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Final call for Yellow Pages as fingers won’t do the walking any more

PUBLISHED: 16:00 27 November 2018

Taking a look through the thin final edition of Yellow Pages - but when did you last use it?: Picture: JUDY RIMMER

Taking a look through the thin final edition of Yellow Pages - but when did you last use it?: Picture: JUDY RIMMER

Archant

Remember when Yellow Pages was the size of a brick? The iconic directory has become ever thinner - and now a “final edition” is dropping onto doormats across Suffolk.

Owner Yell has decided to move its business entirely online once the final edition stops printing. Across the country, 23million copies are being published, and many might be kept for the future as souvenirs.

Things were once so different for Yellow Pages, which has been publishing for 51 years.

Children with a pile of old Yellow Pages, launching a recycling drive with Ipswich Borough Council in 2002.  Picture: IBCChildren with a pile of old Yellow Pages, launching a recycling drive with Ipswich Borough Council in 2002. Picture: IBC

In pre-internet days, the business directory became massive in every sense, carrying listings and display ads for every type of business imaginable.

But times have changed, and, in our Twitter poll, only 3% of people said they had used it in the last month and 4% in the last year, Another 19% had used it in the last five years, while 74% had used it longer ago or never.

Twitter user Raymond Docwra said: “Last Yellow Pages I received was a quarter the size it used to be. Not many advertise in there now. Like most, I always have smartphone in pocket, so quicker and more accurate to go online now. I use YP website quite often though.”

Also on Twitter, Jon Dunn agreed, commenting: “Three words sum up my feelings - Save the tree. Many people now have paperless statements from utility companies, etc, so they probably already use Google, etc to search for phone numbers. I’ve not used a Yellow Pages in decades!”

Schoolchildren at an Ipswich Borough Council recycling launch for old Yellow Pages in 2002. Picture: IBCSchoolchildren at an Ipswich Borough Council recycling launch for old Yellow Pages in 2002. Picture: IBC

Users who will miss it

Although it might now be less popular than it once was, though, there are faithful advertisers and users who will miss it. Sara Firkins, owner of Woodside Luxury Boarding Cattery at Copdock, Ipswich, said: “I will be sorry to see it go. I have been at the cattery for 14 years, and the previous owner advertised in it for 10 years, so the cattery has been advertising in the Yellow Pages for 24 years.

She added: “As someone of a certain age, I am a technophobe. I don’t use a smartphone - I haven’t got one! A lot of my customers are the same as me. I also get some new customers to the area through the Yellow Pages.”

Andrew Hatton, from Essex, said on Twitter that he last used it a week or so ago, and added: “The problem will come if they are not available online or BT directories stop publishing in their present form.”

Memories of Yellow Pages heyday

Recalling the Yellow Pages heyday, Ipswich healthcare trainer Tony Stone said on Twitter: “I worked for them in the mid 90s. At the time, the most important and potent advertising in the UK. Internet obviously killed it, but its importance at the time was huge.

“As a salesman, it was a licence to print money, businesses desperate to appear in it.”

Another Twitter user, Robson Lavis-Hovells, said: “I never personally did, but I have friends who back in the day would deliver the Yellow Pages. Nice Saturday work, from what they said and was something they enjoyed.”

As well as the deliveries, whenever a new edition came out, there was a drive to collect up and recycle copies of the previous one. In 2002, Ipswich Borough Council did a launch with schoolchildren, to urge everyone to recycle their old book.

Memorable TV adverts

During the most popular years of Yellow Pages, there were also a whole stream of memorable TV adverts.”

Who could forget the 1992 Christmas advert where a romantic youngster climbs on to a copy of the Yellow Pages to be able to reach for a kiss under the Mistletoe?

An earlier classic advert, first shown in 1983, sees a customer visiting second-hand bookshops, vainly trying to track down a copy of a rare book, Fly Fishing by JR Hartley, before deciding to phone up the shops instead. His name ... ah, JR Hartley. This ad was such a hit that a book with that title and author was published for the Christmas market.

Then there was the 1991 ad, where a young man throws a wild party and wakes up to find a nasty scratch on the dining room table. He grabs his Yellow Pages and makes the call: “Hello, French polishers, it’s just possible you could save my life.”

Of course, there were always quirky annoyances associated with the directory - like the way many search terms advised you to go to another page, making the big yellow book more time-consuming to use.

Even in the current edition, if you look up “Body Piercing”, you are told “Turn to: Beauty Salons & Consultants,” and, when searching for “Catering Equipment Suppliers,” you confusingly find yourself referred to “Microwave Ovens - Repairs and Parts.”

But I for one will be hanging on to my final copy - and might even use it occasionally, possibly if my internet connection goes down and I need to look up a helpline number!

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