Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Why Are We Still Getting Phone Books?

When I walk out my front door and look down at my porch, there is one thing that annoys me more than anything I can think of:




When I worked in an office, someone would bring stacks of them. They suffered a fate similar to these phone books.





You see, it's 2015. Even searching for a phone number on our computers seems like an outdated concept. I don't know anyone who goes to the phone book when they need information.



So why are we still receiving these outdated paper-based books? And why won't the phone company let us opt out?




I looked into it a while ago and learned we're getting phone books because, simply put, we're part of a demographic. If the phone company can promise it's delivering 600,000 phone books to the residents and businesses in a city, for instance, that phone company can sell ads like these...



Apparently nobody told the goldfish people that 600,000 people will never see that ad because, guess what?



Yep. Nobody's reading the thing anymore. It all seems such an environmental waste, right? You'd think the businesses would get wise to it, but I guess phone book salesmen are super convincing.



What do you do with your phone books?

UPDATE: If you want to know the real reason you're still getting phone books, click here.

118 comments:

  1. I couldn't agree more!!! What a waste of paper. We used to get three different ones. We're down to one, but guess where it goes? I'd gladly opt out. I haven't looked in a phone book in almost ten years.

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    1. Me either. When I worked in an office, for a while I'd take one "just in case" but eventually I started turning down the person who came around asking if we wanted one. Eventually that person stopped asking and the phone books just stayed piled up somewhere. I did work with a lot of older people who would take one, though.

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  2. I send them to recycling, but now I'm thinking of making a couch out of them!

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    1. They would make good furniture--although you'd probably have to collect them from all your neighbors to get enough!

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  3. hope they make them from recycled paper....

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    1. Probably--reduce, reuse, recycle. They need to be focusing on that first R a little more!

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  4. I don't know why businesses pay for the ads anymore. I throw them out, and Mrs. C yells at me for throwing them out even though she would n ever use it.

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    1. If you're a local business, you probably feel like you have to at least have a listing? I've seen businesses that STILL haven't invested in a website at ALL. Amazing. A groomer was posting on our community Facebook page and I told him someone had referred him but when I saw his website was nothing more than a copy of his business card (literally!), I went with someone else. He said he's working on his website--but it really does take away from a business's credibility not to have a professional site up. That's FAR more important than a phone book ad.

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  5. I actually use ours sometimes, so I like still having one. But we get books from multiple companies and then yeah, the extras go in the trash.

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    1. I don't know where I'd even put a phone book if I kept it! I pick it up and walk it straight to the recycle bin. I do find it funny, though, that in a time when we don't even need the Yellow Pages from the phone book, competing companies are forcing them on us!

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  6. I had to laugh at your opening as I get SO annoyed when I get home from work and see these damn things on the porch! I can't understand it at all.

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    1. The last time we got one, I posted on FB to ask if there was a # we could call to say we don't want them anymore. Someone said they tried that and the phone company said that wasn't an option.

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  7. Replies
    1. Yep. Except our recycle bin is green.

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  8. That photo of a phone book couch. So creative. But also sends the message that phone books are not being used the way they should be.

    Maybe these companies want to keep the business going (without minding what the receivers do with it) and just want to keep their employees.

    Maybe they're getting paid well by the ads. So this is as good as an ad book now.

    Maybe we can find ways to use them (like that couch haha). I don't know. Thankfully I don't receive it. :)

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    1. So true. There was a guy who built all his furniture with those free boxes you get from USPS. This is a better idea! Although you pretty much have to work for a business to get that many, unless you're planning to invest decades into your phone book/furniture project.

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  9. LOL I wonder this every time I get one in the mail. I can't believe that they're still a thing.

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    1. I know! They actually walk ours to our door, though.

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  10. I put it on a shelf and never touch it for an entire year until it's time to replace with next years's phone book.

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    1. That's what I did for a while when I worked in an office. I finally figured out I should just say no.

