I’m Saying Good Riddance and Abandoning Faxing in 2020

I mostly only get junk faxes anyway

I’m Saying Good Riddance and Abandoning Faxing in 2020

I mostly only get junk faxes anyway.

I’ve just cancelled my account with my online fax company (I won’t say which one since it isn’t them- it is me; we’ve just grown apart). Yes, I know it is possible I may need to send a fax one day and I may scramble to find a place to do that- but truthfully I really don’t see that happening. The cost of my online, electronic “HIPAA-secure” fax account has essentially tripled since I first signed up for it years ago; this is despite the fact that my fax usage has precipitously declined over that same time period. I also have a lower, non-advertised rate that is less than the rates advertised on the website. It is still a waste. Yes, I’m simply going to argue based on cost and not talk about security issues with electronic faxing (where the faxed documents do end up getting stored online, remember) versus other options. Though I imagine I’ll go on a few tangents- fair warning, here comes one now.

The first fax I ever received wasn’t for me. It had been sent to my phone number by mistake due to a misdial. I had purchased a fax machine as a graduate student around 20 years ago to assist me in applying for internships. I was a poor graduate student living in the sort of apartment graduate students live in- it was definitely not an office where you’d expect a fax machine to be present. I didn’t have a dedicated fax line but I answered the phone and heard the telltale squeal of a fax coming through. While I wasn’t expecting a fax, I reacted the way any excited internship applicant might- I switched the call over to the fax and received the incoming fax. It wasn’t for me. The first ever fax I received contained someone else’s social security number and other personal information. It was documentation related to a new hire for a national fast food chain (think the one with a redhead that doesn’t wear clown makeup). I of course informed them of their error. I can say that getting a fax not meant for me is rare, however it has happened multiple times since. Just this past year I received one, apparently another misdial, which was from someone’s healthcare provider. More specifically, it was their healthcare provider sending a form to an insurance company trying to get treatment authorized for their cancer. Yeah, let’s not lose that fax people; let’s get that cancer treatment authorized. I of course informed them of their error.

That fax machine I bought in 2000 gave me many years of service- though truthfully I really didn’t use it that much during those years. In the end, during it’s final days, it still functioned the way it was designed to function but it was essentially me who had changed. I no longer wanted to pay for a traditional phone line and switched to a VOIP cable phone. It turns out that poor fax machine just couldn’t work on that kind of phone line. For years after it gathered dust in my closet- I didn’t want to throw away a working fax machine that only didn’t work because I no longer had a real phone line (just a cable phone). From there I moved on to the online fax company (or technically companies if you count that it was bought out a few times by other companies over that span of time). I’m now abandoning the internet fax for no fax at all.

Hey look: here is a tangent-within-a-tangent. That old fax machine helped me record podcast interviews over the phone. None of my newer technology or cordless phones let me do it cheaply way back then. I hooked up an old phone call recording device to the fax machine and away I went with what was old school tech back then. You can still listen to some of those podcasts here. However, when I switched to the cable phone line, in addition to not being able to fax with the fax machine, I could no longer record podcasts that way. It was one factor in why I stopped recording podcasts. Admittedly, there were other factors like being busy and feeling bad about turning away guests I didn’t really want to talk to. Amusingly, one publishing company sent me this huge box of what seemed like every self-help book they’d published in the last ten years (unsolicited). They wanted me to interview all of their authors for the podcast– correction– all but the one author I actually wanted to interview. He was somehow too good for my podcast (though they responded with a “no” answer to my email request so quickly I don’t believe they asked the person himself). This is despite the fact that he was definitely not as “big” or as “important” as other people I’d interviewed already (ex: Donald Meichenbaum, David Burns, Russell Barkley, Alan Kazdin, Irvin Yalom, etc.). It isn’t like any mental health author should be embarrassed being listed with a group like that, right? BTW, I had a good and extensive relationship with Guilford so I don’t want anyone to think it was them- it wasn’t. Anyway, the poor experience with this other publisher and not wanting to read the mountain of drivel that they sent me also helped encourage me to ultimately retire the podcast. In fact, I took the huge box of self-help books they sent me and dropped them in the trash. I feel bad now; I should have donated them to Goodwill or at least recycled them or something- sorry environment; I’ve grown since then. Now we don’t even use plastic straws. I try to compost kitchen scraps. Umh– anyway– I will avoid furthering that unrelated tangent. The podcast was mostly recorded in early 2013; I just checked and I still have a bunch of MP3’s on my server from the podcast though I don’t think my website publishes links to them anymore (just a YouTube version). That fax machine was great. I also hold no ill-will to the online fax company except to understandably scoff that they just tried to raise my rate again (leading me to finally say no thanks).

Anyway, speaking of segways, here is another tangent: I no longer have a cable VOIP phone either- just a cell phone. My old home number is parked at numberbarn.com and anyone who calls it gets a message I recorded and the option to leave a voicemail. That voicemail is then emailed to me. I think it is funny that telemarketers with their recorded messages trying to reach me get a number where they only hear my recorded voice (real people can leave voicemails if they want to). I give out this “home” message number to any source that seems like they’ll probably just send me marketing calls or whatever. My “home” phone number never rings in my house; I had forgotten what peace sounded like. Yes, I get some telemarketers on my cell phone but most telemarketing gets diverted to this online fantasy pretend phone. I didn’t just give up my cable phone, I don’t subscribe to cable TV either anymore. I do still get cable internet. We stream the content we want to stream. We get the local channels which are broadcast for free over the air via a small digital antenna.

Perhaps this is how things go. It turns out over the last 20 years or so I’ve abandoned plenty of technologies. Sorry fax line, you’re nothing special in that regard. Perhaps you and my old pager can form a support group. You can invite that dictation cassette recorder thing I could never get the hang of.

I bought my first fax machine 20 years ago for a specific purpose (internship applications). However, I got my first fax phone line because I wanted to seem like a professional (and I occasionally had a use for it). People ask for your fax number. People who wanted to credential or re-credential you often did so so via fax. It was a quick way to send reports instead of mailing them. If you don’t have a fax number you can seem unprofessional or perhaps like you’re a fly-by-night operation. That was my thinking anyway in maintaining a fax number all of these years. However, while faxing continues to be fairly pervasive in healthcare it is old tech. It is the year 2020- in a year like “2020” no one needs to feel bad or embarrassed about no longer supporting old technology. It is also no longer a Sci Fi fantasy for me to consider a world without junk faxes. As of today my personal world no longer includes junk faxes. I’m tired of almost all my faxes being junk faxes and I don’t have the time or energy to keep a fax line around simply to pursue legal action against people sending junk faxes. “2020” isn’t just about new tech, it can be about abandoning old tech we just keep making excuses for. I no longer need a fax in a world with so many other equally-good or better options. Goodbye fax number; no hard feelings. Sometime, when the sting doesn’t hurt so bad, let me tell you about my friend encrypted emails and secure file sharing online which makes faxing unnecessary.

Thanks, I hope you’ve enjoyed my latest– apparently a rant– against my own fax number. I hope this new year of 2020 finds you well.


Todd Finnerty, Psy.D.

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