Yellow Pages Environmental Forum

Anti-Small Business Behavior & Elections

Yes, there are other voices in the industry that clearly understand how absurd some of the commentary has been on the whole opt-out discussion, as well as the totally anti-small business politics that local legislators have launched in San Francisco & Seattle.

One such voice is Dick Larkin who writes the TheCommando newsletter which focuses on small business.  His most recent summary carrying the title of “The election didn’t solve this” outlines the key issues and misstatements in a clear, concise, yet powerfully review: #yp

For example:

The thing that the politicians miss is that directories drive substantial local business activity, and curtailing directories would suppress the local economy.

Let’s hope (an overused word these past few years) that the 99% of those who understand the value of the print directories, and the millions of small businesses that use the products to promote their businesses, can help change (another totally abused word) those local legislators that don’t get it and are bowing to a small group.

As Dick suggested:

I’d love to see exactly how Senator Yee spent his campaign funds and what measures he took to ensure that he did not print, mail, or distribute his campaign message to San Francisco residents who were not interested in hearing from him.

Now that would be a real useful opt-out program. The volume of crap I received during this last election was easily 2x the volume of paper used in the local directories that I receive once a year.  But somehow groups lead by Seattle City Councilman O’Brien are more focused on the 3% of the waste stream (their calculations, not mine) that they say (EPA pegs it at just .3%) print directories are causing.

But I’m sorry, we’re talking about politicians.  They get to play by a separate set of rules don’t they?




19 Responses to 'Anti-Small Business Behavior & Elections'

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  1. Dick Larkin said,

    Thanks for the insights Ken.

  2. Ed Kohler said,

    Ken, if it’s a small group complaining, why doesn’t the yellow pages industry simply stop delivering to the people that complain? If the goal is to keep people from complaining to their elected officials, who then feel the need to act upon constituent’s requests, why not solve the elected official’s constituent’s needs yourself?

    A bit more personal responsibility from the YPA could go a long way here.

    • KenC said,

      @Mr. Ed: I have to admit, you are consistent. But once again, off target.

      First, “YPA” is an association and as such doesn’t publish a single directory.

      Second, as noted here and on other blogs, the publishers had already put a recycling effort in place in Seattle (and other locations) which was doing just fine. Does that mean that a few of the quarter million plus books delivered might still be going somewhere they are not wanted? Of course. But once implemented, the opt out levels are running at less than 1%. I know you and some of your other band of merry followers don’t believe those numbers, but they are real and have been found to be true in other parts of the world also.

      No, Eddie, this wasn’t about environmental concerns or personal preference. It was purely a financial move by the Seattle city government and a setup for those seeking higher political office.

      These folks are playing you. I guess you just haven’t seen that yet.

  3. Ed Kohler said,

    @Ken, I used YPA as a shortcut to mean “yellow pages directory companies that don’t seem to be very good as living up to their opt-out promises”. Which, as far as I’ve experienced, is all.

    I’m curious, Ken. Does anyone track opt-out compliance? What good does a 1% or 10% opt-out rate make if the YPA’s members keep delivering books to people who’ve asked to be removed from their lists?

    Seattle’s situation, to me, looks like a case of a city figuring out how to balance its books by offloading one cost of solid waste back onto the organizations who created it in the first place. Yep, that’s about money. Coming up with an idea on how to save the city money while solving constituent’s complaints seems like a smart move for someone seeking higher office. I imagine you’d agree if it was applied to industries other than your own.

    If you get a chance, I’d love to hear more about how I’m being played.

    • KenC said,

      @Mr. Ed:

      If I read your comments correctly, none of the publishers are honoring any of the opt-out requests. And your grumpiness would be based on a sample size of 10, 100, or how ever many complaints you get?

      We at least agree that Seattle’s effort was all about money and political gain. And it’s only Monday.

      But unlike you, I doubt their going to pursue action with any other industry. Which is why their citizens will now have to bear the cost of defending a lawsuit against the council’s decision. It’s a shame because if it had been about reducing the waste stream, there are a lot of places they could have directed their efforts and achieved some significant improvements.

      If you need to know more about how your being played, perhaps we should have a beer summit. I’ll buy as long as you ensure the bottles are recycled.

      • Ed Kohler said,

        Ken, I’m not aware of an American yellow pages company that has an effective opt-out system in place, that they accurately honor. It sounds like England is well ahead of the USA in this regard.

        Money and political gain with a positive environmental side-effect seems like smart politics to me.

        Are you saying that holding the YP industry accountable for its waste is bad. Just that others should be held to the same standard? If so, I’m cool with that. Which other companies deliver more unsolicited waste to properties?

        A beer summit sounds good to me. How about something on draft? Or returnables? Try to think bigger than recycling.

      • KenC said,

        @Mr Ed:

        Unless a publisher is 100% perfect, I would doubt you think any publisher program is effective. But at least you are consistent.

        Good attempt to twist the key point of the discussion around, but you are acknowledging that no other industry has been “accountable” for its waste as you call it. At least the YP industry has stepped forward in an effort to promote recycling of its products (even if you like to mock it for “child labor” by supporting school programs).

