Advertising disguised as today's phone books

Remember the good old days, when somebody dropped a single phone directory at your front door once a year, or maybe an updated version of the same book every six months?

The directory was simple enough. It contained a section of white pages, which listed residential phone numbers. That was followed by the yellow pages, with ads and listings that helped you find a plumber, a painter, a used car dealer, a periodontist or any other business or professional person.

But the phone directory business doesn't work that way anymore. Maybe it's because so many folks are walking around with cellphones and, in many cases, don't have land lines. And cellphone numbers generally aren't listed in phone books. So the phone directories these days don't even compare to those dropped at your door in the past. And to put the older books in the somewhat glib vernacular of our present-day society, maybe they were "too 20th century."

Instead, now we have lots of books dropped at our doorsteps, some imitations of phone directories. And to confuse you more, they're all being dropped at your front door at various times of the year. Depending on where you live, you could be getting more than half a dozen of them.

Several are fat and heavy, and they look like the old phone directories. But unlike the duck that quacks, they're not phone books. They should be called what they are ---- advertising catalogs, albeit well-disguised as phone directories.

But make no mistake about it, these catalogs do serve a valuable commercial purpose, especially when you're looking for an electrician, a handyman or maybe a lawyer. However, some folks might say enough of these books, already.

Granted, times are tough, and these weighty catalogs, disguised as phone directories, help keep down unemployment in the logging industry, irrespective of environmentalists who might be screaming about the possible decimation of the whole forests that make it possible to produce them.

Let's stop for a moment and think about this: What would the late Andy Rooney have done with all of these books?

Picture Andy for a moment, with his flopping jowls, nostalgically sitting behind a pile of heavy advertising catalogs, or phone books, call them whatever you'd like. Then think about his 60-second satire, built around the obvious question of what was he supposed to do with the endless numbers of these books, had they been dropped at his doorstep?

We counted six such books in our home, all found at our front door within the last 12 months. That doesn't include a seventh directory of ads and business listings that I inadvertently threw into the recycling bin and sent away without recalling its title. A close examination found that three contain residential listings. One is the white pages published by Dex, in association with CenturyLink. Another is the community directory for Sun City Summerlin, produced by the community association. And the third, simply called Sun City Summerlin 2012-2013, was published by Yellowbook Inc. It consists of 34 pages of Sun City residential listings and 686 pages of ads and business listings.

In essence, I have three books containing the same residential listings of Sun City Summerlin, printed, of course, by competing interests. It's a far cry from those phone books produced when we were "too 20th century."

One of the other directories, which weighs several pounds and consists only of ads and business listings, is dropped each July at front doors in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson and Boulder City. Another directory, published each November, contains only ads and business listings for "Summerlin and surrounding areas." Both are of the Dex-CenturyLink variety.

We received another annual directory consisting only of advertising and business listings, produced by Cox Communications. That book, which also weighs several pounds, was distributed throughout most of Clark County. Residential phone numbers? Oh, yeah. Almost as an aside ---- and in small print ---- there's a notice on the cover of the Cox ad catalog advising us to "find residential listings at"

Yes, indeed, Andy Rooney would have had a field day.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at