Joe Igoe throws the book at them


Stop the phone books. Please.

A few months ago we posted about phone books and how they were cluttering up
our driveways and doorsteps and generally becoming a nuisance.

We just put our message of frustration out into the universe--and the universe sent help,
in the form of A-Town 14th ward councilman Joe Igoe.

Igoe and some of his colleagues are drafting legislation that will keep the books out of
doorways and driveways of the people who don't want them.

We looked up his number -- online -- and gave him a call.

Of all the issues to take up, why phone books?

It was timing really. I was out in February going door-to-door for the presidential campaigns and I noticed all of these phone books on doorsteps. So I started an informal poll. I really didn't know it was such a hot issue. People are frustrated about them. There are really three problems here.

1. They're a nuisance
2. They're bad for the environment
3. They're a public safety problem. If people are away for the winter they sit there as an indicator that nobody is home.

A lot of people don't really use them anymore. One guy I talked to wrecked his snow blower when he ran into a pile of buried phone books.

There was certainly a time when they were useful. We used to get catalogs too. I used
to look forward to getting holiday catalogs. But most of those companies don't make catalogs anymore. They cost a lot of money to print, they're bad for the environment and people are shopping online. Times have changed and the phone book industry needs to keep up with these changes.

What are you suggesting? That Albany ban phone books?

No, we want to give people an option. Some people do still use them. The legislation is still being worked on but we want to give people a way to opt out. Some of these books have a number on them that you can call to ask them to stop sending them, but they're hard to find or there's no answer. And by that time, you already have the book.

One option is to put them in public places, another is to send them on a CD. Another option is to send people a post card ahead of time that says the book is coming and gives a number to call if you don't want it. Phone books are a 17 billion dollar industry. That doesn't seem like too much to ask from a 17 billion dollar industry.

Earlier on AOA: Who needs Facebook when you have your own phone book.


Seriously . . . with all the things going on in Albany we are wasting time on phone books??

... a post card ahead of time that says the book is coming and gives a number to call if you don't want it. Phone books are a 17 billion dollar industry. That doesn't seem like too much to ask from a 17 billion dollar industry.


A big reason Google is so successful (at advertising, its actual business) is quality: it's worth paying Google for ad placement because it's ridiculously well-targeted -- or at least can be. Figures that, at some point, Yellow Pages advertisers will expect more bang for their buck, and the only way book publishers can deliver that is by smartly cutting waste. Like, uhh, not sending books to folks like me (and everyone I know), who don't acknowledge that brick on the doorstep as being "mine".

Then again, most Yellow Pages advertisers are on auto-pilot. Get the bill, pay the bill, year after year. And it ain't cheap. The percentage of those folks who could just skip it and never feel the difference is upwards of half.

While Igoe's at it, maybe he can reckon a way for me to opt-out of bulk mail advertising circulars, which also never cross my threshhold. Ever ask the Post Office about that? I mean, surely there's a card I can fill out, so they won't have to handle stuff I automatically trash, right? Wrong. Bulk mailers are their customers, and they don't turn away business.

Okay, I can see that. USPS is quasi-private. Check.

But there's a problem. When that unsolicited bulk mail and phone book arrive, I have to expend energy disposing of them -- on top of the wasted resources to produce them, etc. How is that different from somebody dumping trash on my lawn and driving off?


I'm glad this is being addressed, but I think we have more important issues facing us at the moment. Like why hot dogs come in packages of 10, but the buns come in packages of 8. Something really needs to be done about that and nobody has the backbone to address it. Elephant in the room, I suppose.

We had a package of hot dogs this weekend that only had 7 dogs!! Its an outrage!

Many years ago when I was in between jobs (okay, I quit my hellish retail job after dealing with one too many uppity customers) I needed some cash and took a job delivering those phone books.

When you go for the job, you drive to a shady warehouse in some kinda smelly back alley, and after signing a few papers you're given a list of addresses and are paid by the number of books you deliver. You use your own transportation and if you come back with too many books, you don't get paid squat. Allegedly they randomy audit certain areas to make sure books are actually being delivered, instead of just dumped en masse.

I tried to give the books to actual people, but I was doing this during the day so that mostly meant stay at home moms/dads and retired folks. If they didn't want one, I was able to give the dispatcher a list of the addresses of people not to deliver to next time, so that procedure is already in place. But the majority of homes were empty when I delivered, and to get paid I had to leave the book.

Suffice to say it was not the most glamorous job, but I made a couple bills within a few days and got by while I was looking for a real job. But if you want to know why the books are just left on your doorstep, there's your explanation.

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