Bil Browning

San Francisco Bans Yellow Pages

Filed By Bil Browning | May 11, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: business, San Francisco

A breathless and hyperbolic press release landed in my inbox yesterday afternoon after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to ban Yellow Pages from the city. The Local Search Association, yellow pagesdescribed as "the largest trade organization of print, digital, mobile and social media that help local businesses get found and selected by ready-to-buy consumers," is up in arms and claims that the ban will "put hundreds of San Francisco residents out of work, restrict small businesses' ability to reach customers, and disenfranchise seniors, as well as Hispanic, Chinese and LGBT communities." The group makes several dubious claims in their press release but a couple stick out to me.

  • Directories oriented to targeted markets - including Spanish-speaking, Chinese-speaking, and LGBT communities - would be limited in the distribution models available to them.
  • A significant inconvenience to the seven in ten adults who used print directories last year.

Back in Indianapolis we'd complain every time the big books landed on doorsteps in our neighborhoods since they cluttered up the street in front of vacant houses and we just took it straight to the trash. Here in DC the condo building picked up the stack of them and took them directly to the recycling bin, so I'm extremely doubtful of that statistic about having so many users.

Do any of you still use the Yellow Pages? And when was the last time you used a print directory to find LGBT-specific businesses outside of a gay newspaper? Would you be "disenfranchised" if the Yellow Pages were banned in your town? (img src)

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.

What are yellow pages? jk jk But really, I haven't used them since I got accustomed to the internet.

I think it goes without saying that anyone reading Bilerco and who has the ability to respond to this post probably doesn't use the Yellow Pages.

You'd have to ask people who either choose not to or cannot afford digital technology and access to get a better idea.

UHh... 'yellow pages'? Did a dog pee on them or what? Ive been using the net to find everything since 1996. Phone books are just a waste of paper. Sadly, the world has moved on without them. Oh well....

Personally I havn't used the Yellow Pages in years and think all that paper should be conserved, as the Internet had taken its place. But, there may be members of "communities" that feel differently, that are not on "the net," like the elderly.

I would have found them incredibly useful during that month where I moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles and didn't have internet or a computer for a month.

Ironically, when I called to get it delivered, I didn't get one until after I had my net back. So, it never got used.

So many people have net access, including on their phones now, that it's not really that useful anymore.

On the OTHER hand, it does strike me as a legislative infringement upon a business venture. I can't in good conscience say I can support a ban on it.

They could always have it that you have to request it to get it. Personally, I'm against all unasked for forms of advertising being dumped at your house... including junk mail, religious garbage, pennysavers, political advertising, etc. It's litter and even if it gets recycled, it still produces toxic waste substances in the process. As far as I'm concerned it has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of speech.

Agreed 100%, but I think this ordinance covers that pretty well.

It's definitely more accurate to call it a restriction rather than a ban, since it still allows them to deliver books to places once they've gotten owner or tenant approval. It probably means they'll send out a flyer with ordering instructions or something to everyone each year instead of just dumping off a book; still not ideal, but certainly an improvement.

I haven't used a paper phone book in years; I discard them into recycling on receipt. On the other hand, I agree with Sera that it seems an untoward legislative interference with business. They could, perhaps, prohibit door-to-door distribution, but an outright ban seems excessive.

I used a phone book within the past few months, my mother and many members of my family do use them often. I am orginally from a very rural area. Some people might assume that everyone has easy access to the internet, the information they need is on the internet (not always so when talking about rural areas), and that there is no language barrier. How many information and job notice websites are available in Vietnamese, Arabic, etc.? I am not from San Francisco, so I can't really say how they use theses yellow pages, but given issues with income and language barriers, the criticism may not be too far off base.

I actually caught them delivering it once when I was working in my garage. I told them I did not need it, but they told me they had to deliver it anyway. So, I told them to put it in my recycling bin for me. That is service.

Kathy Padilla | May 11, 2011 7:38 PM

I still find them very useful when looking for trades people when I need home repairs - especially the small one for the surrounding neighborhoods - I like to hire from the neighborhood.

They all get recycled, anyway.

Send them to your congress-critter.

and here I've thought for years that Craig's List was the new name for the Yellow Pages!

I'm currently making money delivering them I think of it as paid excersise vs paying someone or simply doing it for free.. As a past and hopefully future business owner I can vouch for their importance to small business people. Word of mouth only travels so far and if your business is tailored towards the older crowd they mostly use the phonebook. The internet might be a good model for some businesses but it isn't a good fit for all businesses.

Lynn Miller | May 12, 2011 1:55 AM

The SF Board of Supervisors did not ban yellow pages. They gave preliminary approval to an ordinance which would restrict distribution. In the past, phone book companies could simply dump their material on the doorsteps of everyone. Starting one year from now, they would be required to get permission from the property owner or tenant before making such deliveries.

Final consideration of the ordinance will be next week, but phone book companies promise to fight it in the courts if it is approved.

john demilio | May 12, 2011 9:45 AM

i do still use them sometimes - maybe once every couple of months. but, if i didn't have one, i could obviously live without it. and, i'm the only person in my building who takes a copy. the rest i carry to the recycle bin. i have a sentimental attachment to them.

John Rutledge | May 12, 2011 10:35 AM

I think we have evolved beyond the need a long time ago, and as a small business owner I find the cost of being in them absurd. My business flow is all online. They could be made available to those who use them but I think for most they go straight to the trash/recyle. Sorry Yellow Pages, face reality. Your time is gone.

All I'm going to say is that if there is a population that needs the Yellow Pages, they're not going to be hanging around on a blog.

I use one occasionally, but a fair number of my clients use them all the time still. It depends on your demographics, I guess.