Getting unnecessary and unwanted things

I cannot remember when I last used a phone book to look up a number. I now look up everything online and the arrival of personal digital assistants and smart phones with built-in directories means that all the phone numbers one regularly uses are immediately stored and accessible, and others can be looked up easily.

It used to be the case that once every two years we received a bulky white pages phone book and a yellow pages phone book. What surprises me is that I now get more phone books than before. It seems like every few months or so I get some book that either caters to a particular geographic area or to some market. I have not really studied them to understand what market they are targeting because these books go straight into the recycling bin. I get that not everyone has access to the internet and paper books are still needed by some. But what puzzles me is why we have more of them than before.

Another item that I get that I don’t want are the annual wall calendars. Again because of smart phones, I don’t need or look at wall calendars anymore. And yet, the end of every year brings in the mail wall calendars with nice pictures from various vendors and organizations that I have dealt with. I have tried offering them to others but have found no takers and so these also go to recycling. The only wall calendar we have is in our kitchen and that is only because every year our daughter gives us one that for each month has a different photograph of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels like Baxter and we hang it up only for the photographs, not to keep track of the dates.

But the thing that bugs me most are the ‘gifts’ that charities (most of them ones I do not subscribe to) send me, in the form of cards, maps, notepads, and other things that I neither need nor want. I give to charities because I believe in them and not out of guilt for getting a gift. In fact I get irritated with those that waste money on sending gifts. I would rather they spent it on good works and thus am less likely, not more, to send money to them because of these gifts.

These gifts are quite glossy and well produced and likely not cheap to produce. It must be costing a bundle to send them to so many people. I am guessing that all these operations have marketing people who say that this is a good thing to do but it definitely does not work with me and I suspect that I am not alone or even in a minority.


  1. Some Old Programmer says

    What I’ve done is to call the charitable organization and ask that my account be marked for no premiums. Generally it seems to work; if not, I stop donating to that particular organization.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    I agree with #1. If a charity insists on spending money on crap you don’t want, then they are not being good stewards of your donations and maybe it’s time to try to find some org that will be good stewards.

  3. Trickster Goddess says

    I have found one advantage of using the printed Yellow Pages: I keep around a copy that is several years old. When I need a service that I haven’t needed before, I consult the old directory to find a provider. If they are still in business, then they obviously aren’t a fly-by-night business or some untested start up.

  4. Michael Duchek says

    A few years back my mother ended up on some Catholic charity lists. By some I mean all of them. They would actually put a nickel or dime in the mailers, and ask you return a couple more. I happily pinched them and threw the rest in the recycling.

  5. says

    The hospital where I had an operation sends me their glossy magazine House Calls all the time. I don’t know if the idea is to entice me back, or what.

  6. Dunc says

    But the thing that bugs me most are the ‘gifts’ that charities send me, in the form of cards, maps, notepads, and other things that I neither need nor want.

    I can’t help but suspect that they include these things in their mailings so that you have to open them and figure out which bits can go in the recycling, rather than just recycling the whole lot unopened. Maybe I’m too cynical…

  7. mordred says

    When we were in our late teens my girlfriend got some pamphlets from the German conservative party aimed at young voters, explaining how voting left was not as cool as we young people thought.

    As a gift the mail contained a single black condom.

    We did *not* use it!

  8. Mano Singham says


    I actually do what you say but I get more than I can possibly use so they are just piling up.

  9. Mano Singham says

    Some Old Programmer #1,

    The catch is that most of the things I get are from charities that I do not subscribe to.

  10. says

    Am I the only one who remembers Carl Kolchak from “The Night Stalker” movies and TV series, him ripping pages out of the phone book before running out the door?

    Phone books aren’t just useful to those without internet access, they can be useful to those with it. Oft times, search engines and even phone lookup sites will only show one item at a time. When you’re looking for multiple businesses in the same industry or service, it’s nice to be able to look at several ads over several pages (i.e. location, services provided, etc.). I haven’t seen a phone book in years, and definitely miss them.

    Regarding charities, a calendar isn’t the most annoying thing. What’s really annoying is when charities sell your information to mailing lists that other charities buy. If I give to charities A and B, I expect only a tax receipt from them, not to be inundated with junk solicitations from charities C, D, E, F, G, H and I. If I wanted to give to the others, I would have contacted them on my own.

  11. Katydid says

    Mano, does your department have a spare table where people put things they want to share? My office has such a table; people put candies, or home-baked goods, or things like calendars or coupon books on them. Everyone is welcome to help themselves. That’s where I put my charity calendars, except the ones I keep. I enjoy looking at the pictures, and when making plans, I like to be able to see a month at a time, legibly.

    Like you, I put my phone books directly into the recycle bin. I also put the free newspaper inserts--for some reason, from time to time (not quite weekly) the local paper puts out a bunch of coupons for places I don’t ever go and restaurants you couldn’t pay me to eat in. It’s delivered by the same sociopath who delivers the local newspaper--the one I stopped getting because anytime in rained, he’d deliver the paper directly into the gutter, where it would submerge and become a slurry of newsprint.

  12. carbonfox says

    Phone books probably only still exist because of the hefty advertising fees to be made from them. I remember a friend’s business purchasing a small ad for a few thousand. The book company set up a special number for the business so that the business could track how many referrals the ad generated. Of course, that phone number came with a monthly subscription fee.

  13. Mano Singham says


    That is what puzzles me too. Is the readership of phonebooks large enough nowadays to warrant charging high advertising fees?

  14. says

    Mano (#12) --

    He was too impatient and careless to write down a name and address on paper. It was a running gag throughout the series. In one episode, he went to look up a page and it was missing, torn out from a previous lookup.

    Some of the episodes have been posted on youtube if you’re curious. And if “The X-Files” comes to mind, “The Night Stalker” was the inspiration for the series.

  15. Katydid says

    Leftover; I vaguely remember Kolchak scaring the heck out of me when I was a kid, but I don’t remember the phone books. Thanks for the link--now I can go watch some episodes.

  16. says

    Katydid (#18) --

    When the first Night Stalker made-for-TV movie was broadcast in 1972, it set a record for the most watched or highest rated original TV movie. It was cutting edge at the time, including a scene where Kolchak and a woman played by Jo Ann Pflug (remember her?) were getting out of bed. That was unheard of on TV in those days. Sadly, the TV series was as short lived as Max Headroom was in 1987, barely more than one season before being cancelled.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *