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Technology Marches On: 12 Everyday Tasks That Almost Nobody Does Anymore

NEW YORK - As technology continues its rapid evolution and growth on a near daily basis, we have found ourselves having to do less and less outside of the digital world when it comes to everyday tasks. One by one, things we used to have to do manually can now be done on a computer, or even more conveniently, from the palm of our hand via any recently-designed smartphone.

One of the things this new era of technology has deemed the most obsolete is that clunky old contraption known as the print phone directory. The mainstay of American households for over a century, in recent years phone-books have taken on a smaller and smaller role in our lives, to the point where their detriment to society has clearly outweighed their usefulness. Aside from being hopelessly out-of-date shortly after publication, there are a number of environmental factors to consider in both their creation and destruction after their admittedly short but useful life has concluded.
That said, here's a handy list of a number of activities that you may or may not have realized have fallen by the wayside in our new-and-improved digital age. While most of these changes represent a new era of convenience and efficiency, one could argue that some of them may actually represent steps backwards in our evolutionary cycle. It's up to you to be the judge.

An old beaten up phone book with, believe it or not, a phone book holder hanging beneath it. File photo: Pixabay.

In addition to many phone-book-related items, this list also includes other daily, all-too-common activities that are falling by the wayside as technology marches on. Some might read this list and grow a little nostalgic for the way things were, while others may appreciate the many advantages of technology today all the more.

1) Memorizing phone numbers

In the olden days – the olden days being the 80s and early 90s – people actually had to memorize phone numbers of their friends and loved ones, or short of that, at least carry around a small, hand-written phone book to keep those numbers within reach when they were needed. But nowadays, every cell phone has a dedicated contacts directory, and you can call anyone you know by voicing a command. That said, most people nowadays would probably have trouble telling you the phone number of their own mother or girlfriend, let alone the numbers of people they have far less contact with. While it is certainly convenient to be able to do this, one could argue that the less we use the brains, the worse off we are as a species.

2) Using a phone book to find a company to do work at your house

Modern generations, such as Generation Z and Millennials, probably don't even know what a Yellow Pages phone book is. More often than not, they regularly turn to digital alternatives, as well as websites such as Angie's List and Yelp in order to find services they need when it comes to doing work on their home. Those aforementioned websites make it easy to read user reviews and ratings before deciding to contact a given company to ensure that you're getting the best quality for your money. Today, few, if anyone at all cracks open a print Yellow Pages directory. it's straight to the internet.

3) Figuring out math in your head

This is another category that goes hand-in-hand with memorizing phone numbers. Back in the day, people used to have to add, subtract, multiply, and more within the recesses of their very own brains. Not today. In addition to the plethora of other technologies available in your smartphone, the most basic of apps they all come with is a calculator. That's right, no one has to know how to count or do any other type of mathematical activity on their own any more, and once again one has to argue if that is or is not a good thing for us as a society. With every advance in technology, there are always pluses and minuses.

4) Telling time by using the hands on a clock

Analog clocks are nearly a thing of the past. People with smartphones are buying things like wall clocks and watches and smaller and smaller numbers, mainly using them as fashion statements or – with the advent of devices such as Fitbit – wrist-worn fitness trackers. Pretty soon we won’t be seeing clocks with hands at all anymore, as a growing segment of the population wouldn't even know what they were if they saw them.

5) Having a record or CD collection

I used to have a pretty big music CD collection. Now my collection is comprised of just a couple of favorites that I couldn't bear to part with; the rest were sold to the used CD store across town. That is, I sold them after I ripped all of them to my iTunes library. Nowadays, people are using their cell phones storing their entire music collections which can be instantly retrieved and listened to at will not only through a headphone jack, but thanks to Bluetooth technology, on a number of high-end digital speakers as well, making the smartphone a truly all-in-one experience when it comes to your daily activities. With more and more storage available on even base models, you can load up your phone with a nearly endless sea of MP3 files and enjoy listening to every song you have at anytime you want. That's a lot better than having to pick out just a handful of CDs to stick in your bag for a car trip or train ride like we used to do.

6) Printing your favorite photos and making a photo album

Here's another thing that's falling by the wayside. Remember going on a trip, taking all sorts of snapshots, and then going to your local pharmacy to have all those pictures developed so you could pick out the best ones to include in a physical photo album? Those days have come and gone; again, cell phone cameras are approaching – and in many cases exceeding – the quality of many high-end point-and-shoot digital cameras, and fewer and fewer people are actually bothering to print their shots out. Instead, they are content to leave them on their phones, which serve as massive portable digital photo albums for most people these days.

7) Looking up theater or movie times through the newspaper

Remember having to look up the phone number of your local theater in your Yellow Page directory? And after doing so, calling your theater and having to listen to an endless recording of the different movies and showtimes for that day? If you don't, perhaps it's for the best...it wasn't a very fun thing to do. But again, with the magic of smartphones, you can just simply type – or even speak – the name of any movie you're interested in seeing and your phone will provide a list of movie theaters and showtimes based on your GPS positioning. You can even purchase your tickets on your phone and have them texted or emailed to you, enabling you to skip the line at the cinema.

8) Running to the store for a last minute gift

I think just about everybody today is familiar with websites such as Amazon and their Prime program which offers free 2-day shipping – soon to become free 1-day shipping – which is perfect if you suddenly remembered your mother's birthday at the end of the week and are too busy to run out to the store and search endlessly for just the right gift. Instead, eCommerce sites offer a plethora of items at your fingertips with a variety of fast shipping options to take advantage of. No more pulling out phone books to find where stores are, or braving crowded malls and check-out lanes...instead, a few button-presses on your phone and your package will be well on its way to you. Granted, this sort of activity is shuttering a lot of local retail businesses, so you might want to think twice about doing this if you want to help support your own community. But sometimes time is a factor, and it's nice to have this option available when you need it.

9) Mailing a handwritten letter to someone

Nowadays a hand-written letter is simply a novelty and little more. With email, texting, Facebook, and a plethora of other options for staying in touch with people on a daily basis, letter-writing is seen by many as a thing of the past. It still is nice though when you want to add that personal touch to someone you are especially fond of, but otherwise it just doesn't happen much anymore.

10) Using a dictionary to see how to spell a word

With practically every program on your phone possessing a spell-checker of some sort, apparently people don't need to know how to spell anymore, either. Again, this goes hand-in-hand with knowing how to add, multiply or remember phone numbers. Like those other issues, this could certainly be seen as a negative, but there are times when you just wouldn't know how to spell a given word and it's nice to know that technology can help you from looking like a complete illiterate when it counts.

11) Making a phone call from a phone booth

I'm writing this article, and even I barely remember what a phone booth looks like. It's likely that anyone born from the early 1990’s on would even have any idea what a phone booth was, let alone what it looks like. That's probably not a bad thing.

12) Carrying cash

It seems more people nowadays are using credit and debit cards to pay for things than actual cash, but cash is still king...at least, for now. There are more and more apps arriving on phones – such as Google Play and others – that are making even carrying around plastic obsolete, let alone paper. But while any form of payment still works these days, you're going to see that currency is going digital sooner rather than later.

As you can see, smartphones add a great deal of convenience to our lives, and while some may argue that they also can be a detriment when it comes to our personal growth and evolution – after all, it's good to know how to count, spell and memorize things – cell phones nonetheless have become a part of daily life that few people can do without. This instance, I'd say the positives outweigh the negatives. At least, that is, for now.

Efforts Ongoing by Several Companies to Create Blockchain Version of Yellow Pages

NEW YORK - Despite the efforts of time, technology, and progress to finally do away with them, the Yellow Pages may be making a comeback, albeit in a very different – and complicated – form; a digital one that could connect participating companies in a truly revolutionary way utilizing an emerging technology initially created to govern the use of so-called cryptocurrency that has now expanded to become much more.

Blockchain was invented under the name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency known as bitcoin. File photo: Pixabay.

A project known as the “Unbounded Registry,” which boasts the involvement of several high-profile companies including IBM, has been working on a platform that could be best described as a “catalog” comprised of “blockchains” and blockchain-based businesses.

Blockchain was invented by a person – or possibly a group of people – under the name “Satoshi Nakamoto” in 2008 to serve as the public transaction ledger of the cryptocurrency known as bitcoin. However, in recent years, blockchain use has expanded to other areas of business.
This may sound complicated, but essentially a blockchain is a growing list of records – called “blocks” – which are linked using cryptography; this is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties. Each “block” contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data. By design, a blockchain is resistant to modification of the data, and for use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol that handles communication and validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires consensus of the network majority.

While this may not sound like an effective means to construct a business directory in an environment that would require some degree of flexibility, the project has stated that the way they're constructing their catalog would allow users to interact and transact in a way that would allow them to grow and change as needed. The project is said to interoperate with all of today's popular distributed ledger technologies, with the project being characterized as the “Yellow Pages of the Blockchain.”

Unlike typical Yellow Page directories, this particular project will require members to apply to join the registry due to the heavy permissions involved; non-members will not have access due the sensitive information being brandied about between users. For companies and organizations that are members, however, the advantages when to comes to communicating and conducting business are said to be numerous.

It is currently not known the specific criteria required for becoming part of the catalog, the specific types of blockchains that will be allowed, or how a given blockchain can incorporate itself into the catalog, but if this is to be a comprehensive project it would obviously make sense that it would allow as many blockchains – and companies, of course – as possible to join.

The blockchain catalog, if it comes to fruition, would centrally allow all participants to interact and collaborate digitally, establishing a shared, immutable record of all transactions, addresses, contact information, and more, all in real-time. Records can be easily digitized and exchanged and will be backed by a secure system with strict import and export clearance. Think of it as a “Super Yellow Pages” that would allow participating companies to not only identify purveyors of goods and services that they need, but also allow participants to share information as goods move through supply chains. And as this will all be done within a digital context, the process will go a long way towards reducing the cost of paperwork as well, which many companies note is one of the costliest aspects of conducting business in many ways.

The only drawback that may prevent some companies from wanting to get involved in this endeavor is the fact that all participants would have to share their data on common platforms. This transparency, while very advantageous and desirable in many ways, could also drive off entities and organizations who wish to keep the details of certain transactions under wraps; a very understandable concern in today’s cutthroat business world.

Time will only tell if this intriguing – and complicated – blockchain version of the Yellow Pages will bear fruit, or fade away into obscurity if it is not refined and adopted by the business community as a whole.

Better Business Bureau Releases List of Scams Small Businesses Need to Avoid

NEW YORK - For small businesses today, scams are a major and growing problem, often perpetrated by unscrupulous individuals possessing delicate information and seeking to separate hard-working entrepreneurs from their money. However, the Better Business Bureau recently released a list of the most common scams targeting businesses today, something that is vital reading for pretty much anyone, whether they work for themselves or someone else.

Staying informed about the most common scams going around and getting familiar with the different techniques involved is the best defense for any small business owner not looking to become a victim, and when armed with the information provided by the Better Business Bureau, identifying these vile charlatans and avoiding them is now easier than ever.

Most scams nowadays involve people who have acquired a business’ publicly-available contact information and, with a bare minimum of research, will reach out to that company posing often as an authority figure or charitable institution while requesting money. Scams of this nature can really devastate a business if successful, and it's vitally important for any entrepreneur to be prepared when they become the target of a phone or email scammer.

Some of the most common small business scams include the following:

  • Businesses receiving fraudulent invoices requesting payment for goods and services that were never provided. These individuals will often attempt to have the bookkeeper or other authorized payment representative wire or transfer large amounts of money to an unverified account. Typically, the amount of money requested begins as relatively small in an effort not to raise concerns; however, if the scam is successfully carried out, often more invoices will follow requesting greater amounts.
  • Businesses should beware of people claiming to be representatives of a local print or online Yellow Page directory requesting to update their business listings. Often, the business is billed large amounts of money for fake listing services, including ads that they were led to believe would be displayed in their local Yellow Pages; of course, these ads will never materialize.
  • Some scammers will actually contact consumers, claiming to be a legitimate, existing company in an attempt to rip them off in one way or another. While the actual company they are claiming to represent doesn't suffer financially in these types of situations, their reputation certainly does, as they are often associated with the scam in question, and are often held responsible.
  • Other scammers will contact a company claiming to be representatives of a charitable group or institution while requesting donations for various causes. While many of these organizations are real, there is always the threat of con-men and charlatans mixed in who are looking to separate you from your hard-earned money. If you're unsure whether or not a charity that has contacted you is legitimate, it pays to reach out directly to the charity they're claiming to represent and confirm their identity before writing any checks.
  • Phishing scams are more recent phenomenon that involves emails that appear on the surface to be legit, but often contain links that will download a virus to your computer when you click on them. These links will subsequently gather personal information located on your computer that can be used against you in a variety of ways. Of course, always make sure that any anti-virus and anti-phishing software on your computer is up to date, and if you receive an email from an unfamiliar source, always treat it with a very high level of scrutiny before interacting with it in any way.
  • Some businesses will receive a contact from an organization about an award they have allegedly won, and are requested to pay a certain fee up-front before receiving the award. In addition to potentially paying for an award that doesn't even exist, a business may also find themselves paying phantom membership fees on an annual basis that they never agreed to if they supply credit card information. Much like when receiving requests for charitable donations, always do some detective work and confirm the legitimacy of any organization that offers you an award before accepting.
  • And finally, there's the over-payment scam. This involves a fraudulent customer attempting to purchase goods or services from a given business; they will send a check that is greater than the amount that said goods or services will cost, and will then request a refund in the amount of the difference. However, the company will soon become aware of the scam when the original check eventually bounces, leaving them in the hole for the full amount.

Scammers are more plentiful than ever before thanks to the abundance of information available out in the wild combined with the anonymity provided by the Internet. Therefore, as a small business owner, it's vital for you to stay on top of what's happening and to use caution and common sense when dealing with anyone you don't know. It's hard enough getting a small business off the ground these days, but if you use your head – and stay on top of the latest scams – it'll make your job that much easier.

The Importance of Getting Your Business Phone Number Properly Listed

NEW YORK - In today's economic climate, starting your own small business can be a risky proposition; however, it can also be an immensely profitable one if you take the right steps to give your business the exposure it needs. Online reviews, a clever marketing campaign, an attractive and easy-to-use website, and numerous ads – both in print and online – can certainly get you attention. However, there's one thing many tend to overlook when establishing a new entrepreneurial endeavor, and that's getting the phone number for your business properly listed in order to achieve maximum exposure of your brand, and ensuring that your potential customers can easily reach out and touch you, as the old phone company jingle goes.

In the old days, someone would simply crack open a print Yellow Page directory when they were looking for goods and services in their area; however, this was before the Internet came along and changed things forever. In addition to online Yellow Pages directories, things have also changed drastically overall in the modern telecommunications industry. Where in the past, there were only one or two major phone companies, today the industry is decentralized and comprised of multiple carriers, and this means there are many, many different directories out there. Depending on the scope of your business and how far across the country it reaches, you need to ensure that your phone number is listed in every market applicable to you.

The general rule of thumb is that if a customer can't find you, then it's not possible for you to serve them. You need to give your business the most exposure by making sure your phone number is available to potential customers in multiple markets and venues. Thankfully, if you know what you're doing, this is a generally easy and low-cost – often free – process, when done in its most basic form.

Shockingly, in this day and age, there are still individuals who turn to the print phone book when they need to look up a business, so even though it's something you may generally overlook, it still is worth your while to make sure your business is listed there. Most often your listing would be included for no extra charge when you sign up for a landline for your business, but if you're actually using your home phone number instead be prepared to be woken up at all hours. Also, bear in mind that your listing will be appearing instead in the White Pages – not the Yellow Pages – which will make it more difficult for potential customers to track you down. In addition, home landline numbers are often the victims of spam calls more often than business numbers; with this being the case, it only makes sense for someone starting a business to invest in a business phone line. Again, this typically includes an automatic listing and your carrier’s local Yellow Pages – both print and online – so it makes sense.

However, when it comes to getting your business phone number out there, online directories are really the way to go. After all, telephone books generally come out annually – or bi-annually at best – and as a result, much of the content within its pages becomes obsolete quickly. With this being the case, if any of your contact information has changed, no one that uses print directories is going to know it for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, online directories are typically updated every day – or multiple times a day – which ensures that consumers always have access to the most up-to-date information.

Making sure you're located in all of your local online directories is important as well, as often consumers will search local zip codes in order to find businesses either local to their home or nearby places they're planning on being in the near future. With a paper phone book, they would have to go through page after page in order to find a business that suits their location; with online sources, it's simply a matter of typing in your ZIP code. So again, making sure that your business is listed in as many online directories as possible is essential, and typically free as well.