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  11. I laughed out loud when I saw the title of this post. I've asked myself this question more times than I can count. And yet...I still keep one around. I stick it in the cabinet and never use it, but I think knowing it's there makes me feel better somehow, like in case there's some kind of, I don't know, zombie emergency and the phones and the computers don't work and.... Okay, maybe it's just that I'm not so good at letting the old ways go. :)

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    1. LOL...good point. We must prepare for the upcoming zombie apocalypse. They should be stored with our bottled water and canned food surplus.

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  12. Yes, thank you! Was actually thinking about this a few weeks ago when I found some under our sink (to stop a leak haha) massive waste of paper. Even before the days of computers I dreaded looking through them since I never found what I needed anyway!

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    1. That's a great use for them! We could use them instead of paper towels...although they probably aren't very absorbant?

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  13. Hi Stephanie! I guess I'm the only one who likes them? When I have to look up a phone number that's not a business, the websites always want to make me pay for the info! It's so infuriating. If we're not getting residential phone books, then this should be free. Period.
    I do kind of like the phone book couch though!

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    1. It's so frustrating to see businesses with no online presence, especially in this day and age. If someone owns a business and a person can't call that business by typing in the name of the business and the words "phone number," that business is losing customers!!! I write for a lot of marketing firms and it's crazy to me that any business doesn't realize people are looking them up on their smartphones by now!

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  14. Being and old dinosaur, I know why some old folks still uses the phone books, some people just don't like change. I may use mine maybe twice a year. I know, that's not enough to justify it being in the office.

    It's a money making opportunity for the phone companies as they charge a lot for ads. They would stop printing them if they would loose money. I'd like them to justify why they charge so much for phones services.

    I noticed that our phone book was smaller but thicker this year.

    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Yeah--that's what I've been told--that AT&T and other phone companies see it purely as ad revenue. If they drop it on 10,000 doorsteps, they tell businesses it's "circulated to 10,000 customers." Businesses should realize now that all that means is that 8,000 of those customers will toss it in the trash and the other 2,000 will set it somewhere in their homes/businesses and only look at it once or twice a year, if that...

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  15. lmao, I wonder that every time I see one. They are such a waste of paper. I think the last time I even looked at a phone book I was 8.

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    1. You're younger than I am--but I'd say the last time I looked up a number in the phone book was probably the 90s?

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  16. I thought the same thing when I saw the phone book in my driveway this year. Why are they still making these.

    They were put in the recycle bin. They were recycled.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. It's funny that they don't even make it inside our homes, isn't it? We just take it straight to recycle. And most of the counties around ours don't even offer curbside recycling, so you know those people are tossing it in the regular trash...

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  17. Here in L.A. I don't know how many phone books we get but there are many. It's essentially a scam various publishing companies put together to cater to the fading belief that a business needs to advertise in the phone book like back in the day when the phone books actually were a vital source of business information.

    I'm not so sure that the phone companies are actually responsible for most of the ones we get and the ones that do have the phone company name on them are probably like a subsidiary branch of the actual phone service provider.

    I think these companies start out by selling as many ads as they can sucker business owners into buying and then they list every business. Later they bill every business to be listed and a lot of the businesses apparently pay without considering what the bill is. I used to get these bill at the last business I managed. The bill looked official and important saying that in order to stay in future phone books payment would have to be sent in. If I didn't send payment they would have a collection department call me or bill me again. I ignored them and that would be the end of it. I didn't care since my business was wholesale to a specific market and I didn't care whether we were listed or not.

    These books will fade away as business owners start catching on. Sometimes when you're running a business your accounts payable department will just pay the bills that come in unless someone is paying attention.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. This statement sums it up perfectly: "It's essentially a scam various publishing companies put together to cater to the fading belief that a business needs to advertise in the phone book like back in the day when the phone books actually were a vital source of business information."

      What gets me is that there are still businesses who will advertise in the phone book but won't pay for a good website! That's all they really need to reach today's customer. Drop the phone book ad and sign up for a website with Wix. It's cheaper and you can update the information every day if you need to! You can post your menu, all your services, your prices, directions... When you do that, also make sure if someone near you asks Siri, "What's a good place to get XYZ?" your business shows up. If I could scream this at small businesses, I would! I wonder how many businesses have failed because they clung to outdated advertising concepts and they never even realized that was what they were doing wrong...

