Tag Archives: opt-out

Still Lost in Seattle — How NOT to Lower Your Municpal Waste Stream

The Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) anti-phonebook mongers were thumping their chests last week that “…more than 67,000 households and businesses signed up to stop phone books in 2011, and you’ve already stopped nearly 300 tons of paper from being used…”  (Source)

So let’s do the math.  The supposed indisputable source of knowledge on the always-correct Internet – Wikipedia, says that there were 258,499 households in the city of Seattle as of the 2000 census. Note:  this is only the city area, and doesn’t include the surrounding areas that may also receive a print phonebook called “Seattle”.  But let’s just use the Wikipedia number so industry critics can’t claim we stacked the results.  Some quick calculations say that’s assuming a 1-to-1 relationship of books to SPU “households”, that only comes to 26% of households that opted out.  However, that really is a slanted, incorrect calculation as we know many homes may receive more than one book, and businesses are not included in that total household count.  The interesting side bar on this is that industry research indicates that 75% of adults use the print books at least once a year.  The SPU numbers, if believable, support that industry research then.  By a 3 to 1 margin, people still like and use the phonebooks.  And this is the media that has been replaced, no one uses, etc., etc. etc., etc.

But wait, we’re not done yet.  You need to further evaluate the “success” of those 300 tons supposedly saved by what it took to achieve it.  As we noted in an August post, during July yellow post cards (ironic choice of color for the card don’t you think) were sent to 280,000 residence and business addresses by the SPU so that Seattleites who “….don’t have Internet access can select their phone book delivery preferences by mail.”  That little direct mail “spam” effort (where are you now Eddie Kohler) used over 4 TONS OF PAPER  How many of those 280K post cards, or 4 TONS OF PAPER do you think will be recycled??   Wonder why the SPU isn’t reporting on that???

Not only that, now the phonebook police are out for more blood (as in revenue for the city):

Did you receive a yellow pages phone book after opting out? If so, you can file a complaint online through your City of Seattle stop phone books account. If you submitted your opt-out request by phone or mail, call our automated phone line at (206) 504-3066 to submit a complaint. Yellow pages publishers will be held accountable, and even fined, if they fail to honor timely opt-out requests from Seattle residents and businesses.

Wow.  Such a “success”.  That’s’ something to be really proud of Seattle.  Instead, SPU and the elected leadership of the city should be embarrassed.

After all this noise and unfair targeting of the Yellow Pages industry, you’ve made virtually no dent in the one thing that accounts for less than one percent of your overall municipal waste stream.  Perhaps now you can focus on the other 99% that is the real problem.

And now they want your phonebooks…

A lot of discussion is going on over at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government site on a topic near and dear to those of us in the industry – this fanatical
urge to want ban phonebooks

Finally, someone presented all of the factors:

:… But is banning the phone book really the best way to save trees? A quick rundown of some key statistics puts two very key holes in the “ban the phone book” theory of  environmental reclamation. First, as it turns out, the Yellow Pages aren’t actually made from five million fresh trees, cut down in their peak to bring the phone book to your door. They’re actually made from mostly recycled material or the byproducts of other paper manufacturing, non-toxic dyes, and inks, and unused directories are “upcycled” into other things. You know that coffee cup that your non-fat soy latte with non-dairy whip comes in every morning, that says it comes from “90% recycled materials?” It’s likely made out of your old phone books.

And although city councils and environmental groups like to pretend  that just because elementary school students and hipsters practically see their laptops as a fifth limb, not everyone uses Google search and Yelp to locate local resources. The Baby Boomer generation, which makes up a huge chunk of American disposable income (and holds nearly 50% of American wealth) uses the Yellow Pages at a staggering rate.  Almost 85% of Boomers picked one up last year to search for a name, address or local resource. And as for that “perpetually connected” generation, Gen Y? Nearly 66% of them used Yellow Pages last year. Nearly 50% of all consumers turn to the Yellow Pages first to get information on businesses in their area. And, of course, that’s leaving out specific statistics on the population that liberals most often forget to consider–lower-income populations. Lower-income populations without continued access to the Internet are the most in need of a resource for directory

In a related item, the Valley Yellow Pages people have also posted a great little YouTube video to further address the many myths that surround the entire green/yellow pages/recycling discussion:  click here.  Every publisher should consider doing a similar clip and making sure their local government officials see it (can we make it required viewing??).

