MI: Major Data Problems Phone Directories

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Businesses are rattled by wrong numbers

Tuesday, February 8, 2000 By Cami Reister The Grand Rapids Press

The answering service for Cascade Psychological Services registered 268 more calls than usual in January. They normally get about 100.

But Larry Dugan, owner of the private practice, could not give the callers the help they sought. His psychology credentials do not qualify him to sell cars for Duthler Ford.

"Sometimes, I average eight or nine calls a day, and I have to explain to them that they have to look in a different part of the phone book," Dugan said in frustration.

The callers, looking for Duthler Ford, consulted the red business pages of the latest edition of the Ameritech phone book. The listing not only gives Cascade's phone number for Duthler, but it gives the wrong address for the dealership, too.

Dugan said he refers callers to the Ameritech yellow pages, where Duthler's listing is correct.

But the extra phone calls and the extra money he pays for his answering service to answer wrong numbers are wearing on his nerves, he said.

"The economic thing is one thing," Dugan said, citing an extra $99 he paid last month for the calls, "but there's also the annoyance and disruption to my business because of the intrusion.

"Ameritech should just make it right, be proactive, get out there and say, 'What could we do?' To me, that's the most frustrating part of it all."

Dugan is not alone in being the victim of a phone-book error. Dorr Township offices are in the white pages, but not the blue government pages, and the same thing happened to Tallmadge Township.

G B Russo & Sons is listed in the yellow pages under retail grocers but cannot be found in the business pages. And others have noticed their names and numbers are listed correctly, but their ZIP code is wrong.

Outside of a software glitch that resulted in Ameritech publishing a new government section for its customers in Milwaukee, company spokeswoman Sarah Saltzman stressed that there is nothing unusual in the number of white-pages problems being detected this year.

"We're not having extensive errors," Saltzman said. "We work very hard to make sure the information is accurate." Ameritech publishes about 40 million directories in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Wisconsin. Local Ameritech spokesman Terry Mulvihill said that despite all safeguards against errors, when dealing the volumes of information Ameritech does, mistakes are inevitable.

AB Spring Service Inc. experienced one of those mistakes this year. Instead of being in the beginning of the business section with companies whose names begin with single letters, as it was last year, the business is listed alphabetically as if "AB" was "Ab."

"I don't know why it changed," co-owner Bob Bessey said. "We want to be where people are going to look for us." A few local school districts also fell victim to errors.

Three-fourths of the schools under the Grand Rapids Public Schools listing are omitted in the business pages, although there is a complete listing in the yellow pages.

"I've had people calling, particularly school people, wondering why they're not in the phone book," said Sue Krieger community relations coordinator for the district. "I don't know if any promises were made about fixing it, but they (Ameritech) were made aware of it right away."

Krieger said she expects the information to be corrected next year.

"I'm laughing now," she said. "I wouldn't laugh next year."

Barb Hiemstra, technology supervisor for Grandville Public Schools, is not laughing

While the Ameritech directories have a correct listing for the schools, the TDI directory, published by McLeodUSA Publishing Co. based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is incorrect.

Hiemstra said they got a new phone system with new phone numbers in May and had difficulties with Ameritech last yearyear trying to connect the old numbers to the new numbers. Everything finally was worked out by November and is correct for this year's phone book, she said.

But McLeodUSA did not get the updated information in time for its print run. Not only does the directory have outdated numbers, it also published two numbers that Hiemstra says are unlisted and for emergency use only. And Hiemstra said her initial contacts with the company proved fruitless.

"Two of the numbers are my power failure backup lines," Hiemstra said. "That is dangerous. It jeopardizes everybody's safety in that building. The people in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, they don't understand that."

Pat Hartman, vice president of marketing for McLeodUSA, said the company continues to investigate the Grandville situation. The firm gets its numbers from the local phone companies, she said, and relies on them to be correct.

"Of course, we always are so sorry when these kinds of things happen and will take all steps in place to be sure that it doesn't happen again," Hartman said.

She said the company looks at each error and determines whether there is any recourse. Sometimes, a number can be rerouted, or put in a message informing callers to call a new number, she said.

"Especially a high profile account (such as a business listing), we would just do whatever it would take to try to correct the situation. And it isn't always possible. Being in the publishing business, once it's in print, we can't always retract it."



-- Carl Jenkins (Somewherepress@aol.com), February 08, 2000

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