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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, July 13

Gapers Block

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Andrew / April 2, 2008 12:38 AM

Follow-up question: What do you do with the stacks of new ones that show up at your door?

appopt / April 2, 2008 6:20 AM

This is one of my biggest pet peeves of late. I live in a building with 20 units. We get stacks of new phone books three or four times a year (it seems). And no one ever seems to take any of them. They just sit there. Eventually, someone throws them out (I guess). With so much publicity about going green, these companies are still wasting tons of paper. Another pet peeve of mine is the paper no-parking signs Chicago hangs on trees for street cleaning. Not sure how this makes the city one of the greenest in the world, as Daley likes to pretend we are.

Speedy / April 2, 2008 6:33 AM

My TV is propped up on one now. Makes it easier to see, dontchaknow.

wrong sample group? / April 2, 2008 8:16 AM

This might be a bad question to ask on a website - people viewing this question are, by definition, computer-savvy, and we know that the best source of information is the internet, as opposed to a phone book printed months I expect most responses to be similar to speedy's.

That said, I will now invalidate my own argument! I actually tried to use the phone book the other day, but it didn't have the listing I wanted. I had hoped that opening a book would be faster than booting up my comuter. That'll show me....

I get upset - sad, really - when I see those stacks of unwanted books in the lobby of my condo building. It smacks of an industry trying to ignore the writing on the wall, trying to preserve a business that is becoming less and less necessary by the year.

karen / April 2, 2008 8:39 AM

this whole phone book situation really ticked me off the other day.

i live in an apartment building with only 6 apartments, yet there were at least 18 phone books on my doorstep. no one ever touched them.

you can get everything you need off the internet. and for those that do not have internet access, or simply just LOVE phone books, have some printed that people can order from at&t or something, don't just throw them on everyone's doorstep. it is such a digusting waste of paper/printing/resources.

and this is coming from a print designer who, for her first job, actually had to design the ads in said phone book.

YAJ / April 2, 2008 8:56 AM

I used a phone book yesterday, looking for Indian food in Bloomington.

I agree that new ones seem to show up at our home about 3 or 4 times a year. Unless I think it's time to rotate a new one under the phone, I toss them right in the blue bag with the junk mail.

Carrie / April 2, 2008 9:01 AM

I don't have a computer at home, so when something breaks, I have to bust out the phonebook. I think I last used one to call a plumber when my hot water heater started to leak. That's fun to come home to at 1 in the morning. And this was mmm... 6 months ago, I guess.

As for the million phonebooks that show up a few times a year, I usually end up feeling guilty for leaving them outside and will eventually nab mine and either recycle that one or the one that's already inside.

ramsin / April 2, 2008 9:11 AM

What are you talking about it? I use my phone book all the time; why just yesterday, I used it to balance my Model T while replacing the crankin' stick. And last week, Mother used it to set our Victorla atop.

Candygram / April 2, 2008 9:20 AM

While not a luddite, I'm not trying to become Totally Connected To The Grid Man either. Therefore, I always pick up one of the yellow/white page phone books in my lobby. And sometimes use it when I don't feel like firing up the ol'internet to look for the number of a pizza place three blocks away. The smaller, local white page phone books are the most handy, but the yellow pages are handy when you want to look at a bunch of business at once (i.e. auto mechanics)... and you can write in it! Try THAT with your computer screen...

anne / April 2, 2008 9:21 AM

I used one the last time my car window got smashed. It was easier to find a repair place that way. Now that I've got a guy I like if it happens again (knock on wood), I'll just go to him. Might have seen my last phonebook use, maybe.

Spook / April 2, 2008 9:28 AM

Good question

Across the street is a boarded up house in a vacant lot where I let my 125 pound pup romp when I'm too lazy to walk her.

On the side of the house is concert box like hole
about three feet deep
where pipes use to be. Last year I tossed four phone books down there along with ten copies of LaRaza and "Hoy"
to see how long it takes to organically dissolve. It takes along time!

tortor / April 2, 2008 9:57 AM

At 5'1", I use phone books all the time... to sit on, to reach things on the top shelf, as a foot rest at work so that my feet don't just hang...

printdude / April 2, 2008 9:57 AM

I find the "Blue Pages" in the front especially handy when trying to get in contact with somebody in the gov'ment.
The White pages are nearly dead - most folk I know are ditching that land line in favor of the mobile, and mobile numbers aren't in the BigBook.
I love, love, LOVE! the yellow pages for clip-art purposes.

Mike / April 2, 2008 10:02 AM

I always recycle the 25 we get (in my 12-unit condo building, 3 or 4 times a year) at the Resource Center. They have dumpsters at Leland and Sheridan in Uptown. There are also some in the 7-11 parking lot at Lincoln and Wrightwood in Lincoln Park. Unlike the city's blue bag program (which doesn't work, especially if you live in a building larger than 3 units with private trash pickup), the Resource Center reuses 99% of what they collect. This practice of dumping tons of phone books on people throughout the year should be banned, along with billboard trucks and all the other wasteful crap going on.

