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Your Fingers May No Longer Need to Walk

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For San Francisco residents (and likely those of many other follows that will likely follow suit), there may soon be no need to “let your fingers do the walking.” Since technology has essentially made paper phone books all but obsolete, the City of San Francisco has decided that the Yellow Pages are an environmental waste that is no longer needed -- at least not by the current mass distribution method. On May 10, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors voted 10-1, to continue delivery of Yellow Pages books only to residents who indicate they want them; typical direct marketing “opt-outs” distribute to customers until they proactively stop service. While the move is not final, the vote is a strong indication that it will pass, introducing a three-year pilot program of limited Yellow Pages distribution in San Francisco.

Environmental groups love the move, and the city foresees it will provide a boost to the economy by lowering ad rates and recycling equipment usage, stating the current Yellow Pages system “generates 7 million pounds of paper waste and clogs recycling equipment.”

Many residents and property owners also welcome the change, which will eliminate the current “pile up” problem when several unclaimed copies collect within common areas of multi-unit housing complexes.

Naturally, the Local Search Association (formerly the Yellow Pages Association, which has conveniently undergone a recent name change) does not share the sentiment. In a media release reacting to the vote, it said the “ban” (referring to the pending legislation), “will put hundreds of San Francisco residents out of work, restrict small businesses' ability to reach customers, and disenfranchise seniors, as well as Hispanic, Chinese and LGBT communities.” The group maintains that it already allows consumers to opt out of delivery via a simple online process, and that the city of San Francisco is infringing on its First Amendment rights with the pending legislation.

According the “The Junk Mail Report,” 37.8% of consumers would rather use an electronic catalog than receive a paper copy. Companies that top the list of “stop mail” requests from customers are Frontgate, Ballard Designs, Pottery Barn, Victoria’s Secret, Equifax, Experian, Geico, Chase, Bank of America and Capital One.

San Francisco isn’t the only area fed up with unwanted paper marketing. A Missouri “Do-Not-Offer Statewide Registry” is currently being considered by the Missouri House of Representatives. It would prohibit direct mail advertising from being sent to any Missouri residents ages 70 and over.

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