The color of aggravation? Yellow

The color of aggravation? Yellow

I'm no longer feeling mellow about the Yellow Pages after its colossal mistake.
Jun 01, 2008

Craig Woloshyn, DVM
It all started so innocently, when the marketing geniuses at AT&T's Real Yellow Pages made their annual pitch asking us to buy a larger ad this year. For us, that would be any ad at all. For 23 years we've opted for a simple line listing with our clinic name and the names of our individual doctors. While ads for The Other Guy's Clinic featured photos of families romping on the beach with their recently vaccinated dogs, we were content with our (relatively) cheap and humble listing. So when AT&T mailed us a form pitching a small boxed advertisement—"Wassamata? Don't you want to grow your business!?"—we declined. We initialed the form indicating that yes, in fact, we did want to lose out on this fabulous opportunity and mailed it back. And we got on with our lives.

Our inadvertent ad

A few months later I received a call—well, a chortle, really—from a colleague. "Hey, love your new ad!" The brain trust at AT&T had printed its sales pitch to us in the Real Yellow Pages word for word as it had appeared on the form. (That's right. Look below for the evidence.) Not only that, but it had failed to print the name of my associate—who will be buying the clinic in the next few months—anywhere at all. And, just for fun, in our other listing—that single-line listing we did want—it printed the name of an associate who worked for us ... five years ago.

I waited a day or so for the irritation to subside, maybe it was a week, and then spoke to a person at the Real Yellow Pages. "So sorry. Yes, it's our fault, we can see that, but here's what we'll do—next year we'll run that ad for you, with better copy, at no charge!" And that was it. Gee, that's so generous, giving me something I never asked for at no charge. I looked up my lawyer's number in the Real Yellow Pages and called him. Wrong number, but the tavern I reached instead was doing a brisk noontime business. Two weeks later I was at my dentist. The Real Yellow Pages had left his name out of the book entirely. He laughed: "Makes no difference at all. And it keeps the riffraff from calling."

Don't say yes to yellow

It's been five months now since the mistake was printed. In Florida we're in a pretty serious recession, yet our new-client numbers remain stable. They're the same as last year. Where are these new clients coming from? Apparently not the Real Yellow Pages!

If my recent experience says anything, it's that yellow pages ads are irrelevant. They don't affect new-client numbers, and what else would they deliver? So next year I might skip the ad altogether. In the meantime, I'll be smiling every time I look at a new-client information sheet. How do the vast majority of them find us? The Internet. The free Internet.

Dr. Craig Woloshyn, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member, shares his advice through Sun Dog Veterinary Consulting in Spring Hill, Fla. Please send questions or comments to