Red Faces at Yellow Pages – and how not to let the same happen to you

Typos can have a highly detrimental effect on a business. And no one knows that more than Banner Travel Agency owner, Gloria Quinan.

Back in 1988, when the world relied on telephone books, Gloria’s listing in the Yellow Pages advertised her business as offering ‘International and Erotic Travel’. An appalled Gloria said, ‘We offer exotic travel, like tours up the Amazon, but nothing erotic.’ To make matters worse, the offending word was emblazoned in red across her prominent advertisement.

Gloria’s business was squarely aimed at the older traveller and the effect of this error was catastrophic. Travel sales dropped off by a staggering 80 per cent almost immediately and Gloria was understandably distraught. Not only had the reputation she’d spent 20 years building up vanished virtually overnight, since the listing appeared she’d been subjected to ‘a lot of crank calls, heavy breathers and unsavoury requests.’

Pacific Bell, the company behind Yellow Pages, claimed that, ‘Obviously we’re going to have errors from time to time’, but declined to issue correct ‘exotic travel’ stickers for the thousands of directories already in circulation. Gloria decided to take action and launched a gross negligence lawsuit seeking $10 million in damages – a simply enormous sum in those days.

Did she win? Yes. And Pacific Bell almost went out of business. Did Gloria’s travel business ever recover? We don’t know. Perhaps she took the money and put the whole nightmare behind her by taking an extended trip. It’s all rather lost in the mists of time. But the key point here is that, more than 30 years later, the embarrassment and brand damage sustained by Banner Travel are still being talked about.

Now, sure. This all happened ages ago and these days mistakes can be corrected quickly, right? Mostly. But it’s impossible to correct an already printed lengthy business document such as an annual report, sustainability report or an investment prospectus. And reprints are costly.

Here at Proof Communications, we act as gatekeepers in defending the professional reputations of some of Australia’s most prominent blue-chip companies by spotting errors before they’re published. It’s nothing unusual for us to pick up 1,000 mistakes in a 100-page document. We’ve headed off such clangers as the ‘singing’ of agreements, the issuing of ‘divideds’ and claims of being ‘Australaian’ – all very embarrassing had they got through.

So, when next you’re deciding to forego the professional proofreading of your important company documentation, marketing materials, tender submissions or award entries – whether they’re printed or online – maybe think again. And spare a thought for Gloria Quinan.

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

Share This: