Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ex-RFT Columnist and School Board Member, Bill Haas, Weighs in on AT&T and White Pages

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2009 at 1:48 PM

click to enlarge VOTEBILLHAAS.COM
  • votebillhaas.com
Daily RFT has posted a couple short articles (here, here) on AT&T's request to stop distributing the White Pages residential directories in St. Louis.

To us, it doesn't matter all that much should the state's Public Service Commission grant the phone company's request. We rarely use the directories anymore. Our question: If AT&T is really concerned about their environmental impact, why not get rid of the Yellow Pages while they're at it?

Bill Haas has much stronger feelings than we do about the White Pages. It's been a while since we heard from RFT's former romance columnist and ex-member of the St. Louis School Board, but he wrote us today to inform us of his crusade to save the White Pages.

Yesterday, Haas spoke before a hearing of the Public Service Commission. Here's what he had to say (in ALL CAPS) (Billy May's style):

Public Utilities Commission July 08, 2009

I'M NOT OPTIMISTIC THAT TESTIMONY CHANGES POLICY VERY OFTEN BUT I WILL REMAIN HOPEFUL.

MY NAME IS BILL HAAS. FOR THE LAST 7 YEARS, I'VE LIVED IN AN 18-UNIT APARTMENT COMPLEX IN THE HEART OF THE CENTRAL WEST END OF ST. LOUIS.

ALL OUR APARTMENTS HAVE INDIVIDUAL ACCESS TO THE STREET. I'VE HAD A LANDLINE FOR ALL THAT TIME. IN ALL THOSE YEARS, I'VE NEVER HAD A DIRECTORY DELIVERED TO MY APARTMENT BY AT&T UNLESS I REQUESTED IT.

SO EVERY YEAR I'VE CALLED TO GET A DIRECTORY AND ASK THEM TO PUT US ON THEIR LIST SO I DON'T HAVE TO CALL EVERY YEAR. USUALLY I HAVE TO CALL THREE TIMES AND TALK TO A SUPERVISOR; ONCE THEY CONNECTED ME TO THE DELIVERY COMPANY; THEY ALWAYS PROMISED TO PUT MY COMPLEX ON THE LIST THEY NEVER DID.

ONCE THEY SENT MY DIRECTORY BY UPS; HOW DUMB WAS THAT? A WASTE OF MONEY, IF I'M NOT HOME I DIDN'T GET IT; IT WASN'T LIKE IT WAS AN EMERGENCY!

FINALLY, LAST YEAR A SUPERVISOR TOLD ME THAT THE REASON WE DON'T GET THEM WAS THAT BY THEIR TARIFFS, IF THERE ARE LESS THAN ½ OF THE UNITS IN A COMPLEX WITHOUT A LANDLINE, THEY WEREN'T REQUIRED TO DELIVER DIRECTORIES, AND MANY OF THE RESIDENTS IN MINE ARE STUDENTS OR YOUNG PEOPLE WHO USE CELLPHONES.

AND SOME OF THIS WAS WHILE I WORKED FOR AT&T AND A CANDIDATE FOR CONGRESS AND TOLD THEM SO! I'LL LET YOU TAKE YOUR OWN LESSONS FROM THIS STORY. IN A NUTSHELL, I DON'T THINK WE CAN RELY ON AT&T TO GET PEOPLE DIRECTORIES WHO REQUEST ONE.

I'M AN ENVIRONMENTALIST AND WOULD LOVE TO SAVE PAPER AND TREES, NEVERTHELESS, I OPPOSE THE ELIMINATION OF DIRECTORIES FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS, AND WILL SUGGEST  ALTERNATIVES THAT I THINK WOULD BE BETTER.

FIRST, THE STUDIES THAT SHOW THAT ONLY A FEW PERCENT OF PEOPLE USE DIRECTORIES IS A CROCK.  PLUS EVEN IF IT IS LESS THAN 50%, THAT'S A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE! I'VE HAD A COMPUTER FOR YEARS AND STILL USE THE DIRECTORY EVEN THO I CAN BARELY READ IT BECAUSE THE PRINT IS SO SMALL. I FIND THE DIRECTORY FASTER, EASIER AND MORE ACCURATE THAN ONLINE.

NEXT, BY AND LARGE PEOPLE WON'T CALL IN FOR A DIRECTORY EVEN IF THEY KNOW THEY CAN, WHICH THEY WONT KNOW, AND THEN AT&T WON'T BE ABLE TO GET THEM ONE WITHOUT 3 CALLS, AS IN MY CASE.

THIRD, IT WILL DISCRIMINATE AGAINST PEOPLE WITHOUT COMPUTERS, BY AND LARGE SENIORS AND THOSE OF LOWER INCOME.

FINALLY, IT'S PARTLY DESIGNED TO MAKE MORE MONEY FOR AT&T BY FORCING PEOPLE TO CALL DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE.

I SUGGEST INSTEAD THE FOLLOWING:
  • PRINT DIRECTORIES EVERY OTHER YEAR.
  • OR IF YOU ELIMINATE DIRECTORIES, MAKE DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE FREE OR FOR A NOMINAL FEE OF 10 CENTS.
  • IN THE ALTERNATIVE, INSTEAD OF ELIMINATING DIRECTORIES AND MAKING PEOPLE OPT IN FOR ONE, LET PEOPLE OPT OUT IF THEY DON'T WANT IT.
  • AND GIVE THEM A CREDIT ON THEIR BILLS IF THEY DO, ½ THE MONEY THEY'RE SAVING AT&T, FOR EXAMPLE.
  • AND IF THE COMPANY SAYS PEOPLE WON'T DO THAT, THEN THAT OUGHT TO TELL YOU THAT THEY WON'T BOTHER TO OPT IN EITHER EVEN IF THEY USE THE DIRECTORY.

AND FINALLY, I HAVE GOOD EYES FOR MY AGE, DON'T WEAR READING GLASSES, AND STILL CAN BARELY READ THE DIRECTORY EXCEPT IN GOOD LIGHT WITH A MAGNIFYING GLASS.  IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HELP OLDER CONSUMERS, REQUIRE AT&T TO PRINT LARGE PRINT DIRECTORIES FOR PEOPLE OVER 50, OR HAVE FREE DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE FOR THEM.

Thank you.   

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