YP Talk has advocated for some time that it is time for this industry to start pushing back, to respond to these egregious accusations/mistruths/flat
out lies, and set the record straight.   Glad to see some progress is finally being made.  But the battle is far from over.  Keep educating your local community on the value that our industry products bring to them.   At the end of day, I doubt you will see any of these environmental zealots looking to help a small business market themselves.  They are too busy looking for the next target to blame.

Environmental: Seattle Saga Continues – See You in Court

As we fully expected and noted in our recent blog, the City of Seattle’s new phone book ordinance which would implement new taxes and additional opt-out requirements on printed directories, has been challenged in a suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington by Dex One, SuperMedia, and the Yellow Pages Association (YPA).

The complaint, filed by Seattle-based Perkins Coie, LLP, asserts that the ordinance, passed last month:

  • violates the First Amendment, which prohibits government from licensing or exercising advance approval of the press, from directing publishers what to publish and to whom they may communicate, and from assessing fees for the privilege of publishing.
  • unlawfully interferes with interstate commerce and
  • violates the privacy rights of Seattle residents.

In a press release from YPA, President Neg Norton noted that:

“We agree that residents should have a choice of whether they receive a Yellow Pages directory, but the Seattle City Council has passed a law that violates the most basic freedom in the United States.  Even as we oppose the ordinance in court, we are moving forward with plans to provide a first-class, national consumer choice website at www.yellowpagesoptout.com. This website will easily enable consumers to opt-out of unwanted phonebooks and will add no costs to taxpayers anywhere – in Seattle or across the country.”

The Seattle ordinance clearly singles out the Yellow Pages industry with regulations and fees that are not imposed on other media (or any other waste stream component) including discriminatory license fees for the right to publish and unprecedented “advance recovery fees” that previously have been limited to toxic or hard-to-recycle materials. The ordinance imposes obligatory cover language dictated by the city government and also mandates that publishers turn over confidential/private information from consumers to the City of Seattle.

Legislators seemed uninterested that the industry’s consumer choice site, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, will accomplish on a nationwide basis what Seattle now is trying to build on its own, with zero investment from the city and without the free speech concerns that the law currently presents.

“Considering the value to businesses and consumers that directories bring, and the admission by the ordinance’s lead sponsor that Yellow Pages are a ‘drop in the bucket’ of the city’s collection process, one has to wonder if the city’s intention is to impose similar free speech restrictions on other media in the future,” said Larry Angove, president of the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP), in support of the industry’s effort.

ADP joined YPA in commenting in the release noting several ways they believe the industry’s cohesive, national approach to consumer choice is better for cities in a number of ways:

  • No burden to cities, taxpayers, or city government staff: Industry assumes all costs and staffing associated with development, maintenance and promotion of www.yellowpagesoptout.com.
  • Greater awareness: One official industry site can be promoted which will result in greater awareness for consumers across the country.
  • Integration with publishers’ technology systems: The website will work seamlessly with the publishers’ systems to ensure requests are properly recorded.  This would be a nearly impossible task for any third-party who has no knowledge or understanding of the industry
  • Library of directory covers provide better clarity of choice for the user: The website will include visuals that will make it easier for residents to identify the directories they wish to keep or stop.
  • Protected personal information: Residents using http://www.yellowpagesoptout.com can be confident that their personal information will only be shared with publishers and not sold/used by any third parties for any reason.

