Worst Job Ever . . . Delivering Phonebooks


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.

The Ad

I was looking for a job and having so much trouble that I was really getting desperate. That's when I found the job for 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 sales person. In fact, I despise sales people. 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.


The Wrapup

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" was 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?

  • Yes, and I'd like to do it again.
  • Yes, and I'll never do it again.
  • Yes, and I'll only do it again if I'm starving.
  • No, but would like to try it out.
  • Never done it, never will.
See results without voting

Comments 28 comments

Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona

I hear ya! I did this in college and it was ridiculous. I notice that the people who deliver our phonebooks never follow "the rules" that I had to abide by at the time. I can't even remember the last time I used a phonebook, come to think of it. Great hub!

Meguchan profile image

Meguchan 4 years ago from US West Coast Author

Heather Says,

Ridiculous job, isn't it? Yes, I tried really hard to follow "the rules," but all the while wondered if the college boys were following all the minute rules...

Thank you for the comment!

jules 3 years ago

I got this job for tomorrow and I am a college student. So wish me luck.

phtech profile image

phtech 3 years ago from Idaho Falls, ID

This sounds like a horrible job. I would have probably quit. I don't know if you're still looking for a few ways to make more money, but the plasma donation part of my hub here,, shows you how to make a few hundred dollars doing simple jobs.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

I'm sorry but your bad luck story got me to laughing. It must have been the parrot and the guy with the one finger salute. I'm so sorry you had such a rough experience and your poor mother did too. I once worked at Walmart as a cashier for 3 days (2 days were video orientation). They stuck me on the cash register without showing me how to operate it. It was kind of like I Love Lucy. I never went back. Good hub. Voted up and more.

geehud 3 years ago

Lmao. I did this today and it was such a laughing experience. I was chase by 2 big dogs, I hit my head so hard trying to get back into my car and now have a bump. Plus, twist my ankle walking on rocks. I took two other people with me so I could have a driver and someone to walk with me.

shyste 2 years ago

phone books are passe'

Ben Wild 2 years ago

I have delivered phone books for five years. It's the best job I have ever had. Yes, I have fell and been bit by a dog and been yelled at. But I respect your comments because it was hard at the beginning. To each his own.

Benisley 2 years ago

I am currently delivering phone books. I can relate. However, I don't think my bad times were as bad as yours. The worst was working rural areas. I switch to condos and residential streets. I am saving for a specific thing and I keep that in mind as I am delivering. I would do it again next year.

ned 2 years ago

I've delivered several times and always make between $1200 and $1500 in 2 weeks.I have 2 newspaper delivery bags,I load both with phone books and ride a bicycle(I have a trunk bike carrier) from door to door tossing them on each porch without plastic bags unless it's raining.I can easily do 200 per hour and I've always been paid.Think... and it's easy to do.

Marie 2 years ago

I delivered phone books for 7 years and made 11 cents a book. I had people who would not want the books and I had people who would want more than one. The folks that wanted more than one would say they didn't receive the first one which of course meant I wouldn't get paid for that one. So I urge people if you get a phone book let the caller who checks know you got it. This is a hard job. When they moved the distribution center another 20 miles away from my home and was still only going to pay me 11 cents I decided I had had enough. I did get a call a couple of weeks after I declined and they said they could get me more money per book but I still declined. I make as much money at my garage sales in three days than I did working two weeks for the phone book delivery.

jcb1011 2 years ago

I make 500 to 750 a week doing this. I slept in the car when i had an apt. Lease and still banked. It's a job, you must work. I work 3 to 4 days straight and then love my weekends. You can write off many expenses. No boss just put in the legwork (and bagging time) and its gold. I use and sleep in a ford taurus and do very well.

starr 2 years ago

I delivered today for the first time i got an area that should have been done by the fbi, there were dirt roads leadimg to .o where no street signs attack dogs lose everywhere pot holes the size of Texas. I bad to deliver to the migrant camp and the prison . Let me tell u .... if i had know i was going to the prison i would not have worn tang top and shorts the trusties in there was making comments then the body serch and this is just the first two hours of an eight hour day and my route is still not complete along with bees, dogs

Kat Joy 2 years ago

You said it!! Though it is an encouragement to know that eventually I'll get paid(hopefully)! But you are so right!! Never again whether they blacklist me or not!

