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Fading Verizon

by on May 14, 2010

You have to ask to be left out of the phone book.  In turn, the phone book people have to ask if they can stop printing it.  For reasons that would be baffling were we not in New York, it seems that Verizon must beg to the state if they want to phase out the rather predictable tome.  David Robinson of The Buffalo News shares the tale of the officious twerps whom the provider must obey:

The company has asked state regulators for permission to eliminate residential listings from the phone book that carries the Verizon name and is distributed to all of its customers.

In other news, state regulators have to give the company permission to change the directory.  And they call Arizona Nazi Germany?!!1!  Okay, controlling the number registry might not quite be a Gestapo-level tactic.  But that doesn’t make it any less annoying.  That’s especially true considering the mass-produced antique in question:

Verizon, in a filing with the State Public Service Commission, said most households don’t use the residential listings, relying instead on the Internet and other new technology. Dropping the residential listings would save an estimated 5,000 tons of paper per year.

You don’t hate trees, do you?  Don’t be a treeist.  Regrettably, the business has to presently keep engaging in woodland genocide to make the government happy.  But at least there’s no question that the State Public Service Commission knows what’s best for you.  Um, “Public service” is in their name, so how couldn’t they?

If anything, they don’t boss around enough firms.  Supermarkets and clothing retailers both offer public services, despite their reactionary self-serving desire to profit.  So, let’s hand over their operational decisions to the SPSC, who can decide if the outlets can discontinue selling expired or unfashionable merchandise, respectively.

And the bureaucrats in question may as well be given control over individuals while they’re at it.  Humans should serve the public and think of the collective instead of obsessing about their pettily selfish wants and needs.  Plus, it’s easier to let the government make your decisions.

But perhaps there’s merit in taking the opposite course.  Even those of us who find that Verizon make us nostalgic for 14.4 K BPS dialup should assuredly feel they can pursue their own policies.  It’s up to them to decide if the index in question is worth providing.

Imagine a Darwinian/Hobbesian world where Verizon was allowed to kill the residential section on its own.  Society wouldn’t precisely suffer despite the state administration’s deepest fears.  It’s likely nobody would notice except for parents too thrifty to acquire booster seats.

And, in the unlikely scenario that a large quantity of disgruntled customers issued complaints, the Verizoneers could go into New Coke mode and bring back a classic.  After all, it’s in the customer service industry’s best interest to service customers.

Being nice to people who voluntarily give you money is the only known way to stay in business, aside of course from failing and getting bailed out.  It doesn’t matter if companies have a case of the grumpies on a particular day and don’t feel like being pleasant to the public: they’d best fake a smile if they like receiving currency.

They can’t get away with being perceived as jerks for long.  Conglomerates are so skittish about public relations hits that they’ll bow like Obama abroad once any disgruntled customer makes a public complaint.

But assuaging Twitter followers who left a disgruntled @ reply about their service is not an option for Verizon.  They have to do some legally-mandated sucking up first:

Before the change can happen, Verizon would have to win approval from the PSC, which will accept comments from the public before it makes a decision, Dalton said.

There’s certainly a good reason that the company can’t just accept comments itself, even if nobody knows what it is.  The decision about the section remaining in circulation should be up to Verizon and their clients.

Responding directly to customers is far preferable to using the state as a go-between.  Paring the rulebook for the sake of eliminating phone book would make sense to everyone except, naturally, the state, which unfortunately gets final say.

The product in question has plunged in value, and Verizon could reduce costs by not doing something.  But they’re facing the equivalent of Sony waiting to receive consent to cease Walkman fabrication:

The residential White pages, in contrast, do not generate any revenue, said Andrew Shane, a SuperMedia spokesman.

To recap, a corporation can’t merely stop producing something that typically goes unused and makes them no money.  Phone books are going the way of phone booths, and yet New York State has to approve a plan for a business to leave the past behind.  Does Albany think it’s okay that the private enterprise no longer manufacturers rotary phones?  It’s best for Verizon not to ask.

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From → Buffalo

One Comment
  1. The residential phone book listing is a right, just like broadband and healthcare.
    Let’s just put “Ma Bell” back together and hand it over to the Fed…

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