While they haven’t made a big deal out of it before, industry publishers have made significant investments in sustainable practices since launching an updated industry wide Environmental Guidelines in 2007. Among the successes are:

  • Use of paper that contains recycled content and fiber derived from lumber byproducts (woodchips) – making it unnecessary to use new trees to produce Yellow Pages.
  • A 29% reduction in the use of directory paper since 2006, as a result of advanced pagination systems and programs to reduce the number and size of directories.
  • n  Use of soy-based inks and non-toxic dyes that pose little threat to soil or groundwater supplies and adhesives in the binding process that are eco-friendly and non-toxic.
  • Launch of the consumer choice programs (www.yellowpagesoptout.com) to give consumers a choice to reduce or stop directory delivery.

As we noted in the first blog, this really isn’t an environmental move by the City of Seattle.  Instead, it has become a clear attempt at cost shift and a political stepping stone for some Council members.

And now, it’s going to cost local residents to defend the frivolous actions of the Council.

Seattle City Council Approves Opt-Out Bill 8-1

You local city government now wants to get into regulating what you do or don’t get on your doorstep by taxing selected, designated private industry.  Seattle’s first target – Yellow Pages.

Despite the industry’s best efforts to work with the Seattle City government on using established publisher and industry association systems which allowed residents to freely opt-out (to the tune of over 15,000) of print directories, the Seattle City Council has just approved by a vote of 8 to 1 a new ordinance that has the city establish (perhaps through a third party) their own opt-out list for residents that don’t want to receive a phone book.  Should a resident still receive an unwanted book, the publisher could be fined $125 per incident. To further add more confusion to the process, publishers would have to report the number of books they distribute and pay a 14 cent-per-book “recovery fee” even as publishers acknowledged that the timing is impractical for them to provide such information.  But that’s what happens when a city legislator thinks they know how the publishing business works.

Supports gushed over the green message they think the bill sends with no regard for the impact it has on the small/midsized businesses in their area, or the list of other legal matters is causes.  For example, Maggie Stonecipher, the AVP of Print and Delivery Services for Dex One testified (again) at the hearing that “the ordinance also requires us to turn over information from consumers that have already contacted us. Under our privacy policies, it says we won’t share that information.” That argument fell on deft ears at the Council.

The council lead called it “free market legislation”.  Obviously he has no clue what a free market looks like, because it clearly isn’t one where you single out a single industry that is responsible for less than 1% of the waste stream that the greenies seemed all worried about.  I assume that this “free market” structure that the Seattle City Council wants to impose will now be enforced on the newspaper industry, the bottled beverage industry, the makers of cardboard, electronics manufactures especially PC manufactures, and so on and so on???

Immediately after the vote, which sounded like a love fest between the 8 supporting legislators just oozing over how hard they had worked on this legislation (isn’t that what they are suppose to do?) the Yellow Pages Association released this statement from Neg Norton, President of the Yellow Pages Association:

“We respect the city’s desire to reduce waste and are disappointed that our extensive efforts to work with the Council to address consumer choice in a fair and efficient way were overlooked today.

We agree that a streamlined approach to consumer choice makes the most sense, which is why Yellow Pages companies have committed to upgrading our existing site, www.yellowpagesoptout.com, so consumers across the country can visit a single, centralized hub to manage the delivery of phone books. Another new site, run by the city, will undoubtedly create more waste by duplicating efforts already underway and complicate logistics for publishers working to honor delivery requests.

We have never believed it makes sense to deliver a directory to someone who doesn’t want one.  Seattle residents need not wait until the city can develop its own site to stop delivery.  Residents can visit www.yellowpagesoptout.com today to find information about stopping delivery of the phone books they no longer wish to receive.

We believe the ordinance, as passed, will not hold up under legal challenge.  As an industry, we are committed to reducing the number of unwanted yellow pages directories. We must, however, ensure that our members’ rights are respected and oppose any attempts to single out the yellow pages industry with disparate regulatory and financial treatment, including discriminatory license fees and advance recovery fees not applied to competing media and non-media sources of paper. The industry also opposes any provisions that compel our members to promote a duplicative, city-run program through mandatory notices on the covers of their directories…”

Seattle residents, get your check book out.  From here, the industry’s next step is clear – the mother of all lawsuits that they will win, the cost of which your dear city will have to bear.