Dutch101 / April 2, 2008 10:15 AM

Like Anne said above, the phonebook is actually probably better than the interweb when you are trying to find a low tech kind of service. Like fixing window glass. For some reason, internet searches don't seem to provide satisfying search results for service categories. I still keep one around though. I guess it's part of my survivalist instincts, that when our information grid collapses, I can still use my phonebook to find goods and services that I can barter for. Or places to loot, I guess.

I have this vision of confused hoardes of city-dwellin', internet-jonesin', forcibly disconnected folk wandering aimlessly in the urban wasteland. Meanwhile, I'll be on top of the world with my hoarded weapons and canned goods, and my phonebook.

kate / April 2, 2008 11:00 AM

I can't remember the last time I used a phone book. I asked a friend if he had one a few months ago, and I got a really snotty "Uhh, NO. We have the internet", which I totally deserved.

The phone books on my front porch magically disappear. Thanks, neighbors!

james / April 2, 2008 11:14 AM

To actually use one for its intended purpose, it's probably been two years.

Also, I know someone who actually confronted the person dropping off phonebooks in their building's lobby. They said, "Please don't drop them off because no one uses them." The woman said she had to leave a phonebook for every unit. So this person replied, "Then only leave 5. One unit's vacant." She smiled and dumped the books on the floor anyway.

Spook / April 2, 2008 12:02 PM

"She smiled and dumped the books on the floor anyway."

Now that is classic, and you gotta love that she smiled whil doing it!

jen / April 2, 2008 12:03 PM

even if you don't want to turn on the computer to look up a business phone number or address, we all know about google's service, right? text the name of the business and city (or zip code) to 466453 (GOOGLE), and they text you back with the closest matches or locations. quite handy for those of us who have a text package but not a fancy phone with easy to use internet or GPS.

to answer the question - i can't remember the last time i used a phone book. and lately on my walk to the train, i've walked past big apartment buildings with them sitting in the bags outside the front door. what a waste.

Joe / April 2, 2008 12:42 PM


I didn't know about Google's text message service, but I just tried it, and it worked great. Thanks for the tip....

Carlotta / April 2, 2008 12:48 PM

I prefer to use the Yellow Pages than the Internet to find the services I need because I'm not happy with search engine results.

But I hate how all of the businesses are alphabetically listed in the Yellow Pages instead of included in the White Pages personal listings.

Speaking of White Pages, have they come out yet? Are they going to come out?

LV / April 2, 2008 1:12 PM

I just used mine a couple weeks ago b/c I didn't want to turn on my computer. But that sounds terribly silly, doesn't it? We used to use them nearly daily before the advent of online yellow pages.

I use the web or Google's text service 99% of the time. It's nice to have a phone book around, but it's definitely not necessary for anyone w/a computer. I agree that they should let customers choose whether they receive one.

peta / April 2, 2008 2:02 PM

I'm using it more and more, as I find I can't locate the phone numbers I want. I used it two days ago.

p / April 2, 2008 3:33 PM

i used one in a hotel room in philly a while ago to try to have some food delivered while on a layover.

i had a friend growing up who moved to lockport and when he came back to visit he said suburb kids were all crazy unsupervised and all they did was wear cavariccis and huff glue and set phonebooks on fire. i keep this visual to this day.

Mo / April 2, 2008 4:18 PM

jen, thanks for the tip!

A while ago, I went through a print gocco screen printing phase, so i used the phonebook to press and dry the inked pages. Other than that, sometimes I use it to reach a lightbulb if the chair isn't quite high enough. Got a step ladder now, though. I don't remember the last time we got phonebooks...our landlord must toss them before I notice.

My boss, though, refuses to believe the internet is better than a phonebook and likes to race me to find numbers. I gave him the benefit of the doubt once and used our campus paper directory to find an office number. Couldn't find it in print.

Meems / April 2, 2008 6:52 PM

As a Concierge I always look things up on the internet if I don't know it already. So it was so weird that that twice in one week I got asked if I had a phone book (I didn't because the place I work just opened and I keep meaning to grab one from home). I offered to look something up and both people declined. So I guess there are people out there that just like to flip through. Who knew?

Steven / April 2, 2008 7:07 PM

Sunday. Tried to look up the number of a pizza place down the street in the yellow pages, but it wasn't listed so I ended up dialing 411 anyway. Don't have internet at home. AT&T and I had a little disagreement and I haven't replace it with wi-fi yet. Don't really need the 24/7 access to porn.

Brad / April 2, 2008 7:46 PM

I used two just the other day to test for myself the myth that two phonebooks with the pages folded together are impossible to pull apart. According to mythbusters its true:

fluffy / April 2, 2008 10:57 PM

A couple of weeks ago, I was meeting a friend at a bar I'd never been to. It wasn't listed in the yellow pages and the 411 directory assistance people couldn't find it either. I'm sure if I'd had my laptop with me, I would have found it online.

Mikey / April 2, 2008 11:42 PM

I've been collecting my neighborhood's phone books and using them to build a fort for the imminent zombie wars. You laugh now...

Alice / April 3, 2008 8:04 AM

Hee, Mikey.

If you're not saving for a fort here's a link about what to do about the books, including a petition to make it illegal to deliver books without permission.