Google My Business, for example, allows you to create a listing for your company, including your phone number, address, and any other information pertinent to your customers. Google is the world's number one search engine, so it's very important to get your business listed there, and to ensure that the information you put in is correct.

However, while Google may be number one for the foreseeable future, it's not the only place you should list your business. For free, you can also add your business to Yelp for Business, Bing Places, Facebook, Yellow Pages Goes Green (of course), and several others. Once you have your information imputed it into these sites, you'll have yourself thoroughly out there for any customers looking to potentially engage your services. To see how your listing appears you can use this tool to scan your listing across multiple sites at once and look for errors.

Again, having a business phone line is the most effective, but nonetheless there are still those out there who choose to use a private line, and others still will actually use their cell numbers for their business. This option can certainly complicate matters for you, mainly because of the fact that many telephone service providers don't make cell numbers available to directory assistance. Cell phone numbers are not listed in public directories by default, but it is possible to use websites such as Express Update or List Yourself, which allow you to add your business information – including a cell phone number – to a number of directory assistance providers and publishers in the country.

Any new business owner looking to get an edge in a crowded and very competitive market will take every advantage they can to possibly gain an advantage, and while a snazzy advertising campaign or bright and inviting sign above your shop may get some foot traffic in the door, making sure you have your listings in order – especially in regards to your business phone number – can go a long way to spelling success for your endeavor.

Frontier Communications to Continue Mass Delivery of Print Yellow Pages in Upstate NY Despite Demand

NEW YORK - Frontier Communications, a publishing company that supplies print telephone directories to customers in Rochester, New York and beyond, has recently and curiously reversed a decision it made regarding curtailing the mass delivery of their Yellow Pages business listings book, instead opting to continue supplying it to residents in their area despite their fading demand and greater reliance upon digital options.

In early 2019, Frontier had approached the New York State Service Commission and asked for permission to end the mass delivery of Yellow Page directories to its customers, arguing that interest in print directories had decreased greatly in favor of reliance upon electronic directory options. Citing the fact that the vast majority of consumers simply throw the Yellow Page directories they find on their doorsteps in the trash or recycling bin, Frontier also pointed out that the creation and disposal of their directories had a detrimental impact upon the environment. Based on their pervasive arguments, Frontier was given approval to end mass delivery of their Yellow Page directories; delivery would only be made to customers who had personally requested a copy, Frontier said.

Frontier had also ended the delivery of their residential White Pages directories five years ago, a decision they have completely adhered to.
However, Frontier recently reversed themselves in regards to their Yellow Page directories, stating that they had no intentions of ending it anytime soon. This, according to reports, is possibly due to the fact that the vast amount of business advertising contained on each page generates a great deal of revenue for Frontier. With their most recent directory coming in at 900 pages, that's a lot of potential revenue that they’d be giving up.

It remains to be argued how visible those ads are, however; regardless of whether or not residents are actually having a print phone directory delivered, it is more than likely that the vast number of them that do never even crack them open once. Aside from some older segments of society, nowadays most people are far more likely to hop on their computer or whip out their smartphone if they need to find the phone number or address of a local plumber, restaurant, or retail store. But again, the aforementioned older segment of society often insists on hanging on to the way things were, and it seems that a majority of them made their voices heard. That, coupled with an advertising department that's clearly working overtime, are likely the reasons why Frontier decided to reverse their decision. But if you're one of their customers who no longer wanted to receive the book, fear not; you still have the option of opting out of delivery, either through Frontier’s website, or through any number of online alternatives....including right here, on Yellow Pages Goes Green.

However, the fact that Frontier filed to cease delivery the company sees the writing on the wall; namely, that the average consumer typically has little-to-no use for print phone directories, which have actually existed in one form or another for well over a century in the Rochester area. And as demand decreases for them, it's more likely that advertisers will abandon Frontier; it’s only a matter of time.

For the time being, Frontier is hanging on to a moneymaker for as long as they can. But in this day and age of widespread digital information – as well as an increased awareness of the environmental impact that the creation and disposal of print phone directories has – you can probably find yourself counting the seconds before Frontier does away with mass delivery of their Yellow Pages directory once and for all.

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