bag than my other ill gotten plastic bags.

Kenc, it's like spam. The fact that the offenders can point to increased sales of penny stocks or penis augmentation pills as an argument that "someone must be reading them" doesn't make up for the aggravation everyone else goes through in getting rid of them. If not for these jerks, we wouldn't need spam filters. The difference here is that spam at least doesn't leave a physical mess; for every person who can still be influenced by Yellow Pages or direct mail marketing, you have anywhere between 30 and 500 people who physically pick up that unwanted material and dump it in the garbage, and who'd be GLAD to ask for a permanent block on getting more.

Oh, and I'd also like to note that the big opt-out Yellow Pages list in Seattle was challenged legally, on the idea that somehow an opt-out list was interfering with the phone book manufacturer's First Amendment rights. Thanks: now we have a legal precedent that we have to accept this junk. However, if we decide to return the favor by dumping that junk on the CEO's front porch, we're the ones who get busted for vandalism.

Last evening at the school funding town hall at Madison High School, Governor Kitzhaber spoke of the many thousands of $30,000.00 to $60,000.00 a year middle class jobs lost in Oregon due to the recession, and how recovery has primarily replaced those jobs with jobs of lower incomes while not fully replacing the total number of jobs lost. Other than reflecting on timber related jobs being lost, what the Governor failed to mention that the greenie weenie environmental movement has also greatly contributed family wage job loss in both the industrial and automotive sectors among others.

Advertising rates and attracting advertisers for phone books is based on the number of books distributed. One guesses that if the greenie weenies force these companies out of business, that at least some of the people receiving their paychecks from them could probably find work at Starbucks or other like jobs for minimum wage.

what the Governor failed to mention that the greenie weenie environmental movement has also greatly contributed family wage job loss in both the industrial and automotive sectors

Yeah, those horrible environmentalists and their hatred of things like pollution and climate change! Remember all those high paid asbestos manufacturing jobs we had back before the greenie weenies discovered that it causes cancer? Those were the days, amirite?

"However, if we decide to return the favor by dumping that junk on the CEO's front porch, we're the ones who get busted for vandalism".

Funny you should mention it. For a long time, I fought the good fight to get the O to stop dumping their garbage/shopping rag on my driveway weekly. I got to the point that I would pick the damned thing up and, as I dropped my wife off to work a block from the O's building, I would toss the trash into the open garage of their facility where their cars and trucks congregate. Kind of silly, but somewhat satisfying nevertheless.

One of the companies that is the prime contractor to distribute phone books in this area is Premier Delivery Service base in Washington. It has to distribute over 1 million phone books in the Portland metro in about eight weeks.

I don't know how accurate this article is but I believe the names of the people are accurate.


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