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  18. (pssst. it's 2015...) ;)

    i actually still use phone books for our local area. here in the country, lots of businesses don't list on the internet. i've tried to find them on phone searches and have had to resort to looking up in our po-dunk phone book.

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    1. I know, Tex...SO frustrating!!! What I've seen happen here in cities/suburban areas is that some business will sit there for 20 years, advertising in the phone book and refusing to take credit cards. Then a competing business will move into town, set up a website, take credit cards, and do all the things anyone who Googles will see they're supposed to do to make their small business succeed, and they'll have to step up their game. In more rural areas, though, that competitor never moves in, so the business never has a need to worry about it. You do have to wonder if that will change with younger generations, though. Many of them aren't even getting landlines in their homes as they become adults.

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  19. I'm right there with you. There is an older demographic that still uses them, but who even has a landline anymore? (Other than businesses.)

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    1. I worked with someone my age who did...he claimed he needed it in case he had an emergency and couldn't speak...he could crawl to the phone, knock it off its holder, and dial 911. I think they can trace your cell phone now, can't they? I haven't kept up with that. But what are the odds you'll have an emergency and not be able to speak but still have the strength to crawl to the phone, take it off the hook, and dial 911?

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  20. Uh, I still use phone books. :) There are lots of businesses and phone numbers I can't find online. I do think, though, that there should be an option not to receive them, if you don't want them.

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    1. I haven't yet experienced that...strange! Maybe it's because I live in Nashville? Every time I've searched for a business, the number popped up. I think I take for granted living in a somewhat large city.

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  21. Uh, I still use phone books. :) There are lots of businesses and phone numbers I can't find online. I do think, though, that there should be an option not to receive them, if you don't want them.

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  22. I did a post on this a few years ago when I realized I was getting 4-6 phone books every year. What a waste of trees, etc. Our city sets up an empty truck bin in a large parking lot every summer. You walk into it and stack your phone books. It's quite a sight!

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    1. I find it ironic that with such a small percentage of the population using phone books now, we get MORE of them rather than less!

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  23. I really wish they'd stop making them. They should be "available" for pick-up at the grocery store for those that need them...

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    1. Absolutely!!! I'm on board with that idea. Or let us opt in. Once businesses figure out they're wasting money on ads nobody ever sees, that will likely happen...

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  24. I can't even remember how long it's been since I used a phone book for its actual purpose. I know I've used it to prop things up (like my laptop, if I needed it higher for some reason), but that's about it. I cringe at how much paper they're wasting.

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    1. Verizon announced a few years ago it was ending phone books in its areas...AT&T is still going at it here in Tennessee, though...

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  25. I just recycle them as soon as I get them. Sometimes I consider armoring my car with them to make it bulletproof.

    I do recall one funny line from an apocalyptic movie where one person lamented that all of the computers were broken and they had no way to look up a number. Another character responded, "if only there were like a giant book filled with numbers we could look at..."

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    1. LOL, seems like we might miss it if we can't get online. Although if computers are down, will phones work? Will our cell phones work? If they will, we can get to our contacts...and who else are we going to call? At that point we likely won't be calling Domino's!

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  26. Yes, I'd rather look at trees . .
    I never use my phone book either.

    Laughed at the 'intelligent' goldfish advert. Apparently someone said by the time a goldfish has swum round a bowl it had forgotten it had been there before . . . :)

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    1. Short-term memory? VERY short term!

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  27. Well, I actually use my phone book to look up people's numbers. I don't read the ads. Perhaps it's just the older generation, but I know a few people that do not have a computer and do not want one. So they need the phone book. Probably in the near future, they'll become obsolete. (Phone books, not the people.)

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    1. LOL...I've known people like that. Yes, that will change over time... I believe it was my niece who came home from school last year, saying, "Mom, they had this book at school that was like a dictionary but it had people's phone numbers in it!"

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  28. Oh I agree! It makes me feel guilty whenever I throw my copies out. But I shouldn't feel guilty since I didn't produce what I don't need or never asked for!

