A jaundiced proposal - Page 2

Environmentalism in mind, Chiu proposes a ban on unsolicited Yellow Pages

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But YPA is also citing the public's apathy as a reason the ban is unfair. "People don't take the time to respond to e-mails," Healy said. "It's an unreasonable barrier to have a stranger knock on your door and ask you to take something." The YPA claims that "seven in 10 adults in California use print Yellow Pages, so we do not believe a system that puts a burden on the majority of people to opt in is the best path for choice."

 

ARE THEY USEFUL?

Do people still value the Yellow Pages?

Healy believes they do, stating that advertising with the Yellow Pages gives businesses a "high return on their investment." We asked some city businesses that still advertise in the Yellow Pages what they thought about the potential ban.

Barbara Barrish, manager of Barrish Bail Bonds, doesn't see her customers using the Yellow Pages anymore. "We used to swear by the Yellow Pages. Now young people use the computers, or their Blackberries and phones."

Although she has an ad in the print edition, Barrish said she wouldn't advertise with the directory again and only did so this time because it slashed its prices. "It used to cost a lot more, but it cut its advertising costs by a third," she said. "They gave me a good deal."

When asked if she would request a copy if the ban goes through, she said she probably would. "I might grab a phone book if the computer is down."

Daniel Richardson, an immigration attorney who advertised in the Yellow Pages until 2008, predicted the business community would kill or water down the ordinance. "You are talking about going up against AT&T and other major businesses," he told the Guardian with a chuckle.

Richardson said he stopped advertising in the Yellow Pages because he didn't get enough business. He believes people look to the Yellow Pages for criminal or personal injury lawyers, but not immigration attorneys.

Even pizza places, a staple of advertising in the Yellow Pages, are ho-hum about the usefulness of the Yellow Pages. Junior Reyes, who is in charge of advertising for Go Getter Pizza on Gough Street, believes the restaurant gets most of its customers from online. "We do a lot of advertising with other places and online," he said. "The Yellow Pages isn't our main source."

But what about people who do use the Yellow Pages, particularly groups that are not big Internet users. Would they miss it?

David Bolt is the dean for academic affairs at Expression College for Digital Arts in Emeryville and producer of the PBS series The Digital Divide. He believes that banning the Yellow Pages may be a problem for certain groups, including the elderly, recent immigrants, and the poor — groups with the least access to Internet, particularly in urban centers.

"We should err on the side of giving as much information to the greatest numbers of people, especially to groups that may not be technologically literate," he said. "Society should think about how groups could be impacted by this decision."

But Barbara Blong, executive director of the Senior Action Network, said older people are becoming more tech savvy. She said computer classes and other resources have put many of the city's seniors online. She questioned the concept that seniors are one of the largest groups affected by the digital divide, noting that seniors oppose wastefulness as much as anyone.

"We are against having a lot of Yellow Pages laying around," she said. Blong also mentioned that seniors who do not use the Internet for contacts can use the public library or senior centers that have phone books on hand. "I don't see it as a ban, but moving on so we don't have a great deal of waste," she said.

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