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Phone book lacks white pages

The Com Tel Suncoast Telephone Directory has linked residents in Hernando, West Pasco and North Pinellas counties for nearly 20 years.

But when the 1996-97 residential edition of the directory hit the doorsteps of more than 30,000 homes in west Hernando in June, there was a glaring omission from the free publication.

Recipients may have been surprised to find they received a phone book that contained no white pages.

Local advertisers said they were even more surprised and angry to find Com Tel sales representatives failed to mention it when they sold them ads in both the residential and the business editions of the directory.

Com Tel spokesman Walter L. Peterson said that that is not true and that he has received no complaints.

"It's stupid when you think about it, to include information that is very costly and that most people don't use," said Peterson, who said Com Tel cut the white pages because telephone directory paper costs so much, the company wanted to maintain advertising rates and most consumers seldom use the white pages.

Owen Williams, manager of West of the Moon Travel in Spring Hill, disagreed. He said that once residents realize there are no white pages in the residential edition, "they're going to pitch it."

"My clients don't even come out of Pasco County. The only reason that I advertise in the directory is because my clients use the (white pages) to call friends who live down in Hudson or Port Richey. If they lose that advantage, why would they even keep the phone book?" Williams said.

The residential and business editions were sold as a package deal in which advertisers paid a single price to appear in both. In West Hernando, more than 5,000 companies received the business edition.

Com Tel also publishes phone directories in Citrus and east Pasco counties.

More than 150,000 Suncoast directories are being distributed from Holiday in the south to the Brookridge subdivision on State Road 50 in Brooksville in the north.

A company owned by the Times Publishing Co., which publishes the Times, also publishes the Community Smart Book, a competing phone book in Pinellas County.

Both Com Tel Suncoast Telephone Directories include area maps, coupons, a street guide and business listings from Tarpon Springs, Spring Hill, Brooksville and West Pasco.

The business edition also includes a west coast residential listing from north Pinellas to Brooksville.

"I don't in any way consider separating the residential white page of the directory to be any kind of a problem," Peterson said.

But others do.

"They didn't state the fact that they were selling a business-only phone book. I would not have advertised in simply business listings," said Williams, who paid $693 for his ad.

He said he was misled by a Com Tel sales representative who showed him a copy of a Suncoast business edition, which includes white pages.

"It's misrepresentation," Williams said. "I'll never advertise with them again."

Allison Paul, travel manager at AAA Spring Hill Travel, said she won't advertise with Com Tel.

"Definitely not," said Paul, whose company bought a $500 ad. "You're paying for something you're not getting, basically."

Paul Dupuis, owner of Florida Fan Co. in Spring Hill, paid about $370 for an ad in Com Tel's Suncoast and Citrus directories. He said he was not told there were two Suncoast editions.

"To me it makes the book less useful. I don't think without the white pages the book becomes absolutely useless," Dupuis said. "I would say they were less than candid. I can't say they lied to me."

Dupuis, who lives in Holiday, said in the past he has used the white pages of the directory to call friends in Hernando County.

"Call me silly, but I don't like paying that quarter. If I've got the information available to me, I don't want to pay for it," Dupuis said.

Peterson said anyone who wants a free copy of the Com Tel Suncoast white pages directory can call (813) 847-6263.

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