||Burton on the Bay
by Bill Burton
Out-Faxed: Im Pulling the Plug
Freedom of privacy is my right no longer
While America is fighting for world freedom, on our own shores people are trying to stamp out the freedom of the small businessman.
Cindy Koene, Annapolis, in a letter of May 23, 2003, to this publication.
All letters, faxes and e-mails are appreciated by this writer, and with no prejudice against those who disagree with his or any other opinions in this publication. Yet, after nearly a year to contemplate Ms. Koenes communication, methinks a response is appropriate.
Between May of the past year and late April of 04, the faxes have kept piling up at my home office. So have the bills and the inconvenience not to mention my irritation.
Currently, issues of privacy are paramount. Health care providers ask that we sign mountains of confidentiality forms to forward claims to our medical insurers. Lenders, insurance companies and other businesses stuff our mail boxes with lengthy communications detailing their privacy policies.
Yet dont privacy considerations also include being free from junk mail, junk faxes, junk computer spam and yes, even phone calls from solicitors, though that intrusive practice was supposed to have been alleviated with a single, free phone call arrangement that went into effect in mid-2003. Perhaps more than a few readers have noticed that through some manipulation or other, telemarketers are finding a way to skirt, or just plain ignore, federal and state laws.
In the past several months, wife Lois and I have been inconvenienced by an increasing number of phone solicitors. For nine months, things were basically hunky-dory; meals were eaten in peace, a book read without interruption and there was no climbing down a ladder to tell salesmen our roof wasnt leaking or we werent interested in the free trip we had won to some fantasyland.
Now that seems to be changing. Is the law porous? Surely Im not the only one asking, so read on.
Reader Koene had some suggestions in her letter to Bay Weekly, but all of them put the onus on me or others wishing to be left alone. Much of the advice was as inconvenient as being subjected to the unwanted communications. Beyond inconvenience, there can be a financial burden.
On this page, note the picture of a one-and-three-quarter-inch stack of faxes, junk faxes, that have arrived at my home office since mid-October when I started collecting them to get a handle on the tangible extent of just the fax intrusion of unsolicited and unwanted solicitations. I counted them, finding in all 476 pages over about six months.
That means about 900 pages arrive via my Sharp UX-510 in a years time. That costs me perhaps 60 bucks or more for film that turns blank paper into printed pages, not to mention the cost of the paper, wear and tear on the Sharp. Lets not overlook the occasional times when Im not around to feed more paper into the machine (or am around, but neglect to do so), and all the faxes overwhelm the equipments memory so important business messages are lost.
Not once since I purchased my first fax machine in 1992 have I been even remotely interested in any of the unsolicited offers such as health care for the entire family at $89 a month, unbelievable stock offerings, home refinancing as low as 1.9 percent or a six-day trip to the Disney area for $99.
For ages, I took the time to call the usual listed 800-number to ask that my name be removed from the solicitors distribution list. But know what? If the senders obliged, not long thereafter there came more faxes with basically the same offers in the same format, prompting strong suspicions that somehow or other a loophole was found, or maybe that my name and fax number were forwarded to another arm of the soliciting conglomerate.
Eventually, I gave up on the call to request removal. All I got was a recorded message requesting I punch in the fax number; no real person on the other end of the line to whom I could vent my frustration. So the unwanted faxes keep coming, the toll continues to climb and its impractical to take the advice of Ms. Koene that I unplug the telephone/fax because mixed in with all the junk are some gems in the form of anything from story tips to the catches of noteworthy fish.
Im not trying to stamp out the freedom of the small businessman, as suggested. Im a small businessman. I sell words to this and more than a few other publications. But when e-mail, fax and phone solicitations clog communications at the cost of convenience, expense and inadvertent loss of important and awaited messages, a more effective crackdown is in order.
Talk all you want about freedom of speech, but there is also freedom of privacy, which is lost as solicitors find new ways to circumvent the latest restrictions. At least in the old days, we could slam the door in the face of a salesman. Enough said