Just the Fax please.

Today I came across an oddity which I can not explain. I have dealt with firms before that have all sorts of policies which make little sense in a digital world. Some of them I understand, such as older firms not accepting credit cards or checks. Various people not trusting online payments due to security concerns. Some people simply do not understand technology and take a cautious stance. Some do not feel that their business needs the additional headache to thrive or a business may just not want to grow beyond those confines of their current limitations.

That brings me to the software company that I had to deal with this week.   They went the extra step and built their online store up with an interface to accept credit cards and directed customers to use just such a thing. They are also used to dealing with companies that prefer to order through PO verses using a credit card. But here comes the caveat. They would only accept the purchase order by fax or snail mail. Apparently emailing a purchase order is completely out of the question. I have dealt with a few companies that would not accept a purchase order by email, but this marks the first time that a software company happened to be the one requesting just such a thing. What made this even better is that the purchase order had to be faxed to an ‘800’ number so they were actually paying to receive a purchase order that could have been received free of charge by email.

How many companies do you know that still only accept orders or even payment by methods deemed almost obsolete? And why do they do this?  Feel free to comment your position on this subject as I am so very curious as to why a software company of all people would not accept a PO via email.

4 thoughts on “Just the Fax please.”

  1. I’ve dealt with a number of companies that *cannot* send or receive emails at their call centers… but faxing is OK. The explanation that I’ve been given consistently is that this is for security reasons, so people can’t email sensitive information out of the system. It’s complete hogwash. They can fax it out just as easily (or take pictures with a small camera/cell phone). For incoming stuff, do I *really* want my personal information sitting on a fax machine for everyone to go digging through until the person I work with picks it up? And with email, it is easy to track who sent what… with fax, good luck!

    Security theater that happens to wreck customer service at the same time.

    J.Ja

  2. @Justin James

    To me, this is the same mentality which tries to keep new mediums out of the work place. Back in the 1930s, phones were evil. 1980s, email was evil. 1990s, the world wide web was evil. 2000 to now, we have instant messaging, which still isn’t generally accepted as a good tool. Social media which puts even a bigger fear into corporations.

    I see the same concerns being raised each time. Some complain that work won’t be done, others complain that there is the big security risk.

  3. I work for a large communications company. As far as I know, the PO on paper is the rule. I would guess that it has to do with the law, or more specifically, precedent set in court.

    There are companies out there that will do anything not to pay a bill. Think of the stories (true or not) of an insurance company always declining the first claim(s) no matter what. In that situation, a percentage of the submissions will not resubmit, and the perpetrator saved the money from being spent.

    Now convert that to a large company trying to collect money from other smaller companies that decline to pay. This type of “crime” (if you will) has been going on for years, and legal collection processes have been established that are based on mail or fax, with a hardcopy. In fact, by intentionally committing a crime, and using mail to do it, can increase the severity of the crime.

    No executive in a company wants to change policy (shifting to e-mailed PO’s) that could cause the loss of money (for the company) on a unproven legal precedent. Add to that the damaging reputation that could occur when “big bad mega-corp” is picking on poor little “mom-N-pop”, and it’s just not worth it.

    It works the same whether it’s a big corporation, or a small software company that has a high “tech IQ”.

  4. @DEK46656

    Good point. There are electronic signature laws in place but the courts are somewhat inexperienced.

    There was only one time that an IT publication told me that a digital signature was good, and I signed some PDF contracts with an S/MIME signature from an account that was attached to my name. I actually had to find two very credible people with a lot of Thawte web of trust points to inspect my US passport in person.

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