Giving The Phone Book Spammers What For

How can you tell the number of vacant houses on a block? Easy. Just look for the houses with phone books piling up on the porch. The phone book spammers count those property-value killers into their circulation numbers, which is how they sucker businesses into buying listings in the yellow pages. Minnesota blogger Ed Kohler is even angrier about phone book spam than I am, and is on a bit of a mission to never have a phone book on his property again. So he got a little pissed when Verizon, a company he has no business relationship with, tossed one on his steps.

First, Ed tried returning a Verizon phone book to their local office in Eagan, MN, tossing it on their local office’s putting green like they tossed it onto his front step, as documented in this video:

But why waste gas? One of Ed’s readers says she has “chased down delivery trucks and [thrown] phone books back at them.” She also got Verizon to come back for its trash one day when her shot missed.

Looking further, Ed uncovered a phonebook industry slideshow discussing ways to combat legislation that would give consumers a meaningful choice whether or not to receive phone books. Which makes sense, since the media—old and new—aren’t saying very nice things about phone books (or their new online directories). And, it seems, at least one company, Qwest, is paying bloggers to recommend the Qwest Dex.

So Ed has devoted a good number of pixels to the phone books that keep coming even though he and others beg them to stop. Does it do any good? Well, just a few days ago, Minnesota Representative Paul Gardner took on the issue, and started legislation to make it easier to opt out:
If you don’t live in Minnesota, you can theoretically unsubscribe at Yellow Pages Goes Green. It seems to have reduced the phone books I get, at least, although it has not eliminated them entirely.

If I throw something on your lawn, it is called littering. If the phone company does it, it’s called marketing. Does anyone even use phone books these days? Are you even in the phone book anymore?

Sam Glover is a consumer rights lawyer, enemy of shady debt collectors, previous Consumerist contributor, and writes the Caveat Emptor blog. His column appears the first Monday of every month on Consumerist.

(Photo: Ed Kohler)

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