Thursday, April 19, 2012

Who is Yellowbook? It ain't your local phone company.

When you buy a yellow ad - yellow pages, yellow book, yellowbook, etc. - do you think your dollars are going to good old American companies?  What could be more local than the phone book?  You might be surprised.

Yellowbook Inc is the US arm of Yell Group ( YELL.L ), a multinational headquartered in the UK with "entities" trading on the stock exchanges of the US, UK, Spain, Italy, Peru, Chile, Argentina, India, and the Philippines.  Per Yahoo Finance, "It offers Yellow Pages directories and online advertising services in the United Kingdom; and Yellow book printed directories and the online classified directory services in the United States."

According to wikipedia, "Today, the expression Yellow Pages is used globally, in both English-speaking and non-English speaking countries. In the United States, it refers to the category, while in some other countries it is a registered name and therefore a proper noun. The term Yellow Pages is not a registered name within the United States and is freely used by many companies."  With so many companies using the term "Yellow Pages," it might be confusing to distinguish among the many companies offering phone book advertising printed on yellow pulp.

The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) notes in PRODUCT STEWARDSHIP PROJECT SUMMARY - PHONE BOOKS - June 6, 2007 (note: Project Summary link opens a Word.doc from the PSI server): "Telephone books represent significant tonnage in the waste stream (660,000 tons per year[1]).  In recent years, the number of phone books delivered to households and businesses has increased, with two or more competing companies now publishing and distributing books in similar or overlapping geographic areas." (emphasis mine)

Wikipedia says "In the United States, the predominant yellow pages are DEX One's DEX, the AT&T Real Yellow Pages, Yellowbook, and the Verizon Superpages." (links are to wikipedia pages)  That's 4 different publishers before you even start looking at the local players.  There's no such thing as "the" yellow pages or the "the" yellow book - it's a category of advertising with multiple players, some local, some national, some multinational.  So if a customer thinks he/she is advertising in "the" yellow pages - nuh uh.  They're advertising in one of many fat bundles of wasted paper that, as often as not, just ticks off potential customers who resent the litter on their doorstep.  I already have all the phone books I need, thank you very much.  One is plenty.
RipOffReport contains a slew of complaints against YellowBook, including claims of confusion/deception about just which phone book the ad buyer was contracting with, as well as difficulties with cancelling.  Please see my previous post about the painful contract terms - it might be beneficial for advertising customers to be very, very clear about which "yellow" is which and that the "yellow" selling you an ad is actually one that will bring your company customers.  And then - be crystal clear that you actually intend to personally pay the advertising bill if your company doesn't pay - even if the company believes they cancelled the advertising contract and refuses to pay for renewal fees after their cancellation.

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