Why Delivering Phonebooks Is the Worst Job Ever
I recently performed a job that was the worst job I ever had—delivering phonebooks.
It was such an awful job for me that I was really embarrassed that I even performed this job. I didn't even know if I was going to get paid at all. But yesterday, my payment came in.
So I felt a little better and decided to share my experience so that maybe someone who is considering this job can think twice about it before starting.
I was looking for a job and having so much trouble that I was really getting desperate. That's when I found the job delivering phonebooks. I could do it just once or a couple of times, and the ad said I would get $80–120 for one route.
I thought, okay . . . that would probably mean about 50–100 books at about $1 each. It felt like a lot, but I thought if I just do it one time, and really put an effort into it, I would be okay.
I thought I would only be delivering to people who actually ordered the phone books, either businesses who had their number in the book, or individuals who used phone books. I figured the phonebook company was using a cheaper method of delivery, rather than USPS or such.
I personally don't use paper phonebooks because I just search on the internet. Not to mention, I think it's a waste of paper and space. But I was desperate.
So I called the number, they told me to go to an information session in a few days, and I was all set.
The Information Session
At the information session, there were two other prospective phonebook deliverers. Both were boys around 20 years old, college students who were young, fit, full of energy, and needed a job to make some quick money. It turns out both of them had delivered phonebooks before, so I felt encouraged that it was something they would come back to.
If I had been thinking straight, though, there were small clues each step of the way as to how hard this task might actually be.
The information was given in a video, showing us the specifics of the delivery: one book in a bag, put it by the door, marking on our sheets for the ones delivered, the ones not delivered, and why (such as "dog - dangerous"), etc.
On the table was a big sheet of paper informing us that we would receive 13 cents for each door delivered to, and an additional 5 cents for each book actually delivered. Always the number person, I immediately thought, "At 100 books, that would only be $18 . . . " However, the "$25 bonus for delivering more than 100 books" gave me hope.
The moderator assured us that more difficult routes would get more money, and each route had around 600 places to deliver. It was more than I had bargained for, but the boys thought it was all fine and dandy, and besides, I had five days to finish.
We looked at a map of the area on the wall, and green dot stickers all around the map indicated various routes. Choosing a place near my house seemed like the way to go, so I found a sticker in a nearby area. Including businesses and individual homes, the total number on the sticker was 1088 books to be delivered.
1088 . . . one thousand eighty-eight . . . big number. But all I could do was the math of "1088 books x 18 cents + $25 bonus . . ." I told myself it was a one-time thing, and that I just had to put it my mind and do it.
Doing the Job
I loaded up my car with phonebooks, but the car only held about 500 books. Since it was a Friday and the facility would be closed on Saturday and Sunday, I decided to drive home, empty out the books, and return to get 500 more. Then I started the delivery.
I did start out at the "hard" end of my route. It was difficult finding parking, and getting from the door of one house to the next took a few minutes. But I still tried to keep my positive attitude thinking, "I have apartment buildings at the end of my route, so those will go quickly."
Then things just got harder and harder.
Part of my route was on a road with NO parking. It was a two-lane road, and right next to the road on either side was a ditch. Not only could I not park, but if I did happen to find a small space for parking, I could not walk down the road without fear of being run over. To make things more difficult, the road rolled up and down, so the visibility was small.
Many houses on this road were far from the road. Some houses had wooded driveways, which were hard to tell if they were private or public property, and I felt like an intruder driving in to get closer to the house.
Actually, I felt like an intruder all the time.
I am not a salesperson. In fact, I despise salespeople. Yet, I found myself doing what felt like sales. If the owner of the house was outside doing yard work or something and I could talk to them, it was usually better. I could immediately tell them I was just delivering phonebooks, and most of them would goodnaturedly tell me no, thank you, or yes, please.
Then I had a few who thought I was selling something and just said, "No, no, no, no, no!"
Apart from the few houses with friendly people outside (and that was maybe 15 houses out of the 1088), I had hoards of people look at me suspiciously, slow their cars to see what I was doing, or accuse me of being a criminal.
I even had teenage and college boys hoot at me from their car while driving by.
Because I was having so much trouble, I enlisted my unbelievably kind mother's help over the weekend. During the weekend, I fell once, and my mother fell and skinned her knee through her jeans once. At the end of all the deliveries, I jumped off a ledge that was a little too high, and managed to fantastically fall on the ground and hurt my knees.
The Breaking Point
The worst incident, though, happened at an intersection I cross regularly.
There is an intersection near my house, which was recently (within the past 10 years) redone, and now is an intersection where the majority of the traffic makes a right turn with oncoming traffic that is not visible until almost too late.
I use this intersection often, and I know of its dangers. However, flustered as I was at trying to deliver all those phonebooks, I did not notice the oncoming car until almost too late.
But it wasn't too late. I was still able to stop. Only, that didn't seem good enough to the driver. He stopped, rolled down his window, and yelled at me with utmost rage in his manner and voice:
Then he stuck up his middle finger at me and drove away.
I Completed My Job to the Best of My Ability
That must have been the first time I encountered such direct and emotional road rage. Feeling flabbergasted and not knowing what to do with my emotions, I drove on, decided I could not go on delivering phonebooks at that time, bought myself an ice grande peppermint mocha (my fav), and went home to recoup.
Of course, this road rage didn't really have anything to do with delivering phonebooks. Not to mention it was at an intersection I regularly use and know of its dangers. However, it sort of cemented into my mind what an awful job I was performing.
I think I would have given up earlier had it not been for the rule in the documents I signed that said I would not be paid for anything if I did not complete the entire route. But now I was ready to be done with it whether or not I was going to be paid.
Despite that, in the interest of "doing my job to the best of my ability," I delivered to as many of the remaining businesses as I could find (they were generally, though not always, more accepting of the phonebooks and I even had a few who sincerely thanked me), as many of the houses and apartments I could safely get to, and returned the over 500 phonebooks that I did not manage to deliver.
It turned out that apartments did not count towards the "complete" in completing my route. The guy in charge said I would get paid since I finished all the individual residences. However, his calculations of "how many residences I went to" were different from my calculation, and the total he calculated was about two-thirds of what I had calculated.
I still was not sure I would be paid, because people at the phonebook company would call a few random houses on my list to make sure I actually did deliver. And who knew what bad things they would have to say about me. So I waited. Luckily, about a week later, I was paid.
I was paid the amount the guy had calculated when I returned the books I had not delivered. I received just over $100. I calculated my total hours worked was at least 25. That makes my hourly wage $4. But wait, I paid for gas. I calculated that I paid about $50 for gas. That makes my profit $50 and my hourly wage about $2.
Two dollars an hour for the worst job I ever had.
I learned my lesson. I will never deliver phonebooks ever again.
Have You Ever Delivered Phonebooks?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.