What a shame.  It didn’t have to be this way.  A working process was already up and running.  But that wasn’t enough for the greenies.  Someone in big business had to be punished no matter the costs or the impact…

“Unwanted pests”???

Many of you are aware that a new zealotry being promoted on the web – print Yellow Pages are the cause for all of mankind’s ills, they suck up resources, are wasteful, they pollute, forests are being ransacked for paper, the books are never being used, they only being used by your 90 year grandmothers, etc., etc., etc., and now, per the label of the picture of this blog discussing more useless regulation being introduced in Seattle – the books are now “un-wanted pests”.

If there is any value in this truly wasteful legislation effort (glad to see phone books are the only thing the citizens of Seattle needed be concerned with), it has been the reaction from many of you in the industry.  I think these paper atheists have awakened a sleeping giant.

Case in point – here is commentary I received from Wayne Mulling, the Director of Sales at the Sunshine Pages Directories.  I know many of you also feel this way.  Isn’t it time to start telling the other side of the story in every community we serve and stop turning the other cheek to these people??

Here’s Wayne’s comments:

I love the part where they call the industry products “un-wanted pests”. Really?  We are now Un-wanted pests?  It’s amazing to me some of the comments from people who post to blogs like this, comments like:  “I hope this sweeps the nation”, and “good riddance”.

This from people who don’t have a clue on how much directory companies contribute to the nation and the communities they serve at large.  For over 150 years phone books have been the prime source for businesses to promote the products and advertise their wares, to grow their businesses, all resulting in revenue growth to the economy, jobs created, some competition stirred, and community growth.  It is that old fashioned, low tech, ugly Yellow Pages that has been primarily responsible for this, more than any other type of media.

Who are these people who are so opposed to have a “one stop shop source” of vital information?  Who are these kooks who hate businesses that advertise in the books, yet then when they need those tires, or hot water heaters, or kitchen remodelers, or carpet layers, or TV repairmen, or Appliance repairmen, or roofers…….they need a place to FIND them?  Gee, guess which media has all of that in one place, and you don’t need to look at 1.5 million websites to find it either.

Who are these nuts that hate free commerce?  I will guarantee you that most of them have never owned a business, tried to help their fellow neighbor, or even supported anything which would help the economy, because if they had then they would not be opposed to having a one source of information that is at their fingertips 24 hours a day which doesn’t require any special connections, fees or signups, doesn’t require an electric or mobile connection, and can realistically HELP them in their time of need for LOCAL products and services at a moment’s notice!

Why is our “One stop source of vital commerce information” now an un-wanted pest?   Are the 40 commercials that everyone has to wade thru on that same blog or a TV show an “Unwanted pest?”  Then why not ban all commercials!  People with half a brain know that it is those business commercials support the very existence of the Internet and cable TV allowing them to be available at reasonable rates, and keeps them informed about products and services available.

Why is our “One stop link connecting Buyers and Sellers” an un-wanted pest?  Why don’t they also call the 50 commercials an hour that you hear on the average radio station an “unwanted pest”?  Because anyone who was not born on the dark side of the moon knows that it is marketing, advertising, and free commerce that built this great country.  It allows radio stations to hire people who can provide a living for their families, to invest in business  which support communities such as New Orleans where we are, and keep the cost of radio FREE so that anyone that wants to can turn on a radio station 24 hours a day.  And it doesn’t cost you a dime!  What keeps it free?   Advertising!

I will guarantee you that the gentleman (and I use the term loosely) that is sponsoring this bill, has probably never run a business before going into politics, has never had to go to sleep at night worrying about how to keep his business viable, how he’s going keep the people he has employed (whose families look to that job for a living), or any of the other 1000 concerns small business owners have – which includes how do I best promote my business.  Because if he had ever run a business larger than a lemonade stand, he would know that it is ADVERTISING that keeps America growing, moving, and prospering.

Instead, people like this just love to cause chaos, and then are somehow never around to clean up the mess when everyone realizes they have made a mistake.