May 21, 2009

Should You Take a Job Delivering Phone Books?

The advertisement in the newspaper looked very appealing: Earn Cash Now Delivering Phone Books. I imagined myself walking around, tossing phone books in mailboxes and having a good time making a bit of cash. I am writing this blog to warn anyone else who is considering a career in the phone book transportation. Hopefully this article will give you an idea of the work involved before you commit to anything.
I can't say that I didn't have plenty of warning about the lousy situation I was about to put myself in. Maybe it was the fact that they wouldn't give me any information whatsoever over the phone. I had to go in for an "interview". The place was in this huge warehouse stuffed to the gills with pallets of phonebooks. It was hotter than hell, with half a dozen workers sweating profusely in their makeshift office in the corner.
I was instructed to grab a seat and watch a video, looking around at my fellow desparados - a jumble of moms with babies pulling on their pants, a few guys whose clothes suggested they were down to their last nickel, and myself. Just to be fair to the others, I had my own wife and our one year old baby waiting outside for me in the hot sun, nestled between the lone porta-potty and the row of bulging dumpsters. Yes, I could have cut loose and ran away, but somehow, a little voice kept telling me that I had to give this job a go.
I finished the video, and found out they will hire absolutely anybody who shows up with a vehicle, even if you have to push it down the road. Everyone else just randomly took a route in their neighborhood, which is a BIG, BIG mistake that will set you up for immeasurable torture. I on the other hand sat down with the pile of routes and tried to figure out the easiest bang for my buck.
Since you have to actually get out of your car and put them by the door of every house, if you live in a rural area, this quickly becomes a nightmare. I figured the best strategy was to pick a route that had huge apartments in it. That way I could just park my truck and go up and down the halls quickly. The pay works out to about $1 for every 6 phone books you deliver, and you have to bag them yourself too. If you have to drive to every house, you realize pretty quickly that you are holding the short end of the stick. If you get a bunch of big apartment buildings, you can unload them pretty quickly and it is not too bad.
I pulled my truck into the warehouse at 8 AM the next day, loaded it with almost about 800 phone books, and putted off to spend the next 10 hours delivering them. I had to load up again later too, since my truck couldn't hold all of them. Completely exhausted, I stumbled into the office and turned in my completed route. They say you will get paid in 48 hours, but it really took them 6 days to cough up my hard-earned dough. Was it worth it??? Yes it was, but ONLY because I sat down and picked the best route out of the pile. If you have to drive around for two days straight and walk up to every house, it will work out to about $5 an hour if you are really quick, which is lousy money for very hard work. I asked the guys loading my truck up how many people quit and give back the books unpaid, and they said "plenty of them".

Here is my list of tips for anyone about to take a job delivering phone books:

  1. Only take this job if you have either a huge car/SUV, a van, or some kind of truck. Otherwise you will find yourself having to return to fill up over and over again, wasting time and gas. I watched in amazement as people stuffed 100 books at a time into their Nissan Sentras, and had to return 12 times a day!
  2. Take your time and dig through the pile of routes. You can find out if you have lots of apartments by seeing many different names for the same street address. This point is crucial!  Remember that even if it takes you an extra hour to figure out which is the easiest and quickest route in the pile, it will probably save you hours when delivering them.
  3. Remember that sometimes a route that is far away might be a lot better in the long run than one that is nearby.  The reason is because even though it might take you an hour to get there, if it is full of quick and easy apartments, it will be faster than separate home delivery.
  4. Make sure you bring a hand-truck or some other kind of cart with wheels. If you don't have one, borrow one from someone. This way you can load 60 books on the hand-truck and wheel your way around easily without having to return to your car every 2 minutes.
  5. Only do this job if you are in good shape and up to the physically demanding work. Otherwise you will probably quit and either won't get paid anything, or get a very paltry sum for your unfinished work. I am in tip-top shape and was completely exhausted by the time I finished.
I hope this information is useful to those of you considering taking a job delivering phone books. I would love to read any comments you have about your experiences.

May 20, 2009

20 Bucks an Hour!!! Yippeee

This is an update to the last post. I caved in and tried my luck at another phone book route, and this time, I did quite well. $20 an hour is pretty good for short term, guaranteed-to-get-the-job work. I did so well because I chose a route with a few huge apartment buildings. The catch was that it was in a fancy neighborhood, and lots of the apartments had businesses (home based) listed, so they got 2 sets of phone books. I think I unloaded about 150 books at just one apartment building. This just goes to show you, if you are smart and pick the right routes, you too can do ok with this job. Don't believe the people who chose crummy routes and got screwed!