Guardian poll: Do we still need the yellow pages?


Sup. David Chiu is pushing legislation to restrict the delivery of yellow pages phone books in the city. His proposal: If you want the books, you should ask for them. Right now you get the stuff piled up on your door whether you like it or not -- and that creates a fair amount of waste.

But some small business groups say that local independent businesses still use the yellow pages (and there are a lot of plumbers and locksmiths who clearly agree) -- and consumer groups like The Utility Reform Network worry about seniors and people without internet access, many of whom might not understand that they have to opt in to keep getting the books.

Too much trash? Public service? You can vote after the jump.

Free polls from


While the restriction of yellow pages, plastic bags, and trans fats seems laudable SF should concentrate on fixing the two sickest city departments in the country, Muni and SFPD.

Posted by DanC on May. 09, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

+ Ethics Commission, Board of Subservients, City Attorney's Office...........

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on May. 09, 2011 @ 8:37 pm

Your readers would be better served by a local government that allows small businesses to flourish creating tax revenue and jobs, rather than one intent on wasting money and time on a non-issue.

If consumers choose not to receive the Yellow Pages they can simply opt-out of delivery by going to our site In about 3 minutes they can opt-out from a secure site. This proposed legislation will damage local businesses and eliminate jobs. Full disclosure, I work for the Local Search Association and we support small businesses in San Francisco.

Posted by Guest SHobbs on May. 10, 2011 @ 3:31 am

I have used that opt out thing for years and I ALWAYS still get a yellow pages without fail. You guys are running a scam on advertisers.

Posted by Fozario on Dec. 04, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

If this is all the SF politicians have to spend their time worrying about, then these elected officials need to be UNelected next time. In an economy like this and with all the monetary issues facing CA as a whole, their time would be better spent on economic issues and not whether or not I should get my phonebooks. Personally, I use them and I don't need to be babysat by legislators who choose to spend their time on stuff like this. Just one more personal item government is trying to stick their nose into and decide FOR me. Stop it, already!!!

Posted by Debbie H. on May. 10, 2011 @ 6:28 am

You guys have go to be kidding. Wasting time on phone books with the problems California has on every issue under the sun. Please get to work on issues that we care about.

Posted by Guest Jim on May. 10, 2011 @ 6:47 am

The San Francisco board of Supervsors are continuing a long tradition of anti business practices. If passed, this will hurt small businesses, the community, and in the long run revenues for the city. Right now California is in the midst of huge Buy Local Campaign to help continue to turn around the economy. The passing of the proposal will further limit our city and state to turn around the economy. Jobs and businesses will be lost. The Yellow Page industry has a system in place...why not let it work? Given everything the Board of Supervisors could be working on, they should be embarrassed at their lack of priorities. Do not pass this proposal.

Posted by Guest Barry C on May. 10, 2011 @ 6:58 am

I believe that the yellow pages should be delivered unless a consumer or business chooses to opt-out. There are numerous reasons for my opinion, some of which are as follows:

* I personally still use the yellow pages, even though I also use the internet to access similar information at times. I like having the flexibility of using whichever source is more convenient for me at the time I need the information I am seeking.

* Some people, many senior citizens in particular, do not have computer access. These consumers have relied on the yellow pages for many years and deserve to have that information that they have always counted on, right there at their finger-tips.

* Yellow Pages are highly-beneficial to many businesses, who count on that form of advertising to generate sales.

I hope that my opinion has been helpful in illustrating that yellow pages delivery should be left the way it is. As the old adage goes, " If it's not broken, don;t fix it"!

Posted by J. Bernard Halprin on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:02 am

I'm a consumer and I recently used the current opt-out system set up by the industry at Funny thing-- it worked! There were three different directories that potentially could have been delivered to my residence. I opted out of 1 area-wide and retained the local and the second area-wide. On Saturday I had a door hanger that reminded me that I had opted out of delivery of one of the books and that if I wanted to request a copy I could call the attached number. All of my neighbors received books but I did not-- therefore the current system works.

It seems to me that Supervisor Chiu is using this as part of his mayoral ambitions to keep his name in the forefront of the press. It's a waste of time, a waste of effort, and a duplication of a system that currently works!

Posted by Fred Meyer on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:19 am

Studies conducted clearly leads to the usage of the yellow pages. What is more important it shows a correlation between the usage and a purchase from that use. This means that yellow pages contributes to the increase in business revenue, which in turn creates and/or maintains jobs not only for those businesses advertising but for those in the yellow pages industry.

Removing yellow pages is dangerous to the success of a fruitful business cycle of those San Francisco business owners.

Focus and resources should be placed on helping businesses and not destroying them. Let yellow pages and business owners succeed.

Posted by Dora Restrepo on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:26 am

SF residents should stand up and take note of career politicians that can only come up with ideas that will hurt business growth and compound unemployment.

In today's world, we have access to many types of marketing intelligence. For example every time click on a website google analytics will track everything that you clicked on and what keyword or site brought you to the website. Many Yellow Page ads have unique call tracking phone numbers that appear only in a particular yellow pages ad.

The 2010 data compiled from call tracking numbers across the country by CRM associates shows that calls actually increased by 10% and that 60% of the advertisers that had call tracking numbers in their ad saw in increase in 2010.

The cost per lead in print yellow pages remains the best value out there for small businesses.

To ignore these facts will hurt small businesses and essentially discriminates against users of the phone books to simply find a service fast when they need it.

Can't todays politicians find ways to help create jobs and help small businesses?

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:27 am

From El Tecolote:

Why the Spanish Yellow Pages matters

By Emma Acero

April 20 – May 3, 2011

When many people think of the Yellow Pages they think of the large book published by their local phone company. But there are other publishers, like me, who publish directories that are aimed directly at one of the most important communities in San Francisco, Spanish-speaking residents.

Not only is our directory published in Spanish, but our version of the Yellow Pages caters to the specific needs of that community. It has the information they are looking for, and the listings and ads from businesses that serve their needs.

Supervisor David Chiu has proposed on ordinance in San Francisco that effectively would stop Yellow Pages distribution, negatively impacting some of the diverse communities we serve.

Both the residents, who need our information and the businesses who advertise with us depend on our product – and they depend on it being freely distributed throughout the community. We are similar to other publications that cater to the Chinese-speaking residents or the LGBT audience – we all provide connections within a community.

Our directories are most important to underserved residents. Minority and low-income households, and the senior community are far less likely to have Internet access than others in the community. So without a printed directory they lose their link to local businesses.

Our specialized directories are aimed at those communities, providing information targeted to their unique needs. Taking away their phone books would disenfranchise these communities.

Yellow Pages advertising is also an important source of revenue for phone companies. That revenue helps support the services provided to ratepayers , whether that’s subsidized phones for low-income households, or improvements in the phone network for better service or faster emergency response.

If the phone companies can’t distribute directories freely, advertisers will stop buying ads. The phone companies will look elsewhere to make up that lost revenue. And they will look to the source that’s left, and that’s ratepayers.

The inevitable outcome of this ordinance will be increased cost to ratepayers. Everyone with a phone in San Francisco is at risk of having their bills go up – at a time when the economy remains unhealthy and people are struggling to make ends meet.

So without a printed directory, diverse households and businesses that cater to these customers lose. The economic fallout would be very harmful to this community, which is already suffering more than most others.

On behalf of the diverse ethnic communities in San Francisco, I urge David Chiu to table this proposal that would be so harmful to so many.

Posted by Concerned about small businesses right now on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:37 am

Supervisor Chiu has not listened to yellow page industry or small business owners on this subject nor the end user that still want the phone directories. He is using the opt-in proposal for his own political gain. I urge the rest of you to listen and vote no on this legislation and be part of the solution vs. the problem in todays economy. You should create jobs and support local spending.