Spook / April 3, 2008 8:58 AM

do not follow
the idoits who made Shawn of the Dead "vogue" for the morons who loved it. I would ask you sir, to please refrain from making light of the Zombie (slow moving) Apocalypse.

Or you might find yourself at the blocked doors of a shopping mall, your beseeching to be let in falling upon my unconcerned ears

Mikey / April 3, 2008 10:27 AM


Fast-moving zombies are for Hollywood assholes; I too prefer my living dead Romero-esque. And I hardly expect to be doing any beseeching at barricaded shopping malls. Armed with my knowledge and mad undead-killing skills culled from both The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, I will most likely be leading my own ragtag band of freedom fighters and keeping to the road...

Mikey / April 3, 2008 10:29 AM


Shaun of the Dead was still a funny movie...

Hector / April 3, 2008 10:40 AM

"Don't really need the 24/7 access to porn."

You know Steven, you don't HAVE to look at porn on the internet. It's not like it's mandatory or anything.

Jill / April 3, 2008 10:41 AM

I used it the other day to look up a friend's number because I was too lazy to look in my Luddite paper address book and my computer was off.

Although I don't use the phone book nearly as much as I used to, I still think it's important to have around--I find it's easier to flip through a couple of pages of plumbers, some of whom will have ads describing their services, than it is to use an internet yellow pages and clicking through pages and pages of useless garbage.

Val / April 3, 2008 9:08 PM

Monday. To hold the door open as I was moving stuff into my new apartment.

Brian / April 4, 2008 8:14 AM

Strangely enough, just last week. I used it to find a gubmint agency in the blue pages section. Before that, probably many months.

Equally strange, gov't agencies don't have very good contact info on their websites, instead wanting you to email them - which doesn't get replied to for months - if ever. Which, of course, necessitated me looking the number up in the phone book.

Brian / April 4, 2008 8:18 AM

@Hector: I disagree. Internet = Porn. Porn = Internet. The two words are virtually interchangeable now.

m / April 4, 2008 8:27 AM

at home i havent used one to look up a number in a while... however, i work parttime at gap and people ocassionally ask me to look up a number.

i also used some pages this past christmas to wrap up presents and as "filler".
OH and there was that time i forgot my keys at work, and while i was waiting for my coworker to drop them off, i sat on the 4-stack of phonebooks in my lobby. not too shabby!

Hector / April 4, 2008 9:47 AM

Brian: LOL. I see. That would explain why I blush everytime I hear the words "Google", "YouTube" or "My Space"

Brandy / April 4, 2008 10:27 AM

Uh, can't remember the last time I used one for its intended use.

A couple years ago, my yoga teacher and I grabbed a bunch for folks to sit on in class.

And I have one wrapped in snazzy red duct tape for my own (neglected) yoga and meditation practices.

p / April 4, 2008 11:21 AM

WAITAMINUTE. HOLLUP!! Where can i buy some red duct tape?

Brandy / April 4, 2008 11:33 AM

re: red duct tape
I got mine at a Dollar Store.

gruamach / April 4, 2008 11:36 AM

First, concerning the zombie invasion. There are both fast- and slow- moving zombies. This is a bit complicated to explain here, and doing so would take us far off-topic. But I doubt a phonebook fort would protect anyone from anything but maybe toddler zombies.

Concur: In recent years, I've consulted the (physical) phnebook less & less often; especially the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages have their uses at times (noted by others), but can sometimes be confusing -- especially with some of the archaic headers/classifications. ("Apparel" vs. "Clothing," for instance.)

Someone explained the multiple phonebook deliveries to me a while back. He explained it to me from a business perspective, as someone who deliberately placed add in one set of YPs, and not with the others. There is, apparently, only one legit phonebook/Yellow Pages; and the rest are shoddy, wanna-be competitors. I frequently forget which is which, though.

p / April 4, 2008 11:50 AM

thanks brandy. i'm thinking that red replacing the grey is a serious life Upgrade.

And speaking of zombies- I've never been to Neo but I'm thinking if I wore a loose black Dego T and some tight black running tights and taped red circles up each leg and around myself from ankle to waist..and maybe taped up one arm totally in red...I mean goth girls would Throw It at me, no?

GG / April 4, 2008 1:05 PM

As someone who places ads in the books for their company (because we always have though we don't know how many people are actually "using") it is frustrating because the ads are very expensive. I think businesses are struggling with when (or if) to pull their ads. It's a difficult decision if you have always been in there - like for 25 years.

Some facts for those that care: the AT&T book (known as DEX now) comes out early April, the Dex Neighborhoods books come out in August. The Yellow Book (the fake one) comes out in January. That's why you've been seeing so many books.

For the record I only used the book once to look for a cab to take me to the airport. It seemed better than looking online - although local search is improving rapidly.

Clout / April 4, 2008 2:50 PM

Speaking of phone books (scroll down a bit)

Steinberg Column

johnny / March 22, 2009 12:33 AM

i use the phone books every day to save energy,the internet is a waste of space and energy,all the complainers need to get a reality check from their local doctor.

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