At about this time every year Yellow Pages Group dumps three unsolicited volumes of telephone numbers and advertisements on the footpaths outside Auckland houses. I can't be the only one who finds it wasteful and inconvenient. This year, like the preceding few years, the ones outside our place were immediately deposited in the recycling bin.
"Every year we produce 18 regional and 22 local directories and distribute 2.7 million across the country," says Yellow Pages' website as if that's something to be proud of. It probably is when trying to get businesses to pay to be in its pages. But it's an incredibly misleading figure that doesn't take account of the growing number of people who consider it an outdated insult to have such tomes foisted upon them.
I've held a serious grudge against these books since they were delivered over the Easter weekend a few years ago. There's no surer sign that a house is vacant than directories piled up outside for the duration. Judging by the angry letters to the editor at the time, I wasn't the only person bemused by the audacity and thoughtlessness of the organisation.
On Friday I sent Yellow Pages the following message: "We no longer wish to receive the three volumes in a plastic bag that were left in an Auckland street recently. We assume these were distributed on behalf of Yellow. Could you please advise who we need to contact to cancel these unsolicited goods/unaddressed junk mail? Thank you."
I promptly received an email reply which advised that: "As a general principle, Yellow Pages Group Limited is required to deliver directories to everyone as a result of the 'Telecommunications Service Obligations Deed for Local Residential Telephone Service' between the Crown and Telecom."
Well, that's an interesting assertion since I found no reference to such an obligation in that 34-page document dated November 2011.
I spoke with one of Yellow Pages' very polite representatives to enquire as to whether the fact that our line was provided by Telecom was the reason our house was on the list to receive these cumbersome packages. She assured me that we would have received them even if we switched service providers. I ascertained that they're delivered indiscriminately to every home and business - presumably to keep that 2.7-million distribution figure current in order to bolster an increasingly irrelevant business model.
I was advised that if I visited www.ypgbooks.co.nz I could opt out of receiving them if I lived in Auckland. In fact, that option isn't available but, according to Yellow Pages, "We are working to find a way to meet the needs of those customers who no longer wish to receive the books."
Is it just me or does that have the makings of a Tui billboard?
It's of great concern that both the points Yellow Pages supplied as rationale for delivering these books with a clear conscience seem to be unsubstantiated by fact. Furthermore, in delivering to houses displaying a 'No junk mail' sign and addresses without a letterbox, Yellow Pages is flagrantly disregarding the Marketing Association's 2006 National Code of Practice for the Distribution of Unaddressed Mail.
If my directories hadn't already been consigned to the recycling bin, I'd be leaving them outside the Yellow Pages offices in Ellerslie next time I passed. If enough of us unwilling recipients did that perhaps our protestations would finally be heeded.