Posted by Guest Jennifer R. on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:42 am

the only revenue in the directories comes from local businesses who have chosen to promote their business in a local reference guide.

If the directories fail to deliver customers, the businesses will stop advertising, and the directories will go away.

If the city of SF wants to charge for businesses who produce waste, they should do so in a manner that is fair and equitable to all producers of waste.

When consumers opt out, directories are not delivered.

Posted by Dick Larkin on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:43 am

Once San Fran eliminates delivery of the phone directory in the city, I wonder who will regulate the national search engines to make certain San Fran small businesses appear in searches fairly, and aren't completely priced out by larger ones. Let's face it, Joe the plumber isnt going to show up at the top of any google or yahoo search (even with a zip code) unless he's paid somebody a lot of money to optimize his search engine results. If Joe doesn't have the know-how to create a site, doesn't have the resources to pay somebody else to create one, doesn't understand how search engines work to get his site to actually show up on them, and doesn't have the most popular traditional alternate way to get his business name out to the public (like the phone directory), how much foresight does it take to recognize where his business is headed?
Unfortunately, even if intentions here are good, the unintended results of these actions will be difficult to correct, and regulation of search engines and the internet that will be required to protect small business from unfair corporation competition once it's done won't be nearly as popular for all the "do-gooders" to get behind. End result: "Joe the local plumber" will lose out to "Ben Franklin" and other national chains as he won't be able to compete with their marketing budgets.

Posted by Guest Barney on May. 10, 2011 @ 7:53 am

The only program that needs to be reworked is the way the city gov works you have become the small business prevention team give me a brake The yellow page have stayed in business over 100 years payed tax employed people and helped small business grow so they can pay more tax. Small business and consumer of all ages still want and use the yellow pages stop baby sitting and work on the bigger issues

Posted by Guest Hold on on May. 10, 2011 @ 8:02 am

It is fairly obvious that people who read the SFBG are on welfare or unemployed and read it because it is free and whose staff write negative stories about nearly everything. So those who are gainfully employed are expected to support these leaches. There are many people who rely on telephone books, be it the elderly or folks who don't care to be on the Internet. What I have noticed is that the majority of people who write to the SFBG are lock step in whatever the SFBG writes. Give me a break! In a way I am glad that there is a differance of opinion although it sure is not what the average San Franciscan thinks. thank G-d.

Posted by Independent on May. 10, 2011 @ 8:18 am

Independent, you aren't reading these blogs too carefully. Our readers are a lot of things, but they're certainly not in lockstep with what we say. There's a lot of debate going on (sometimes a bit to mean-spirited for my taste, but that's politics these days) and often the majority disagrees with me. Which makes it all more fun.

I could quote you lots of statistics from detailed, expensive studies we've done, but I think it's safe to say that the everyone who reads the Guardian isn't unemployed or on welfare.

Posted by tim on May. 10, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

So many small businesses rely on phone books to advertise their businesses and consumers use them everyday as a valuable and trusted resource. Why not take aim at the direct mail industry which delivers considerably more times the paper. I am sure the post offices would not be happy if they were the target of this frivolous and destructive legislation. Why are businesses always the enemy?

Posted by Guest Mike F on May. 10, 2011 @ 8:27 am

Boy, it sure looks like somebody is pandering to the green community in San Francisco in order to get elected Mayor! No matter at what cost to local jobs and businesses. And the miss-information presented to the public!?!?

Shame Shame Shame!

Why aren't you focusing on fixing the streets, helping our city's homeless and improving Muni, instead?!?

