AT&T Phone Book Outrage – For Shame!

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Take a look at this pile of waste. This is my foyer last week piled high with brand new yellow pages wrapped in plastic bags. It almost makes me sad, in a nostalgic sort of way to witness the demise of such a venerable icon as the phone book, but let’s be realistic here – no one in my building is going to pick one up. Well, almost no one. The fact is, these days, a phone book is only useful for propping up your chair. There are certainly some folks who insist on having one, but in the internet age, there is simply little use for these giant pieces of newsprint (to say nothing of the plastic bags).
As a shareholder in AT&T, I’m equally disappointed that the company continues to shell out god-only-knows how much money each year printing and distributing these things. The phone book should be an option for customers who specifically request it, not an unwanted tome thumped on your doorstep.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.

34 responses

  1. I wrote about this crap before on my site and the response was amazing – most people agree these things are dinosaurs, but some still want them delivered. It was the most commented post on my blog in almost 2 years – it’s a touchy subject!
    If I owned shares in ATT I would be unhappy too..

    1. Phone Books are not dinosaurs but are indeed still used by alot of people. There are people in all generations that still use the phone books. They are a great way to increase ROI in a business. They work right along with the internet which by the way most phone books are also on line and are mobile. And not everyone owns a computer nor do they get service in some places.

  2. Indeed! It can’t be hard, for them to give phone books to people who want them. Just make it an option! Or at the very least, maybe we can ASK them not to send them to us.
    One additional thing I just thought of – it’s possible that these things are profitable as there are many paid advertisements in the phone book.

  3. I agree that the phone books are wasteful, though, I have to say, if you think the Paper Phonebook isn’t useful, you’ve gotten out of the habit of using them. If you do still use them, there’s a different quality of info you find in them that just isn’t replicated on line, and sometimes when you’re looking for a service in your area but don’t know who to ask, the yellow pages can’t be beat. In that case, I hate looking on-line. It’s just confusing. Like when you’re looking for a plumber or a music store. On-line, it can just be frustrating.

  4. I agree that they can be incredibly wasteful, but the internet is not good enough to replace a paper phone book yet. Was trying to find a store yesterday to buy a USB card reader and went to yell.com — I knew roughly where the store I wanted was located but didn’t know it’s name, and yell.com has about 20 different categories for computers, none of which were giving me the result I wanted. In the end, I found it in the phone book.

  5. Jessica, Brady, You’ve never used Yelp.com? (never heard of Yell.com). I haven’t looked at a phone book in years. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re not on line, you don’t exists – to your business’ peril…

  6. Yes, I still use a phone book. Not all of the buisnesses in our town are listed on line, therefore there is no way to reach them. I do think it should be requested though, not forced upon us.

  7. Hello posters. It is funny that you are writing about these issues… I am the COO of a my family company that works with phone companies in order to help people who want phone books receive them and also eliminate distribution of duplicate books. We are saving Forests and land fills and money. I will be contacting the exact companies that you are targeting to offer our services to them. We not only save the environment, the costumers aggravation but the phone company’s a lot of money. It is Win Win all around. I personally like the yellow pages as I find the web searches stacked with biased information from web pages who pay to be first on web searches. For more information about My company. Contact me directly. Lydia B.
    AT&T is a current client in many areas… and will be siging up in your area soon (hopefully)

  8. Good info. but only 10 to 15 percent of small businesses advertise on line. seems pretty limited when a pipe bursts in the middle of the night and you need 24 hour service. go to kn/sri group they are the nielson rating for yellowpages. usage is still very strong. it will die. but not in our lifetime. also if you do a local search on yahoo. all your local listing are driven by at&t. See how many times yellowpages.com is up in the natural results. yellowpages.com recieved more local searches than google for the past few months. and yes i do work for at&t publishing(the most profitable division). I was not a believer until i learned the real numbers either. thanks for the blog.

  9. ok, I understand your concerns in terms of being a shareholder, but these books are paid for by advertising. people pay to be put in the phonebook, and A LOT. these books are mass produced and i’m sure that the phone companies would not make these if they were loosing money on them. That doesn’t make corporate or capitalist sense.

  10. I ATT&T phone books delivered to business addresses along University Avenue in San Diego (North Park) that were empty buildings.
    This is basically litter. Att&T is littering San Diego’s City Streets with this trash.
    Such waste. Their department for distributing their phone books is out of control. They need to polices this up and be more Environmentally friendly.

  11. I AT&T phone books delivered to business addresses along University Avenue in San Diego (North Park) that were empty buildings.
    This is basically litter. Att&T is littering San Diego’s City Streets with this trash.
    Such waste. Their department for distributing their phone books is out of control. They need to polices this up and be more Environmentally friendly.

  12. Consumers can “opt out” of receiving telephone books at http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org. They will contact the publishers and inform them to stop delivering books. This is a free service for consumers. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is working with state and local governments on ordinances concerning the delivery of unsolicited telephone books. http://www.YellowPagesGoesGreen.org is not against the telephone books but against the delivery of 4 to 5 pounds of paper on people’s door step 5 to 6 times per year and being told it is our responsibility to recycle something we did not ask for. If we need a book we will call. Otherwise I “opt out” from receiving it.