        And in the electronics industry, who is stepping forward to collect the highly toxic e-waste all of these digital devices are generating?? How about the direct mail industry?? Maybe the consumer packaging industry?? The newspaper industry?? Surely the bottle goods industry?? None of them??

        Perhaps you should invite them to a beer summit, draft or otherwise

      • Ed Kohler said,

        @Ken, I’m not sure how you can suggest that other industries don’t make attempts to avoid waste, or recover waste.

        For example, the direct marketing association maintains opt-out lists. Best Buy will take back electronics for recycling. Amazon works hard to reduce their packaging (both for environmental and financial reasons). The bottling industry has refund programs in many states. Are you really unaware of these programs?

        Direct mail, in particular, works quite well compared to opt-out from yellowpages. It turns out that that industry understands the value of having targeted lists.

        Agreed on the newspaper industry. However, in most cases, newspapers are opt-in, so the waste comes after value rather than being waste on arrival. In cases like receiving unsolicited papers at hotel rooms, the newspaper industry is, sadly, behaving like the YP industry.

        @Harry, why do you think taxpayers should bear the financial responsibility for cleaning up the YP industry’s waste?

      • KenC said,

        @Mr. Ed:

        So in your view the direct mail opt-out list is working well (I beg to differ so let me save a month’s worth of stuff to show you). In case you failed to notice that effort took several years for them to get that list to work as “well” as it does now. And yet you expect the YP industry to be perfect in its effort right from the start??

        On the other industries not dealing with their waste, look at what’s in the stream headed to the landfills to see exactly what’s happening. But let me guess: you’ve never visited a landfill or reclamation area either have you?

        For newspapers: if I take the same position you have about YP — that I don’t use them, then even if they are opt-in, can I opt-out of having my tax dollars go to support their disposal then??????? NOT!

  4. In 2009, I save up all the junk mail I received. It weighed in at 75 lbs. The local telephone book weighed in at 5lbs.

    The biggest tragedy, in my opinion, is the short sightedness of Yee, the Seattle council and politicians like them. In return for publicity for whatever office he wants to run for next, he is selling out local businesses.

    By driving shopping patterns online, they are sending money out of the local communities in which they live. I like to research what I buy online but when the decision to buy is made, I reach for the Yellow Pages and make my purchase locally.

    It helps keep a merchant in business. It helps his employees (my neighbors) keep a roof over their heads. It pays taxes to keep those same politicians in a job. Well two out of three ain’t bad…

  5. Paul Jahn said,

    Sounds like Harry’s purchasing habits are similar to mine and others. Search online, purchase offline. The only difference is I don’t use a book. I’m also in agreement w/ the election discussion. Mail pieces from any candidate whether I support them or not goes straight to the trash.

    FYI, DEX is making another round of deliveries around here to folks who have already took their time to opt-out. This time, they come in a less-unattractive blue bag. Their marketing folks are clever.

    • KenC said,

      @Paul J — Re: DEX – I assume your comments about deliver to opt-out requests is based on some extensive survey?? Given the complaints from the small band of you making noise in the area I’m sure the DEX folks are paying careful attend to who gets what in this distribution.

      Since you so proudly don’t use a book, would it really matter to you how and in what they are delivered in??

  6. Ed Kohler said,

    Ken, if you haven’t opted out of direct mail, of course you’ll have a lot junk mail. You may want to try to opt-out first.

    Regarding Paul’s pain from seeing the over-delivery of books while not using the books himself: His tax dollars are being used to clean up the mess that the yellow pages industry creates, which goes back to the original point of this post regarding Seattle’s move to shift the burden to the companies creating the waste in the first place. At least in that case, Paul wouldn’t be paying to clean up the waste he sees around town.

    • Ken C said,

      @Mr. Ed:

      junk mail: having recently moved one would think there was no way they could find me.

      Paul’s “pain”: would that be that $.50/resident number you came up with?? And have you calculated his e-waste cost too?? How come??

      • Ed Kohler said,

        Regarding junk mail, I guess if I assume that you didn’t get a driver’s license, buy or rent property, buy anything from a catalog retailer, update your address with credit cards or loyalty programs, or register to vote, it would seem strange that they found you.

        Ken, I think one of your weakest arguments justifying YP spam is that there are also other forms of waste in this world.

  7. Paul Jahn said,

    The $ is probably up now that DEX is using a nice, blue tote-like bag. I’ll say it again. Their marketing folks are clever. At some point, someone in upper management thought “Hey, if we put these in a nice, blue bag these books will look more like a present instead of trash. Since not delivering books to everyone is not an option, let’s try this.”

    • Ken C said,


      A blue bag is more expensive to recycle than a yellow one?? Wow. Thanks you made my Friday.

  8. Paul Jahn said,

    Glad to make your Friday, Ken.

    The blue books might be less expensive to recycle, actually. From what I hear, these blue books are in a tote-style bag which includes a big, fat yellow book, a smaller yellow book and a big white pages book. Possibly these DEX logo bags can be reusable.

    After throwing out the books, it sounds like these consumers could use this blue bag as something useful, like a man-purse…maybe even a laptop courier.

    Thoughts? What would you use these new, blue bag for?

    • Ken C said,

      Priceless comments Paulie. Just priceless

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