For the Record-Fax This!

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by Ken Secor

Unsolicited phone sales calls at dinnertime are annoying enough, now they’ve moved to faxes. If they call during the day or night, you have options; among them, don’t answer. Check your caller ID. Answer and just hang up. Answer and leave the phone off the hook and just walk away – tying up their line and wasting their solicitors time, hopefully saving a neighbor from the “hit” by stealing their time – like they steal ours.

Fax marketing has an edge of formidable countenance because of the insidiousness of the method used. Their computer calls your fax machine and delivers a message that cannot be deleted, stopped or erased. The sales game is in the form of a written advertisement, not delivered outside, to your front door; but rather inside your home – without privacy barriers whatsoever. The invasion of our privacy is only the tip of the iceberg in this latest means of low-life marketing and advertising. How the fax phone numbers are gleaned to send the ever increasing faxes to private and business fax machines is interesting. It happens in one of two ways.

Sometime in the past few years we have done business with someone who we trusted, who asked for our phone and fax number, and we provided it. This is typical of electronic transactions, but can also be asked by stores, your bank, J.C. Penney or L.L. Bean for that matter. That would be one way they get our fax number. They buy the fax numbers from anyone who will sell it. The other is even easier. Since most phone numbers are already taken and published, the ones that are left are either faxes (which are rarely if ever in a directory) or “dead” numbers with no equipment connected. A small computer could ring up all the unlisted numbers in a short period and determine by the dead or special fax response what’s what and voila; an area specific data base of fax numbers is gleaned by simple unused numbers search.

Not only does the unsolicited document appear inside your home, but you must pay for it! The fax machine has a life before breaking of say 100,000 pages. Every unsolicited fax removes one cycle of the fax’s useful life from your machine. Every fax takes a minimum of one piece of paper from your tray. On plain paper faxes, every fax takes one page of ribbon from the spool.

So far this week alone, I have received an offer to “WORK FROM HOME”; to get “IMPLANTS, IMPLANTS, IMPLANTS” from some doctor in Westfield; to “SAVE AND REFINANCE NOW”; to learn “AIR BALANCING AND DIAGNOSTIC SEMINAR” at Lincoln tech; or to “ENJOY 4 DAYS IN ORLANDO FOR $79.”

There are over 400,000 fax machines in New Jersey alone. Assuming everyone received at least what I did on their fax machines this week, the loss in paper and ribbon alone – amounts to a substantial sum.

I hope the pending legislation regarding the regulation of unsolicited phone sales embraces fax machines as well – or Trenton is only looking at half the problem!


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