Here's the Scoop: March 28, 2012

Transmission failure
Over the years, fax machines have occasionally been a topic in this column. I recall the early days of this technology when the equipment was quite expensive and it was more cost-effective to make a five-mile round-trip to send and receive faxes from a local business that offered such services. Today, I find it annoying to walk two steps across my office to grab a fax off my machine.

“Don’t these people know about e-mail?” I shout to no one in particular when a fax appears.
Of course, fax machines are like every other technology — they continued to evolve with functions improving and prices dropping. While the ability to transmit documents over phone wires was incredibly convenient when it arrived, “thermal” fax paper was the standard for a long time. Anyone who remembers this paper recalls that the type/images would fade faster than a Hollywood marriage. It was basically high-tech disappearing ink.

They were still useful
Despite the quality issues, fax machines were a most welcome invention. Once the technology became widespread, I found myself asking people disapprovingly, “You mean you don’t have a fax?”
I know it wasn’t nice, but I couldn’t imagine how a business functioned without what had become standard equipment.

“I’ll bet this guy is running down to a local service provider to send and receive faxes,” I would sneer to myself — the beneficiary of a friendly bout of amnesia.

I’m not sure when it happened, but the fax became nearly obsolete, in my book. Yes, faxes still offer the ability to transport documents, but there are many other — better — ways to get this job done. Still, I can’t pull the plug on my fax, even though it mostly collects an impressive array of offers for very inexpensive vacations in the Caribbean, practically interest-free business loan offers and great deals on roofing materials.

Time to start packing
As much as I would love a trip to an exotic island and a pile of “free” money for my business, I spend a lot of time responding to these faxes only to get placed on the “fax removal list.” Forgive me for being a skeptic, but I don’t think these super offers are “fax-ual.”

Unfortunately, as much effort as I put into calling the opt-out numbers (usually) included on the bottom of these solicitations (in very tiny type), the “offers” keep coming. And, many of them arrive long after the computerized voice tells me in a monotone, “Your fax number has been removed.”
I’m sure some of these companies actually do take numbers off their marketing lists when they say they will, but others don’t seem to play by the rules.

The bottom line is: junk faxes cost paper, toner cartridge and the time to deal with responding to them and recycling. This all equals money. And I’m cheap. That’s why it was so refreshing last week when I received a fax simply requesting: “Send us your unwanted faxes!” Huh?

Was this a similar ploy to ads requesting: “Send us your old gold jewelry?” I’m not sure why anyone would want my junk faxes. To me, it’s like asking for used Kleenex. Supposedly, the sender of this special offer wants to do the dirty work for me — forwarding my unwanted faxes to the offending senders to have me taken off their lists. Ironic, huh?
— Brian Sweeney