A couple recent comments by yellow pages industry evangelist, Ken Clark, helped me come to the realization that rational arguments will never work with the people running print directory spam marketing. The reason for this is because they’re working in a faith based industry where rational arguments simply don’t connect with their financial belief system.
For example, Mr. Clark whines about the persecution of print spam and it’s supposedly unfair treatment in the media on his YPTalk site:
The paper atheists are incorrectly pounding away on the blogs and online news services (with little to no push back) that no one uses the books except for people over 70 and the misfortunate few that aren’t wired. The biggest news the industry seems to get these days is where you can find the local dumpsters to get rid of your books.
The YP industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that’s facing rational push back from people in communities around the world who are saying, “I don’t use this anymore. Could you please stop sending it to me?” The industry’s PR problem doesn’t come from a lack of skilled PR people and media connections – they certainly can finance the best money can buy – but are caused by the industry’s knack for creating negative news about itself by refusing to serve today’s consumers with the respect they are rationally requesting.
Sadly, rather than adapting to today’s market conditions, the industry continues to try to convince itself that Gen X and Gen Y folks are continuing to use yellow pages. I suppose if you are willing to believe that it’s easier to say it with a straight face to local businesses.
A recent essay by Paul Graham looked at the challenges caused by arguments that turn into religious wars. Once an argument degrades to relying solely on two individual’s belief systems, no one can be right and nothing can be solved.
Since no one can be proven wrong, every opinion is equally valid, and sensing this, everyone lets fly with theirs.
However, this particular religious war is one-sided. The arguments coming from the yellow pages industry described “yellow pages atheists” are not that of an opposing belief system. Instead, the anti-yellow pages “crusaders” are rational:
1. I don’t use yellow pages: please don’t deliver them to me.
2. I get too many yellow pages. Could you send me less?
3. No one lives in that house. See the boards on the windows? Please don’t leave yellow pages at that address.
4. I don’t plan on using the yellow pages. Let’s work together to save the environment just a bit here.
5. If my office had one set per floor, we’d be set. One per cube is kind of overkill, dontcha think?
These are all very reasonable requests and do nothing to tread on the rights on those who want yellow pages from having yellow pages in their lives.
Sadly, yellow pages believers like Ken Clark bring appear to be immune to such simple, rational, requests from people outside the industry. In fact, people yellow pages industry rep, Amy Healy, take pride in the industry’s success in preventing communities from rationally asking, “Dear Yellow Pages Industry: Please stop delivering your phone books to people who no longer want them, or to homes where no one lives.”
For this reason, it seems that legislation is going to be necessary in order to create the types of rational, reasonable changes that consumers, businesses, neighborhood groups, tax payers, and environmental groups have been asking for but have been unable to achieve through other means. Yellow Pages evangelists are simply incapable of self-regulation but likely will respond to market conditions where a financial penalty exists for who choose to not be good citizens by reasonable standards.