Idearc Media: Yellowpages Unsubscribe FAIL

Idearc LogoLast Sunday, before returning an unsolicited Verizon phone book to Idearc Media in Eagan, I hopped online to unsubscribe. It took some digging, but I eventually found a contact email that seemed appropriate at Idearc. I sent them this email:

My Email to Idearc

Unfortunately, I received an email back from Idearc six days later where Amber decided to pass the buck on helping me get off their distribution list.

Idearc Rejection Email

Notice that Amber is emailing me from an Idearc.com email address, so it would have been nice if she could have forwarded my email to an appropriate department. That didn’t happen.

So I called the number she suggested. No answer and no option for leaving a message.

Then I tried the link she suggested. The form I ended up at has many options. One is for compliments, but that didn’t seem appropriate. Another was for Yellow – White Pages concerns and complaints. That sounds right:

Idearc Contact form: Not for Consumers

But it turns out that the form is designed for advertisers rather than real people and requires business contact information to fill out.

Out of curiosity, I looked up how their stock (IAR) is doing:

Idearc Stock Quote

I don’t know if this is a rule, but generally companies who give higher priority to Investors than Customers on their websites are going to have customer service issues. Funny how that may translate into problems for investors, eh?

Unsubscribing from phone books it proving to be a much more difficult project than I thought. They really want to do everything they can to make you accept their litter.

This post is also available in video form here:

While on the subject of Yellow Pages, I decided to check in with the industry’s crotchetiest lobbyist, Ken Clark, who on a blog called Yellow Pages Environmental Forum (seriously, that’s what he calls it) he explains how kids these days are missing out on valuable advertising by rejecting the use of printed business directories in favor the web:

New Generation Doesn’t Get It

I have long argued that it is far quicker to grab a print Yellow Pages to find what you are looking for than to be clicking and surfing away thru myriads of websites. When you use a book you also get a quick visual indication (subjective as it is) about the viability of the business you are looking at – those print ads aren’t free and if that company has bought a half page ad this is probably not some fly-by-night, Johnny come lately company.

Good luck with that argument, Mr. Clark. I’m sure Gen-Y types will respond positively to a “you don’t get it” argument and wake up to the value of heavy printed directories.

As long as you’re here, Ken, I have three quick questions for you:

1. How can people who don’t want phone books get off phone book distribution lists?

2. Wouldn’t it be better for advertisers to send phone books to only people who want them? It seems like that would substantially decrease the printing and distribution costs advertisers supplement with their ad spends. Correct?

3. Why does someone who’s such a big advocate for Yellow Pages need at least 5 websites?

11 thoughts on “Idearc Media: Yellowpages Unsubscribe FAIL”

  1. Pingback: Still swirling « The Mississippifarian
  2. Nice post! Outlines many of the things that the Yellow Pages publishers just haven’t figured out yet.

    The opt-out process will work. You have to CALL the publisher direct (numbers are in each printed directory) and just prepare to be patient when you don’t find the right number the first time. I think it’s designed that way on purpose! I called all the print directory publishers whose books I receive and they were actually pretty nice about it. Which is great because I’m going to chew their heads off if I keep getting the books…beyond the next one from each!

    Email is absolutely futile so don’t bother. They don’t care what you think – so they don’t want to hear what you think. Especially…if you try and do it via email.

    I wrote a little more about it here:

    http://yousnoozeyoulose.com/2008/08/11/yellow-pages-love-em-or-hate-em/

    And I know one thing for sure. I’d have a REALLY hard time sleeping at night if my company had a market cap of almost $5.5 billion, that’s with a B—BILLION and now a year and half later it’s less than $200 million. OUCH. Sorry…someone’s asleep at the wheel.

  3. On the other hand, with over 13.4 BILLION references to the print Yellow Pages in the US alone in 2007, someone IS using the product. And with the online YP and their distribution deals with other search engines, coupled with a strong ROI for small businesses that want buyers not browsers, YP is still a strong business.

  4. SHobbs, 13.4 billion sounds like a lot until you consider that 615 million phone books where printed, driven around, and dropped on people’s doorsteps this past year.

    I’m not suggesting that nobody uses them. What ticks me off is that your industry wastes my time, and my city’s resources dealing with something I did not request.

