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Behind the Green Dior

Nobody needs to convince Scottsdale boutique owner Marcia Scardigli that it pays to advertise in the Yellow Pages. Unfortunately, she's not in the business of selling what most of her callers seem so eager to buy.

For that, Scardigli can thank a foul-up inthe latest edition of the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley phone book, a mistake that finds her Ooh La La resale fashion business listed under the heading "ESCORT SERVICE--PERSONAL."

"Maybe I'm in the wrong business," jokes Scardigli, who reports that escort-oriented inquiries to her high-end resale shop now outnumber legitimate business calls by a two-to-one margin. "If I don't make a go of this business, maybe I'll take advantage of the free advertising and switch careers."

In the clothing consignment business just since August, Scardigli first learned of the botched listing in mid-October, when a rash of cryptic phone calls from men seeking female companionship first began tying up her line. Puzzled over repeated queries regarding her range of services, credit-card policy and other matters unrelated to the haberdashery biz, Scardigli eventually fired back a few questions of her own.

"I originally thought it was a problem with a wrong number or a similarly named business or something," says Scardigli. But she learned otherwise when she asked one caller where he had ever gotten the idea she was in the business of dispatching hookers to hotel rooms.

"Honey, you're in the phone book," answered the middle-aged-sounding gent before clicking off.

At first, Scardigli was outraged to discover her shop's phone number--and address--sandwiched among 40 escort services listed in 270,000 Scottsdale phone books distributed in early October.

"This is not the kind of image I wanted for my store," she says, alluding that escort services are synonymous with outcall prostitution operations in the minds of many. (Scottsdale police Sergeant Brian Freeman reports that in nearly four years of working the department's vice detail, he "never once" ran across a legitimate escort service.)

But Scardigli eventually grew philosophical about the futility of even attempting to stem the glut ofphone calls from men who mistake her dress shop for Sex Fifth Avenue.

"What can the phone company do?" she asks. "It's not like they can [recall] all these phone books that are already in all these homes and businesses. This is something I'm just going to have to live with for a year."

Unwilling to change the store's phone number after she'd already invested in business cards, fliers and other local advertising, Scardigli originally didn't even bother bringing the mistake to the attention of US West Direct, which publishes the Yellow Pages.

But Scardigli ended her silence one day late last month, following a particularly disconcerting incident at the shop. A would-be escort-service customer showed up at the store in person, bound and determined to avail himself of under-the-counter services he apparently believed Scardigli's business offered.

"It was creepy," recalls Scardigli, who initially mistook the stranger for a legitimate customer. "He wouldn't leave and he wouldn't leave. I finally told him I couldn't help him because I really didn't understand what it was he would like."

According to the shopkeeper, that was the stranger's cue to quit pussyfooting around. Says Scardigli, "He said, 'Well, didn't you just advertise recently? I was told to come in here and there'd be something a little more personal.'"

Scardigli shudders. "That did it. This wasnot funny anymore." Fearful of similar visits, she complained to US West Direct.

A spokeswoman for the phone company attributes the error to "[bad] timing mixed with human error."

"We made a mistake," reports Susan Poulos, US West Direct's media relations director. "This was a new business, and the folks who handle the new businesses made some attempt to reach [Scardigli for verification], but could not reach [her]," she explains. "The person who was handling this particular account wanted to make sure [Scardigli's business] was in the book and misclassified it." Poulos guesses that the frisky-sounding name of Scardigli's shop probably played some part in the goof.Although US West Direct policy forbids revealing specific settlements, Scardigli reports she's "very happy" with the free display ad (worth roughly $2,800) she'll receive in next spring's edition of the Phoenix Yellow Pages.

In the meantime, she continues answering her business phone with a throaty "Ooh LaLa!" and, against all available evidence, hopes that her escort-oriented woes are behind her.

"Everyone keeps telling me this is only going to get worse," says Scardigli, who has considered arming herself and her employees with canisters of pepper spray now that Scottsdale's tourist season is heating up. "Idon't know what we'll do when allthese weirdos come out of the cracks during Super Bowl."

Laughing, Scardigli adds, "Maybe I can make some money referring all these names to a real escort service.

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Dewey Webb