by Kevin Allman
Tonight I had that mild sinking feeling when I came home — two phone books, unasked for, were piled at my door like a basket of kittens, waiting for me to take them in or find a way to recycle them (can they be recycled?) or (the most tempting option) just chuck them in the big green bin in the side yard. (The back of the phone books bragged that they were made out of recycled material — yeah, probably recycled from the carcasses of other unwanted phone books.)
My parents still can't get by without their big old stack of telephone directories, which have dogeared pages and notes in the margins in BIG EASY-TO-READ NUMBERS. I haven't used a dead-tree phone book in years. It's easier to go online to look for a number, or use a voice lookup service from a cell phone. (Google 411 was the best, so naturally they shut it down last month, leaving us with Bing 411 as a merely okay alternative; call 800-BING-411 for an automated operator who will look up the number and offer to connect your call for free.)
This year, the city of Seattle adopted a law making phone book delivery an opt-in service, meaning they can't drop them off willy-nilly; you have to call the phone book company to get one delivered. But until that's the norm everywhere, there's another alternative: the phone book equivalent of the Do-Not-Call registry. And it's easy. Follow me under the cut and I'll tell you about it.
Go to the Yellow Pages Opt-Out registry and enter your ZIP code. The system will then list the local directories that allow you to opt out (in my case, the Sunshine Pages, AT&T, and Seccion Amarilla USA). You still have to make the call to each company, but it's better than finding phone books littering your porch for the rest of your life.
And if it's AT&T in particular you want to stop: call 1-866-329-7118 and opt out, which will stop phone book deliveries for at least a year.