  13. Unfortunately, most folks don’t realize that it is a state/federal requirement for local phone companies to provide printed directories. Call your state and federal representatives, and tell them this is an archaic requirement.

  14. Mark – the issue is not the state/federal government requirement for local telephone companies to provide printed directories. The issue is state/federal governments does not require the industry to throw books on your front door. If people want a book they can call and get one. And please follow the money. Do you think some politician woke up one day and said “let’s make telephone companies print books”? How about the lobbyist help push this through to creat additional revenue stream and help stop competition by adding another level of hoops to jump throw. The telephone companies did not get to where they are today by their customer service. Follow the money and stop dropping a book off when I do not want one.

  15. Mark – the issue is not the state/federal government requirement for local telephone phone companies to provide printed directories. The issue is state/federal governments does not require the industry to throw books on your front door. If people want a book they can call and get one. And please follow the money. Do you think some politician woke up one day and said “let’s make telephone companies print books”? How about the lobbyist help push this through to creat additional revenue and help stop competition by adding another level of hoops to jump throw. The telephone companies did not get to where they are today by their customer service. Follow the money and stop dropping a book off when I do not want one.

  16. I agree phone books are just not needed, Its 2008 if you are still looking in a phone book you are most likley over the age of 80. My grandmother who is 70 goes on line for everything .

    1. Yea, and you are so intelligent you posted twice. I suggest looking in a “real” book more, maybe you'll learn something!

  17. I agree phone books are just not needed, Its 2008 if you are still looking in a phone book you are most likley over the age of 80. My grandmother who is 70 goes on line for everything .

  18. I spent an hour on the phone with AT&T trying to GET a freaking phone book. All the customer service people I talked to had NO IDEA how to get me a phone book. They suggested I google it. HA. This is what came up. I need one in my office. I wish I had access to those piles of unused books I see in your photo. Plus there is a killer 20% off coupon for the local food co-op in there that is like GOLD. I agree it should be optional. I also think that mega corporations should be held more accountable for their CRAPTASTIC customer service. The agents are sweet, but have no training or access to info.

  19. My husband’s company requires him to list his phone number in the local phone book. However, this keeps us tied to the phone company at a high rate. Does anyone know how to get around that?

  20. I DONT THINK IT IS ATT FAULT AT ALL THE WASTE WHERE PHONE BOOKS ARE DELIVERED TO VACANT BUSINESS IT IS THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE DELIVERY BECAUSE A ROUTE SHEET CONTAINS 300 HUNDERED AND THEY DELIVERE 750 BOOKS ,I WOULD BE CHECKING ON WHERE THOSE EXTRA BOOKS WENT TO

  21. I DONT THINK IT IS ATT FAULT AT ALL THE WASTE WHERE PHONE BOOKS ARE DELIVERED TO VACANT BUSINESS IT IS THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE DELIVERY BECAUSE A ROUTE SHEET CONTAINS 300 HUNDERED AND THEY DELIVERE 750 BOOKS ,I WOULD BE CHECKING ON WHERE THOSE EXTRA BOOKS WENT TO

  22. I DONT THINK IT IS ATT FAULT AT ALL THE WASTE WHERE PHONE BOOKS ARE DELIVERED TO VACANT BUSINESS IT IS THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF THE DELIVERY BECAUSE A ROUTE SHEET CONTAINS 300 HUNDERED AND THEY DELIVERE 750 BOOKS ,I WOULD BE CHECKING ON WHERE THOSE EXTRA BOOKS WENT TO

  23. THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE DO USE PHONE BOOKS AND WE ARE IN EARLY FORTIES AND SOME OF US DONT HAVE COMPUTERS OR THE INTERNET

  24. At&T is the worst company to advertise with. Their employees are negligent, lazy, rude and stupid. I quit advertising with them because my rep would call me 2 days before the deadline – failing to give me anytime to revise my ad. After I canceled with At&T, their rude reps called to harass me every 2 weeks – asking if I would reconsider and continue to advertise with them. I canceled 4 years ago and they still call me!!!!!!! Do not do ANY business with AT&T, ever! They suck!

  25. Even though the “analogue” phone books are a pain to some, I am trying to find an old friend of mine and do not know the spelling of his last name. With the stupid online searches you have to know the exact spelling of the last name to find anything. I hate the new digital age because it takes the most simple of tasks and makes it a freakin' space shuttle launch!

  26. I Still Use A Printed Phone Book And I Prefer Them Over Anything On the Internet “Cause Computers CRASH, FREEZE UP and CAN BE HACKED INTO BY SOME PUNK!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Where do you get a printed phone book? My aunt, nearly 80, does not have a computer — and doesn’t want one. She wants a printed phone book for Fernandina Beach, FL. Where can she get one?

  27. I Still Use A Printed Phone Book And I Prefer Them Over Anything On the Internet “Cause Computers CRASH, FREEZE UP and CAN BE HACKED INTO BY SOME PUNK!!!!!!!!!!!

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