So, one of the weird things about getting a shitload of junk faxes is that you never actually read them all. Who has time? I have seven hundred pages of these things. Mostly, I don’t see them when I have a lot of spare time and I’m looking for something to do; I see them when I’m looking for a specific fax on my fax machine, and all that’s there is a stack of unwanted shit, helpfully shoveled by our junker friends. (“friends” is perhaps a euphemism here.)
So, until I started getting involved in court cases, I’d never read most of these. I’m glad. The resulting loss of faith in humanity has been a real shocker. I always thought I was cynical; it turns out I’ve been hopelessly naive. People who send junk faxes lie. They play games. They do all sorts of stuff to try to make you not hate them, even while they’re harassing you. (A fax a week for almost two years is “harassment” in my book.)
So, for instance, I have a fax which has a Red Cross logo. Nothing to do with the Red Cross - they just have the logo to make you feel nice. A lot of them do stuff like this. We also get “missing children! we love missing children! help us find missing children by sucking our eleven inches of fax paper and swallowing the toner”. Those aren’t the words they use, but that’s what they mean.
There’s a lot of signs to look for that should raise big red flags. Never buy from someone who has to tell you that a system comes with full manufacturer warranty; that’s a big red flag for a dealer that may do a fair amount of grey-market equipment, or maybe brand-name boxes with generic parts in them. Never, ever, buy from someone who does the “prices reflect a cash discount”. The chances are, their contract with the credit card companies prohibits this bait-and-switch tactic. The chances are, they don’t care what their contract says. Do you want a contract with them? No, you don’t. Never buy from someone who has to explain what he means by “free”. A favorite is the November 14th, 2001 fax from CaDan corporation. (For those keeping track, it was sent at 5:58 PM on Wednesday, November 14th.) I’ll try to reproduce this for full effect:
Note that there’s no asterisk on the word “free”. Also note that, when service contracts come in full years, we’re talking about a two week period of free service. That’s one full part in twenty-six of the smallest service contract you can normally buy! Wow! Most products come with 90 day warranties… Why do they have to tell me that I’m getting a 14-day warranty?
* O.K. the hardware & software isn’t free, but it’s darn close! The service is free for all in house service between November 16th and November 30th 2001.
It gets better, of course. They aren’t free; the fax says that, even if it says it in teeny-tiny print. And yet, under oath, Dan Rogers sings a different song, saying the stuff in question was definitely free:
Q: I want you to turn to the one that is dated November 14, ‘01. I’ll show you my copy. I’m looking at this one.Of course, we’ve since met (he was at my deposition, where I mistook him for an incompetent law clerk until my lawyer told me who he was), and no, we haven’t done business. He later claims he may have discussed hosting with Plethora Internet – but they’re not one of our customers, and I have no reason to believe they ever even talked to us, or indeed, ever saw our web page before this suit commenced.
Q: Now, does this one have any price list on it?
Q: Does it have any prices at all on it?
A: No, because they’re free.
Q: So, it’s free computer hardware, free computer software and free computer service. How does CaDan stay in business giving away stuff for free?
A: That was a promotion that – we had just brought in two new technicians, and to instill business relationships with existing clients, we wanted to promote their services at no charge. If you notice on the bottom, it’s got between November 16 and November 30.
Q: Okay, and this was meant to go only to existing clients?
A: Only existing clients, yeah.
Q: As far as you know, has Peter Seebach ever purchased anything from you?
A: You know, I’ve got to be candid. The name is so familiar, and as I said to my attorney, if I could only see a picture of him, I’m confident that we must have done business somewhere along the line.
This is typical for junk faxers. As you might expect, people who are willing to break a federal law and tell thousands of people about it are not sticklers for following rules. And they use the word “instill” incorrectly.