Lum: The battle of the phone books |

Lum: The battle of the phone books

I finally got around to emailing the Dex phone-book company to ask why I was no longer listed in its book. Aspen has two phone books: Dex and Names & Numbers.

Names & Numbers swept into town a decade or so ago with a very aggressive sales pitch: It would give a substantial discount to all yellow-page advertisers if they would put “See our ad in Names & Numbers” in all their print ads. Needless to say, this caused a certain amount of consternation in the ad department at the Times, with hundreds of ads having to have the Names & Numbers line inserted. A few years later, I guess it took the offer back — it must have been a bookkeeping nightmare — because we had to remove all of the lines.

Anyway, I emailed Dex to ask why I was in the Names & Numbers book and not in the Dex book. I was surprised to get an immediate reply and even more surprised by the answer:

“Su — Thank you for contacting Dex One. I do apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused. According to the last update received for your number you are a Comcast customer. Unfortunately, this would be the reason you are not currently listed. Comcast has made a business decision to discontinue their publishing agreement with us for residential information. This means that they are no longer transmitting printing instructions for their residential clients. We would suggest contacting Comcast directly to voice your opinion regarding the lack of appearance in the directory. We hope that they may reconsider this decision once they realize how detrimental it is to their clients.”

I had been cut from the phone book because I was a Comcast customer? Whoa! So much for buying Comcast’s bundling package a couple of years ago (and very rickety it is, too).

Onward to see what Comcast might have to say for itself. I hoped to do this by email, as well, because that would give me a written record and I’m not that great on the phone especially if I’m trying to take notes and talk at the same time.

Comcast’s website doesn’t invite esoteric queries. It wants to know in advance exactly what you want of it. There were rows and rows of potential problems with the phone, the TV or the computer, but there was nothing for “Why am I not in the Dex phone book?”

I spent a half hour in the Comcast maze, usually finding myself sent back to square one, and I finally found a chat page where, when asked what I would like to chat about today, I clicked on “TROUBLE.”

I summarized my question, and Thomas came on the line. Or, rather, “Analyst Thomas has entered room.” It may very well have been a chat room in India, but I didn’t have to deal with foreign accents. I immediately became a fan of this method of communication.

Thomas asked me to restate my problem and replied, “I see, I understand. Hmmm, well Comcast does have the option to have the phone number listed published, or non published. I am with internet department though, but we can chat with our phone department, so they can better assist you with it. Please wait while the problem is escalated to another analyst.”

OMG — could it get better than this? Yes, it could. Or, I should say, worse.

Becky enters room. After a long song and dance about how Comcast wanted to protect its customers from unwanted calls or solicitations, Becky said that this was the reason that Comcast listed its customers only in its own phone book.

Comcast has its own phone book? All my antennae shot up into the alert position. Could it be? Surely not!

“Is Comcast’s phone book Names & Numbers?”

“Yes,” Becky replied.

Holy mackerel! Comcast owns Names & Numbers. Now that explains everything.

Can you say “monopoly”?

I’m not sure what we can do about it because Comcast is (speaking of monopolies) our only cable option. I’d switch to Dish, but you can’t get GrassRoots on the Dish. Maybe everybody should unbundle to get back in the Dex book. But we shouldn’t just let Comcast quietly grind Dex into the ground with its greedy heel.

Su Lum is a longtime local who has changed the names of the agents for their protection. Reach her at

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