Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Help Me Howard: Restaurant Faxes
If you have a new business, you want people to know about it. But one restaurant owner got sued over a fax sent out advertising her menu. The ordeal has left her feeling fried. Here's Patrick Fraser serving up tonight's Help Me Howard.
WSVN -- It's really easy to open a restaurant. It just requires all of your money, 20 hours of each day of the week, and your complete devotion.
Nancy Noel: "It is very hard, harder than I expected."
But Nancy has the desire, and so she bought a sub shop in Tamarac then decided to put a touch of her culture into it.
Nancy Noel: "I decided to incorporate the Jamaican part into it, and we still do sub and salad and everything that was on there before, we just added the Jamaican part of it."
Fortunately, the previous owner had a list of customers, and, every Sunday, he faxed that week's specials to help Nancy out.
Nancy Noel: "It was quite legal, from what I understood, because these were people they actually delivered to before."
Then, two months after Nancy opened, she got a surprise delivery served up to her door.
Nancy Noel: "Never had a problem until I received a letter in the mail saying I have been sued for unsolicited fax."
The "I don't want to be your customer" did want one thing: $500 of Nancy's hard-earned money, meaning she would have to sell about 100 jerked chicken specials to cover the cost, so Nancy called them.
Nancy Noel: "I was trying to explain to them that this was something new to me, I just opened the business, I had no idea that this was illegal. They told me they are sorry, but this is what it is."
But Nancy says it's outrageous. That the person suing her only received one fax that was actually sent by the previous owner, trying to help her get going, but they were not moved.
Nancy Noel: "If I don't pay the $500, I'm going to be going to court, paying $1500, court costs, plus travel damages, and a whole bunch of other stuff."
Nancy says she can't afford to hand over $500 and can't understand how one fax sent by a man trying to help her could cause the person getting it so much damage.
Nancy Noel: "It's very depressing. It's a dream of mine to own my own business, always has been, but I didn't expect it to be opening up with a lawsuit."
But is Nancy responsible for one unsolicited fax, she didn't even send directly, Mr. Finkelstein?
Howard Finkelstein: "It doesn't sound fair, but the law is clear. If you send a fax to someone without their permission, or someone sends it on your behalf, it's a violation of the law. Now, the law was created to stop companies who send thousands of faxes at one time, and Nancy became a victim of that law."
When we spoke to the attorney for the man who is suing Nancy, he told us the lawsuit is proper and needed because victims in these types of cases are the ones inundated with unsolicited faxes. After we pointed out his client only got one fax from a previous owner trying to help Nancy he agreed to speak to his client. They then decided to drop the lawsuit against Nancy as long as she does not fax there again. They did add they would have gone to court if Help Me Howard hadn't gotten involved here.
Howard Finkelstein: "Now, if you are getting blasted by unsolicited faxes, not only does it tie up your fax machine, it costs you paper and ink, which are expensive. First call the company and ask them to stop faxing, many will. If they refuse, you can sue them and collect a minimum of $500 per fax, and you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission as well."
Nancy Noel: "Brown stew chicken."
Nancy has learned a lot in the past few weeks about the restaurant business and knows one thing: she won't fax again, until she knows all the rules.
Nancy Noel: "I don't intend to get any more lawsuits."
And if you are getting faxes, and they won't stop, here is the contact information for the FCC, and, by the way, if you are sending faxes to promote your business be sure to include a contact number on the first page in case that person wants to get dropped from you fax list.
Food fight left you feeling fried? Don't let a fax get in the way. Call us, we promise to just deliver the facts, that's F-A-C-T-S.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Federal Communication Commission
Help Me Howard Contact
helpmehoward@wsvn (please include your contact number when emailing)