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    1. They were delivering some crappy newspaper every week--just littering the neighborhood with it. I emailed the address on it that said, "To stop delivery, contact us here." It took three emails (the last STRONGLY worded) to get them to stop. I had to endure a long diatribe last week about how wasteful K-Cup users are (I'm one of them) because those cups aren't recyclable--maybe those people should turn their energies over to stopping phone book waste.

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    2. KFC is coming out with a new edible cup. Watch for it! I forgot where I saw it, but it's partially made of chocolate! :O

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  29. I might be the only one who still uses a phone book. I mean, I'm one of the few people in the United States without a cellphone. Granted, I don't use the phone book often but, when I need a local number, it's where I generally look first. And no, I'm not 98 years old.

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    1. There was someone above who said she still uses one--and then someone else said she uses her twice a year. I agree with the commenter who said they should just deliver them to local grocery stores (or libraries) and give us the option of picking one up. Or, better yet, just let those of us who don't want it opt out so that those who DO can still have them delivered. It looks like most people would opt out so it would drastically reduce their need for delivery people...

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  30. Yes, it does clutter but then I use my copy to sit my laptop on!

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    1. There's a good use for it! Or as a booster seat if you're short like I am.

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  31. At times phone books come in handy for a small area like mine. I recycle the old one as soon as the new one arrives. If I didn't use it, I'd certainly opt out.

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    1. They don't let you opt out, unfortunately. That's the scam Arlee described above...they really don't want people to opt out because they want the circulation numbers so they can scam businesses into believing they'll reach X # of customers with one ad.

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  32. I used to just recycle them the minute they came in, but now that we moved to a different state, I kept the one we recently got because it has names of restaurants for us to check out. I am sure the next one next year will go into the recycle bin.

    Betty

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    1. We have a local community Facebook page...all you have to do is post, "Can anyone recommend a good place for steak?" and you have 100 recommendations in an hour. If you're on Facebook, check to see if your community has one. Seriously...it's VERY helpful if you can ignore all the drama. You can get tips on everything from someone to clean your gutters to what the roads are like when it snows--PLUS they often report on crimes in the area to help you be on the lookout.

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  33. I used to love looking through phonebooks to see the interesting names, advertisements, and types of businesses. When I became an Armenophile at 15, I went through the phonebook to write a big list of all the Armenian surnames I could find. That's also how the Armenian Room at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning was approved and funded. There are lots of classrooms decorated in the style of Pittsburgh's many nationalities (e.g., Slovakian, Lebanese, Syrian, Russian, German, Dutch, Chinese), and the Armenian community wanted their own room too. So the people agitating for it went through the phonebook and called everyone with an Armenian name. Almost everyone gave their support and donated money.

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    1. I remember using the phone book to pick out character's names. It was very handy for that.

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  34. I hate opening my door and finding a bunch of phone books too! I do keep one though because I don't have a Smart Phone and don't always have my computer on to Google the number or address for a store/restaurant.

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    1. That is the tough thing--if you don't have a smartphone and you're away from the Internet, you have no choice but to use a phone book. (Or I guess call information? Is there still a charge for that?)

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  35. It's not just Yellow Pages - I swear we get an Argos catalogue (a massive shop in the UK) left on our doorstep about once a month! It's really annoying - if I want to buy something from them I'll go on their website, and again, straight in the recycling. The thing about these big books is, it is quite cool when people rip them in half. I wish I could!

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    1. The junk mail has admittedly gotten much better in recent years. Catalogs are definitely a dead industry!

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  36. Hey Stephanie,
    I have not used a telephone book in years to locate a number lol. The last time I remember using one was to help support the bed when one of the support boards had broke and we added it with some more books to replace the board until we could get another support board. As soon as I want to find a number, I go straight to google or yahoo lol

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    1. There's another use for phone books--bed support!

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  37. Haha...fun post and so true! Loved all the pics of other uses for the telephone book!

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    1. Yes, especially the one about printing out the Internet!

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  38. I used to save one or two for awhile... just in case. Now they go right to the recycle bag, sadly. You should be able to opt out. I don't have a smart phone, but can usually get what I need on the computer.

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    1. I saved them for a while, too, for the same reason!

