Thursday, August 12, 2010

The new phone books are here! Ten pounds of useless, wasted resources that AT&T refuses to stop littering my doorstep with

In the 1979 movie “The Jerk” Steve Martin’s character is ecstatic when the new phone book arrives (The new phone book is here! The new phone book is here!)

Times have changed, but the phone book companies haven’t.

Each year without fail, 10 pounds of useless, virgin paper phone books are dropped on my doorstep and millions of of other households where laptops, iPhones and Blackberries have made the old paper monstrosities quaint reminders of the past.

It’s a huge waste of resources – timber products, inks, labor, and electricity-sucking machines that most of us don’t need or want.

So why is it so hard for AT&T to get the message that I DO NOT WANT THEIR PHONE BOOK?

For three years I’ve tried to navigate their phone system to find someone who can prevent the delivery of the unwanted product to no avail. Two years ago I even managed to chase down the delivery people as they made their way down the block.

Me: “Excuse me. Can you take these back please? (I am so polite!) I called last year and was promised these would not longer be delivered to my address.”
Him: (Uncomprehending silence)
Me: “Do you have a list of addresses that have asked that phone books not be delivered?”
Him: “No, there’s nothing like that. We deliver to every house.”

I assume Yellow Pages advertising rates are based in part on the number of households the companies can boast they deliver to, so they have a big incentive to keep littering doorsteps with the crap.

But there may be a growing movement to rein in the waste of resources.

A web site called Yellow Pages Goes Green purports to help you stop unwanted deliveries. At this location on the site you can type in your ZIP code and presumably find your Yellow Pages provider’s information to sign up not to receive the books. I signed up with AT&T the other day. We’ll see what happens next year.

The site says municipalities across the country are considering measures to help citizens put the brakes on unwanted phone books. Cities like Seattle are looking at options. So is the city of Stamford, Connecticut.

I couldn’t find anything about Michigan cities moving to keep companies from littering doorsteps with wasted paper, but then again Michigan’s not exactly on the cutting edge these days. Maybe Ann Arbor will step up to the plate?

In the meantime, they go straight into the recycling bin. Better than the trash, but an imperfect solution. Steve Martin would be crestfallen. But he probably has an iPhone.


  1. My understanding is that the one from your phone company is required to be delivered by the FCC as part of them delivering the phone service (Land Line) The others are provided to sell advertising. At our house, we get at least 3 different manufactures versions. So if you really want to change it you need to get the FCC rules revised that makes it optional for the companies to provide the phone book.

    All said, the phone book for us gets more use and waste less resources than all of the newpapers and fliers that come in the mail.

  2. I get so frustrated with this too. I mean, most ppl use the internet these days and the yellowpages are there, so there should be an opt out. totally agree!