It was when the HMRC call centre worker said ‘we can fax them through’ that I was briefly pulled up short. Until then I’d been OK. I had my 10 digit personal reference number and password, I even had a print copy of old statements. Fax? I looked wildly round the room. There’s a printer that doubles as a scanner and photocopier. I even have a combined cooker and dishwasher (really).
But no fax machine.
Back in the day I worked for a publisher whose magazine empire may have been entirely financed from the passive income generated by the fax machine. He had set up a premium rate fax number – any incoming faxes charged the sender a quid a page. No one would fall for this ruse now, when an ’0870’ prefix rings alarm bells (see saynoto0870.com for alternative cheaper numbers). Kicking back his loafers and loosening his tie, our jovial leader would encourage contributors to use fax over email: ‘Oh we’d love to read your press release’ he’d tell some poor unsuspecting PR person ‘fax it over and we’ll see if it’s suitable for the next issue.” Cha-ching.
Today, it seems anachronistic, for the Inland Revenue to actively discourage paper based filing for online and then to revert to a fax machine. Despite their sophisticated online portal do-dah, and planning to invest an additional £9m this year on the call centre, it seems they couldn’t email or provide any other method of sending the documents I so badly needed.
In the end we came to an agreement and they sent the documents to a third party, who still has a fax machine. I walked round and picked them up, adding a face-to-face meeting as another stage in the ‘how we used to communicate in the good old days’ nostalgia trip.
There’s a time and place for faxing. And it’s not when I’m up against a deadline and don’t fancy a casual stroll back to the 90s. But what do you think?