Posted by Guest Totans on May. 10, 2011 @ 8:42 am

The free market system in our society faces constant challenges, but elected officials in San Francisco take this battle against freedom to a new level. Instead of dealing with legitimate issues such as encouraging the creation and retention of small businesses and dealing with the homeless problem, David Chiu and his pals are preoccupied with banning plastic bags and restricting Yellow Pages. What else do you nannies not like? Maybe you don't like caffeine, so let's ban that. Fast Food? Ban it. In fact, let's all endorse ANY plan to ban anything that ANY supervisor has on his/her radar screen. Yellow Pages helps people connect with small business owners on a local basis. This drives the Supes crazy, as collectively, they are the most egregious example of the anti free market movement anywhere in the U.S. Do your jobs. Support small businesses. Get out of peoples day to day lives.

Posted by Guest Jack Barnes on May. 10, 2011 @ 8:52 am

Insanity! It's almost like someone is PAYING him to do this but not for "environmental" reasons at all...since this has been an established MOOT point for some years. Kimberly Clarke and the Yellow Pages Industry have been very pro active in the types of paper they use, which they themselves are recycled and used again-that in of itself is a thriving business (recycling phone book paper and paper that is already recycled).

What's next Mr Chiu, no TOILET PAPER allowed? right. Are you going to make another executive decision as to what company is not allowed to sell tissue...

I hoped you would make a big name for yourself, and for the City of San Francisco, to be the FIRST to ENSURE our constitutional first amendment rights as well as protect small business.

But no, you will go down in my book as One of the first leaders to lead a beautiful city like San Francisco to go Against First Amendment Rights, and OPPOSE Small Businesses. After all the phone books are large for a reason - they work and every business wants a listing in a consumer i want the choice to PICK AND CHOSE what the heck I want to read and when...

I want no Dictator in San Francisco or anywhere else for that matter.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2011 @ 10:26 am

Mr. Chiu,

Over the past twenty years our company has interviewed thousands of business owners from (coast to coast) about the effectiveness of their yellow pages advertising. The responses range from, "It's doubled or tripled my business" to "We'd be out of business if it weren't for our yellow pages advertising." It's clear to those involved that yellow pages are a very useful resource for the masses.

In addition to helping business of all sizes through good and bad economic times, the industry creates jobs - from the timber industry, to the paper manufacturing industry, to printing companies, to distribution companies, etc. - and that creates revenue, in the form of taxes, at the state and federal level. Seems to me California could use all of the $$$ they can get right now. Why do you want to put more people out of work at a time like this??

The opt-out system, already in place, is there to serve those, like you, Mr. Chiu, who don't wish to receive multiple directories. So, let people "Opt-Out" if they wish, but, keep the government out of it!

Mr. Chiu in your article in yesterday's SFC you say, "San Francisco must continue to be a national model for zero waste and reducing greenhouse gas emissions." Have you looked at something a bit closer to home? Something born in your own backyard? Like "ewaste?" It's fast becoming a global crisis, and the impact of yellow pages doesn't even register on the scale when compared to waste and greenhouse gas emissions created by our insatiable appetite for the latest and greatest electronic everything . . . here's just one of many videos online that will give you a glimpse of the impact we're having on other countries with ewaste from our shores:

Seems a bit more "pressing" than the yellow pages issue to me.

Posted by Dave Bruen on May. 10, 2011 @ 10:32 am

Tweakers running Yellow Pages defense?

I saw the hearing and the 'opt out' plan doesn't work whereas, 'opt in' does. Hey, it would save however many trees go into 1,500,000 phone books.

What a PR flak barrage you've gotten. Crazy thing is, it could all just be one guy with a serious mound of meth next to his keyboard. The messages are all that similar.

Again ... dead trees .... bad.

Live trees ... gooood.

Go Giants!


Posted by Guest h. brown on May. 10, 2011 @ 10:47 am

Do your home work Blah Blah Blah if you did you would know by now
The Yellow pages do not cut down one tree to make a phone book it's wood by products and recycled paper tell me what's wrong with that??
Next I am one guy who employs 15 people in the YP industry and no meth around here.
Yes I agree Live trees are good on the other hand all that wood chips and wood by products we use if we did not use it it would be burned and go into the atmosphere. Nice then you would have a big black cloud of smoke to complain about.
The opt out program works fine you should try it

Posted by Guest Hold on on May. 10, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

get your facts trees are used for yellow pages.....