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 21 months ago from Dallas, Texas

We did this job one time in the seventies when gas prices had just skyrocketed. By the time we got through with the route, we were exhausted and between the two of us figuring our hourly wages and the cost of gas, we just about broke even. Not a lucrative job at all.

god 20 months ago

See that's where you messed up you tried going into the work by yourself. how it works is a guy hires his own crew to deliver the books you knock out around 1,500 books a day he pays each person 60$ perday. if your lucky you'll get 70 a day. for what you tried doing you need a big van and about 2-3 guys doing all the work.

Jim 19 months ago

I travel to 15 cities a year, do about 500 deliveries a day, 6 days a week, and make $700 to $800 a week. Been doing it since December 2012.

Dino 19 months ago

Easy job i got 10 years delivering phone books and providing to my family, there is a lot of travel but money is good too.

DeliveryGuy 17 months ago

Sounds like you're too clumsy to walk, maybe you delivering phone books wasn't such a good idea lol. I've been doing it for a few weeks and the pays great, plus its a work out! Sure you have to think out your routes, but it really isn't hard if you take like 30 seconds to do so.

eddy 14 months ago

Many people think they can just leave the book anywhere but they must walk sometimes a lot but it pays is a good source to earn an extra income

Ben wild 8 months ago

I commented a few years ago when i was just doing thirty k a year. Now me and my son do chicago and st louis at thirty cents a stop and both of us have doubled that thirty k last year. My accountant deducts vehicle, repairs, and mileage. We average three thousand books a day at twelve hours a day. Its easy and there is so much work that they cant find enough people. I have a ninth grade education. What a great country.

Dini 7 months ago

I just did this for 5 hours... delivered 170 books out of 750... had to wear 3 gps units, and on one I had to click at the front door of every house, where the bagged phone book was to be set on the hinge side of the door. If the gps was clicked less than 85% of the time, with them being able to use the gps to see when I drove, walked, ran, I don't get paid. 5 hours and 170 books at $0.20 a book, I averaged $6.40 an hour, and spent $10 on gas. EFF THAT, the only way to make any money at this is to have 3-4 really young kids bag and run the books while you drive down the middle of the street and pay them like $15 for the day, or take them to pizza and a movie at the end of the week or some crap. These people on here saying they're making $800+ a week doing this? BULLSHIT.

Kelly 4 months ago

So glad I found this, I was about to sign up to deliver phone books myself! Doesnt sound worth my time at all.

Thank you!

Dont Do it! 4 months ago

This job is a complete scam. Tried it once about 10 years ago, I will never do it again. I went in with a full size truck and took 2 pallets of books. I worked for 6 hours straight, literally RUNNING from door to door and made it through one pallet. I took a break for lunch, topped off my tank and figured I would see how much money I had made. After subtracting the gas expense it was $30...or $5/hour. Yes, less than minimum wage. I refused to finish the route, even after the guy offered me an extra $30 it would have been barely over minimum wage. I felt sorry for the other people who were doing it, they had small cars that could maybe carry $15 worth of phone books at a time.

Zach 3 months ago

Always do apartments it goes way quicker.

Don't waste your time putting them at the door. I've never heard a single person who got a call. They seem to just say this to scare you into doing it their way. Just drive up to a mailbox, put it next to it in the bag and move on.

I finished a few hundred books in about an hour last year because they were all apartments.

I'm not saying it's great pay or a fun job or anything, but you just made the mistakes I made the first year. Doing it the way I did it last year saves tons of time and gas and I never got called out for delivering them the "wrong way".

Cortney 8 weeks ago

It all depends what company you go through. Some pay more than others and if you figure out how to do it you can make decent money. This goes for delivering anything to residential areas. You can't put it on one type of industry. It's the companies you choose to do business with. It's like any company you work for. It isn't an hourly position where you come to work and get paid hourly. It is a piece rate position which means it is on you on how much you make! The first time is the hardest and if you think outside the box on how to make it easier instead of complaining on social media you make more money. Every job is hard at first. It is your decision to think of how to make it more efficient.

matthew colville 5 weeks ago

This story is very well written, I thought about delivery of phone books part time to get some extra money coming in. Thanks for the warning after reading this and seeing the big picture I'm happy to say I dodged that bullet.

Shantell 4 weeks ago

What companies y'all go through?

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