Anyone Want to Pay $75 for a Fax?: Service, Value, and Common Sense

Lots of technology, but no fax machine on this desk.Apparently, some people think faxes are magic. That’s the only reason I can come up with for their charging so much for them. One place wanted $1.29 per page and another wanted $.99. I could understand if the process involved some kind of sorcery or maybe a spell that required some rare type of blood or the whisker of an elephant or something. Or maybe if they had to retype all the information and then send it. Or run it over by hand. Or do a rubbing like we used to do with gravestones in whatever class that was.

But it’s just sending data over the phone lines. It doesn’t cost any more than a phone call, a local phone call. Okay, it does cost a little bit of electricity. And it does require an employee to stack the pages in the machine and dial the number. But that’s about it.

I mean, I can understand if the company doesn’t want to charge $.10 to fax one page. It really isn’t worth their time. And while they could let you do the faxing yourself, they then have the liability of your possibly breaking the machine or actually dialing a phone sex hotline (I assume these still exist) and just entertaining the operator on the other end with the beeping and hissing sounds of a fax machine.

I can understand a dollar for a one page fax. But faxing ten pages requires almost exactly the same effort and resources as faxing one. That’s why I was surprised to the hear the cost of the first page ($1.49) was just slightly more than each additional page ($1.29).

I can’t really understand how that pricing scheme makes sense, but they might have actually gotten away with it if we had 3 or 4 pages to send. I suppose that’s the point. This was a stack of medical records, though, 66 pages worth. When I mentioned that to the employee, and how it would be over $70 to send a fax. He suggested we might see if we could email it, a service they could provide for just $.10 or so per page, a service I can provide myself for free.

I couldn’t remember offhand how much services like eFax cost, but I knew it would be under $15. So, I was happy to walk out without thinking twice about it. I stopped by another, this time independently-owned, shop where I got the 99 cent quote. Quite a savings, but obviously still insane. (Depending on what Internet fax service you use, you can send between 250-1000 pages per month for $7-$15 with overages in the 3 to 5 cent range.)

I imagine that people don’t come in all that often needing to fax 50 pages, or even 20, so I wouldn’t expect the company to design its entire price structure off of this possibility. They clearly didn’t want me to use their fax services, though. If they had taken a moment to consider if a large fax is worth $75, they might have realized that that was ludicrous.

They might have said something like, “We could do $1.50 for the first page and $.10 for each additional page.” Or even $.15 or $.20. I might have been willing to pay $15, especially knowing that they were giving me such a break off the original quote. Instead, they basically said, “We don’t want to deal with you and your unusual request. Have you heard of email?” I can’t argue with the second point, of course, because I’m often mystified by how frequently fax machines are still used.

What they provided me with was not good customer service or value. They just gave me a reason not to go back to their store. I’m sure the $10 or $15 I might have spent there isn’t going to have an impact on their bottom line, but it could when it starts to multiply.

These moments come up more often than we realize. Instead of sticking to our standard lines about policy or price or how we don’t want to take an extra step to help someone, we could take a moment to think about the situation. We might remember that fax machines aren’t magic and we can come up with a suitable price structure or compromise or creative solution on the fly. That way, we might not lose a customer, or we might not lose a friend, or we might just make someone’s day.

So, what did I overlook here? Is it really costly for these companies to send faxes? Or is it really that valuable? And in case you were wondering, our printer can send faxes, but we don’t have a landline.


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