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2011 @ 5:33 pm

What a ridiculous response. Who's the treaker?

Posted by Guest - response to h. brown on May. 10, 2011 @ 6:52 pm

While I understand the premise behind "opt in", the printed YP directory is still used and thriving for those that choose to "Let their fingers do the walking". Those consumers/customers that are totally wired to the internet or mobile digital world will simply choose to opt out. If you want to be responsible and set an example, partner with the YP industry to offer the "opt out" option to eliminate real waste. It's easy and won't add to your own bureaucratic costs and you still look like a leader. The senior citizens of today, who certainly have and will use their disposable income for services, repairs and purchases will use the printed Yellow Pages without a doubt. They are of the generation that depends and feels more comfortable with the delivery and usage of the phone book. The other usage may be in demographic/ethic segments specifically targeted by special focus directories. The migration from print to digital only usage will happen but next year or even the next 5 years, although we will see steady decline, it's too early to pull the plug and the timing and impact to small business in this economy is catastrophic.

Posted by Guest on May. 10, 2011 @ 12:41 pm

Anyone who wants to ban yellow pages has no idea how hard it is for an electrical contractor to make a living on facebook.

Posted by QuinnB on May. 10, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

No No No!!!! :)

Posted by Piper Harville on May. 10, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

Made of wood chips, recycled paper or raw timber, the paper industry is a massive polluter, using water, producing toxic waste, and generating carbon.

There are approximately 350,000 households and about 80,000 businesses in San Francisco. We could still have a Yellow Page directory in every single house, and office and still cut the production to a third of the 1,600,000 that are currently distributed. The industry is producing far beyond the demand and that is the issue.

The financial loss of cleaning up these the over produced Yellow Pages is passed down to the residents and businesses of the City. The Yellow Pages are also not produced locally that means a majority of the economic benefit of this industry happens elsewhere. By advocating against this legislation, you are asking a major corporation to come and dump garbage in your front yard and willingly pay for the clean up!

I would like to add that this is legislation creates a pilot program, if we see a negative impact in two years we can adjust or do away with it. There has also been an economic analysis done by the city, it says this would have a positive economic impact. Meaning it saves more money than is could possibly loose.

Posted by Constance on May. 12, 2011 @ 10:07 am

Chiu is a pandering, lickspittle. smarmy little opportunist, like 90% of the politicos in this town. This issue just more curry favoring in an attempt to spice up his grandiose delusion of running for mayor - more pissin' in the wind. We can dump him after this term is up. In the meantime he needs to quit chokin' his chicken and do the job we, reluctantly, pay him to do.

Posted by Pat Monk.RN. on May. 17, 2011 @ 7:51 am

This mayor is acting like an elitist idiot. Not everyone has the internet and not everyone can afford to advertise on tv or a billboard. Seriously, there is nothing else that needs working on? Yellow pages has an opt out program that is very simple, as people have mentioned, and we have recycling centers. So what is the problem?

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2011 @ 9:32 am

The government is again creating an anti-business environment that only hurts small businesses and ultimately the consumer. This program would create one more thing for people, every consumer, to do and have to understand. The poor and seniors who don't have access to the internet would be thrown to the wolves. The government also thinks that everyone has a new computer that they can use to access the internet. Which isn't the case!

San Francisco is a vacation destination for people from all over the world. They get to their hotel/motel room and have the book to reference for things (tours), restaurants and services to do in the city? How are visitors going to make an informed decision now?

The books are easy to use, free, self sustaining and a democratic way to disseminate information. What if every small business had to send a mailer or flyer to every consumer? This is what would have to happen for small businesses to replicate the efficiency that the yellow pages do now. Then the waste stream would really be impacted!

Obama already released his birth certificate why doesn't the government concentrate on the big issues and stop hurting consumers and small businesses.


Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2011 @ 9:35 am