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  39. I give it to my wife...and then its never to be seen again. I'm afraid to ask where they go. :)

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    1. That's interesting. Hmm... She probably throws them away!

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  40. I've been thinking this for YEARS!

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    1. Glad to know I'm not the only one...sounds like I'm in the majority on this one!

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  41. Well, I am aware that we are in the great minority on this one. We haven't had a real phone book in a few years, and we really miss it. We don't possess all the "techie" help of the younger generation and would really appreciate the traditional listing from the "Dark Ages." If the phone books would match where I live, I'd welcome them gladly!

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    1. I did read that in some places they've become obsolete. I'm surprised some other company hasn't come in to take it over. Apparently there's a lot of money in those ads they sell.

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  42. I agree, they are such a pain. When we lived in the county, they'd throw ours at the top of the drive, so we'd have to walk up it to get it and then throw it away.

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    1. Ugh! That's the good thing about having a small driveway and yard, I guess...

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  43. Not everyone is on the Internet. But eventually they will go the way of rotary phones... (Funny story about one time a middle school class asked me how one of those got dialed.)

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    1. I posted above a funny my niece said. She came home telling my mom about this book they had at school that was like a dictionary, but it had phone numbers in it! (My sister's home is a household of MacBooks and iPhones, like mine!)

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  44. Seeing the new phonebook out by the mailbox at the end of our lane just brings an excitement no other surprise can quite match. I love phonebooks and will never equate a computer failure with inability to dial out.

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    1. "The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! I’m somebody now! Millions of people look at this book every day! I’m in print! Things are going to start happening to me now." --Steve Martin, The Jerk

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  45. Yup, yup, and yup. After I ignore them in they're silly plastic bags for as long as I can, I usually dump them in the trash.

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    1. I remember in an office, toward the end, you'd walk around and they'd be stacked for WEEKS. Very few people would even take one. Then one day they disappeared--I guess someone called to have them taken off to recycle? You'd think with businesses, they'd call to find out how many they needed but they would drop off a ridiculous amount.

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  46. There's still a good number of older generations that will never use one of those computer machines and the internets.

    That's why there are phone books

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    1. This is why there are phone books. From an investigative report on Vox, December 2014:

      "The yellow pages are an advertisement disguised as a directory. Although they list all businesses in a given area in small type, a subset of businesses pay for ads or for larger type.

      And even though phonebook ad revenues are shrinking — and shifting to digital directories — a handful of companies (mainly Dex Media, AT&T, Hibu, and Verizon) still make a healthy profit off yellow pages distributed in the US. This is partly because ad rates are often calculated based off the number of phonebooks distributed, not actual usage phonebook usage.

      As a result, these companies have fought efforts to reduce phonebook distribution every step of the way — even as fewer and fewer people use them. In 2010, the city of Seattle passed the first ordinance requiring phonebook companies to let residents opt out of getting the yellow pages, and assigned the companies penalties for each unwanted book delivered."

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  47. I hate to admit it, but I still use mine occasionally. There are some businesses that don't have info online here. Sad but true!

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    1. I believe it! I haven't had trouble finding phone #s, though--I think most of the businesses in Nashville at least show up with a phone #. I get frustrated enough when a restaurant doesn't have its menu online or a business is selling its services on our local FB page but doesn't have a website where you can read more about them!

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  48. Oh, good grief, I couldn't agree more!

    Another question: Why isn't this a "big deal?" The same people who would shame you for using a paper towel versus a air dryer haven't heard about phone books?

    The phone company hates trees (ha ha).

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    1. I posted this above, but it applies here, too. Pretty enlightening.

      "The yellow pages are an advertisement disguised as a directory. Although they list all businesses in a given area in small type, a subset of businesses pay for ads or for larger type.

      And even though phonebook ad revenues are shrinking — and shifting to digital directories — a handful of companies (mainly Dex Media, AT&T, Hibu, and Verizon) still make a healthy profit off yellow pages distributed in the US. This is partly because ad rates are often calculated based off the number of phonebooks distributed, not actual usage phonebook usage.

