BY GENE MARKS
Mary has a secret
to get lost
Gene Marks, CPA, runs a 10-person technology consulting firm in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. His
latest book is In God We Trust, All Others Pay
Cash: Simple Lessons From Smart Business
Mary Shaw has a shameful, shame- ful secret. No, it has nothing to do with personal hygiene. Or her marriage. Or her kids.
She doesn’t smoke pot, drink excessively or
pop pills. True, she enjoys Sean Hannity’s
show, which is shameful. But she admits this
freely, so it’s no secret.
Her secret is way more shameful than that.
Especially in these technology-hyped days.
Mary Shaw owns and operates The Every
Day Group — a 20-person health benefits
consulting firm. I’ve been asked not to use
her real name or the name of her company
because if Mary’s shameful secret were to be
known by some people she could never show
her face in town again.
Are you ready for the secret to be revealed?
Well here it is: She sends letters. And faxes.
And makes phones calls to her customers
and to her prospects.
How could she? Has she never heard of
this newfangled thing called the Internet?
Isn’t she listening to the media? Doesn’t she
talk to all those younger folks with greasy hair
and black-rimmed rectangular glasses who,
between puffs on their hookahs, lecture us all
on the new age of electronic communication
and social networking tools that are available for penny-pinchers and small-business
owners to launch themselves into the new
” Whatever,” she recently told me. “I still
send letters. And faxes. And make calls.”
But Mary’s poking fun at us.
Her secret isn’t as shameful as you think.
Sure, she still listens to cassette tapes and
reads a newspaper. Sure, she still refers to
the Rolodex on her desk. She admits that she
does a lot of her business the old-fashioned
way. But she’s doing old-fashioned things in
a new manner. And she’s doing these things
better than her competition. And contrary
to what those younger folks with greasy
hair and black-rimmed rectangular glasses
think about her, she’s using that newfangled
thing called the Internet. Only she’s using
it to send letters. And faxes. And make calls.
It’s fast. It’s inexpensive. It’s the kind of thing
a smart penny-pincher does.
logs in, uploads a graphic of her letterhead,
types in the address of the recipient, copies
and pastes in her message and pays. Both
services then print out the letter, stuff and
mail it. Snailmailr costs 99 cents for each letter, including postage. The Mailmonster is
free. Both services advertise themselves on
their envelopes. The MailMonster includes
other ads too, which is why they’re free.
For faxes, Mary uses three Web-based fax-
ing services — efax ( www.efax.com), FaxZe-
ro ( www.faxzero.com) and TPC Fax (www.
tpc.int/faxbyemail.html). They’re different.
eFax lets Mary upload a Word document
and then sends it as a fax to her recipient’s
fax machine. It costs $14 per month, which
allows 30 pages to be faxed. After that it’s 10
cents per page. And faxes can be received too.
FaxZero is a free service where she can send
up to two faxes a day (maximum three pages)
at no charge or pay $1.99 for each additional
fax (maximum 15 pages). TPC converts an
e-mail into a fax. No uploading. No attach-
ments. Using this service is a bit trickier, as
you use a special format for the “Send” line
of the e-mail. And not all fax machines can
receive from their service. But for those that
do, it’s a simple and effective way to fax, ac-
cording to Mary.