Yellow Pages Are Anything But Green

It’s a new year and part of the new years ritual is receiving multiple 10-pound books dropped off at the house for telephone listings.  Growing up in a small town, I remember the white pages and yellow pages being a book about a quarter-inch think.  Now living in a larger city, the yellow pages alone is…2 inches thick (I had to check).  Then on top of that, you get a second book from a competing directory.  and this one has a “smaller, convenient” version, so you can take it with you.

Ok.  Here’s the problem.  There’s something called the Internet, which is available in our house.  This Internet thing allows us to search for information, including phone numbers.  Usually, it’s faster to type in the name of what you want instead of the traditional alternative: trying to figure out what category it’s listed in, flipping through pages, and scanning the tiny type while being distracted by large ads.  Then there is issue of storage.  The directories take up…4.5 inches of vertical space (I had to check again).  That’s valuable real estate on counters or drawers.

So, in summary, the Internet is far superior to a printed list.  This is probably universally accepted.  So, I thought it was time to stop the waste of time and space… and paper.  This year is also the year I discontinued all paper statements for bills.  But back to the point, I called the directory’s service number.

The first person I spoke to was pleasant and upon hearing my request, wasted no time collecting my information and completing the request.  After I hung up, I thought, “That wasn’t so bad.  She was really nice.  Too bad I’m putting her out of a job.”  After all, these directory services are contracted by the phone company or are completely independent.

The second person I spoke to handled my request promptly also, but then asked an odd question: “Do you travel much?”  Hmmm.  I responded that I don’t travel too much.  Then the pitch came.  They also print atlases.  They had a new atlas of the United States that she could sell me for a great price.

Ok.  Here’s the problem.  There’s something called a GPS, which has recently become available in our cars.  A few years ago, I might have bought it.  I used to have a very large collection of maps from the areas I’d visited.  I was pretty proud of the collection also.  But now, my 25-pound pile of maps (I had to estimate, since they’re now disposed) has been replaced by a tiny touchscreen device.

So in summary, GPS devices have replaced atlases in much the same way as the Internet has replaced phone books.  Now, if these directory services were smart, they would partner with a GPS vendor and preload POI’s (Points of Interest) into a GPS based on their directory.  Then they would sell the GPS device.  Or they could sell a flash card with the POIs on it.

If I was cancelling my phone book delivery and the agent asked me “Do you have a GPS?” that would be a totally different conversation.  If I didn’t, I might be intrigued at buying a GPS preloaded with millions of POIs (if the price was reasonable).  If I did own one and they offered a POI card or subscription service compatible with my GPS brand, it might be attractive.

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