      As a result, these companies have fought efforts to reduce phonebook distribution every step of the way — even as fewer and fewer people use them. In 2010, the city of Seattle passed the first ordinance requiring phonebook companies to let residents opt out of getting the yellow pages, and assigned the companies penalties for each unwanted book delivered."

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    2. ^^^I'm all for penalizing phone companies for each unwanted book delivered. Let's do it!!!^^^ Won't happen in Tennessee, though. Judging by Comcast's reign here, our legislators' palms are very easily greased by powerful telecom companies...

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  49. It's funny, I always take the phone book in that is delivered to me but I never look at... so basically it is dust collector until the next one comes out... At least they are a lot smaller than they used to be... and mine are only the yellow pages now... So they are learning here over time.

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    1. Yeah, the white pages seem to have vanished, haven't they?!

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  50. Mine goes directly in the recycle bin. Such a waste.

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    1. I know--it's an environmentalist's worst nightmare.

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  51. You know what my worry is though? I worry people will feel this way about paperback books soon. :(

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    1. I think we're already seeing, though, that it isn't going to kill books. Kids still prefer paperbacks to e-readers, so for the younger market, they aren't going anywhere. However, I personally hate reading a book in paper form now because I can't adjust the print and I can't prop it on my treadmill--it never sits right! But I read more books than I ever have...and I buy MUCH more impulsively than I would if I had to go to a bookstore or even wait for it to come in the mail. I see a book I want to read and just hit "Order" and it's on my Kindle in seconds. I can't say it works that way for everyone, but I personally feel that e-books have the same effect as credit cards when compared to cash. You tend to buy an e-book MUCH more impulsively because you don't think about it like you did when you were holding a tangible item, which equals more book sales, not less (if my theory is true).

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    2. I think everyone should make an effort to pick up every delivered phone book from their porch or doorstep, and drive it down to the local office of the company that delivered it, and just dump it right in front of their office door. Let's see how they like being bombarded by thousands of phone books they don't need or want. In fact, that's exactly what I'm going to do from now on. I hope you all are with me on this. Let's start a movement.

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  52. Agh! Phone books! Sometimes we leave them by our mailbox for a few days in the hopes that some enterprising person will take them away for us . . . but that never happens. Our recycling bins are often filled with the old for the latest "new" every three months or so it seems like, or maybe that's because I get one for the city, and the county, and oh - that other county nearby, too. Sigh.

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    1. Almost as rare as phone books? The Sunday newspaper! I see fewer and fewer of them in our neighborhood...but my mom lives in a neighborhood populated by elderly people and, WOW. On Sunday morning, every driveway has a newspaper.

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  53. Believe it or not, once every 6 months, I actually look in the phone book cause I'm too lazy to open my computer and goggle a site. But I admit, we could do without them....

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  54. Yep, ours goes right in the trash too.

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  55. We just recycle ours before they even get brought in the house. Where we live you have to sort your garbage into 1 of 3 containers -- trash, recycle and lawn & leaves. I'm with you -- it would sure be easier if they just stopped printing them. Think of all the trees that could be saved!

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  56. I have not looked at ours in a few years. It comes in handy when the power is out:) I also know there are older people and people who have little income who can't afford the internet so the books come in handy then. They should just find out who still needs a book and go from there. Shame in some ways because how many jobs are gone as a result

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  57. I saw someone making pen-holders out of old phonebooks the other day and it made me laugh. Sounds about the only thing I'd ever use one for anymore!

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  58. I can't believe so many people pay for the ads! I don'y really use mine and would prefer to have the trees saved for sure! Plus, reading the link about all the money they cost to print- it seems like it makes more sense for them to only be printed for those who request one. :)

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  59. They go straight in the garbage. I don't even crack them open.

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  60. Over here in Singapore, we opted out of the subscription few years ago. I don't think anyone uses phone books unless they need to reach a higher shelf or something.

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  61. Once upon a time I actually had a job selling Yellow Pages advertising to local businesses. Worst job ever!!! That is the only reason they still print them is the advertising revenue they generate!

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  62. My students have no idea what a phone book even is! They looked at me like I was crazy when I started talking about it. "Why not just look it up on your phone?!!" :)

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  63. The phone book is making a come back. We need MORE, not less

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