    Why do you do that?

  5. I just gave up. I drop my weekly yellow pages (seriously, how many different yellow pages are there) directly into recycling. And I use the plastic bag it invariably comes in for messy baby diapers.

  6. Ed:

    Thank you for the promotion to “crotchetiest lobbyist”. I think it’s been years since I was able to achieve such high regard from such an acknowledged expert as you. I am truly honored that you would take all this space on your esteemed blog to skewer me.

    But let me help fuel your passion with answers to your three questions:
    1) I believe Mr Zwetsch answered your question.
    2) the simplest answer is no, it would not, because you never know when one of those life events are going to occur and you will need the book and all of the great information it contains. Case in point — was looking for a Chiminea in my local area. Googled it, and after 15 minutes and 50 websites, I was still no closer than a company which was four hours driving distance away. And this is supposed to be the solution for all mankind? Opened the book, five ads, and two phone calls later I found it. Next week, next month, who knows what that information need will be.
    3) Actually, its only 4 sites as you counted one twice. But you also missed two others. The answer is that I have a wide range of interests and businesses. Each of those sites/blogs is focused on a different subject to which it addresses.

    And since we’re having such a lovely conversation, you response to Ms Hobbs also shows a limited understanding of how you local tax dollars are spent. Did you not realize that your city’s resources (aka your tax dollars) are already being spent on recycling newspapers (which I’m sure you don’t get), plastic bottles, glass, etc etc etc.

    Have you petitioned the newspaper industry, the bottled beverage associations, the computer manufacturers, the cell phone makers, and all of the other sources that generate the garbage we all generate to step forward and help your city deal with their stuff????? Why not??? If you check your print Yellow Pages you could probably find those sources to lodge a complaint.

    Peace be with you.

  7. 1. This is not a good solution since there are many publishers with limited hours. Phone calling wastes the time of thousands and thousands of people on both ends of that conversation. The cost of staffing customer service people to deal with unsubscribes increases the advertising costs for local advertisers who have to supplement their salaries.

    2. Next time, give Google Maps a try.

    3. Why don’t you take out Yellow Page ads for each of your various interests in every version of every YP that reaches every location your websites reach? Hmmm.

    Ken, your comparison of the yellow pages recycling to newspapers, plastic, or glass recycling is a massive stretch. The big difference: People willingly brought the other products into their homes.

    Recycling products people wanted is costly, but not nearly as costly as dealing with yellow pages people never wanted in the first place.

  8. Thanks for the note on my blog. I just found Ken’s blog: http://ypgreen.wordpress.com/about-yp-green/

    I had no idea he had been operating this since January. I paid it a visit, and while claims to bridge the gap between environmental issues and the phone book industry, (and phone book haters) I found it to be ridiculously condescending nad spiteful.

    I love how blogs are dismissed as unreliable kids stuff – and like you mention above insulting the people that shun your product isn’t winning you any friends.

    all the best – james…

  9. Will Idearc Inc claim bankruptcy? It seemed before the establishment of Sarbanes Oxley Verizon spun off Idearc Inc with $9 Billion worth of debt? This sounds very fishy and if the company goes belly up Verizon should be held accountable. There is no way that when the IPO for Idearc Inc came out that it would have went for $10.00+ a share if it were fully disclosed that the company would be taking $9 Billion of debt. If the word gets out that Verizon used these tactics to spin off debt while taking advantage of stock holders that believe in the yellow pages; I feel that Verizon will step up and finance the debt or Buy back Idearc Inc?

    Again this seems like a very shady practice by a company like Verizon. Idearc Inc is a very profitable company but, not with $9 Billion of debt.

    Verizon should step up and at least finance Idearc Inc $9 Billion worth of debt and buy some of the debt back. If not Verizon should be held accountable through a class action lawsuit for spinning off a company with $9 Billion worth of debt and not disclosing this information at the time the Idearc Inc IPO was offered to the public.

    Verizon should receive allot of bad press about the Shady business practices used while spinning off Idearc Inc with $9 Billion of debt that was not fully disclosed.

    Thank You,
    A Disgruntled Stock Holder
    Posted 3/27/2009

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