Killing Puppies

May 1, 2012

Faxes are one of those things that gives every IP telephony engineer a headache at one point in their lives or another. So much so that it’s common to hear people say, “Every time you send a fax a puppy dies”. But even with the troubles that IP introduces, there are just some problems that could only be created by the end user sending the fax. In this post, I’m just going to re-count some of the fun fax experiences I have had and heard about that had nothing to do with the underlying technology.


The Flip

Shortly after a conversion to IP, I had a customer call me and tell me that the fax machine for one user was having a problem. Apparently every time she sent a fax it was received on the other end as blank. The fax machine still received faxes just fine and it printed out confirmation pages as if the faxes were going through as intended. Unfortunately, I was remote so I had them send me a fax. Yes indeed, I got six pages of blank fax with the fax machine added header and footer lines printed.

We went back and forth for awhile, they insisted that it had to be the technology and I knew that the technology should have been solid. And then it came to me, “Could you turn the pages of the fax over and try to send it to me again?”


“Flip the pages over so that the printed words are facing the fax machine or away from the fax machine. Whatever is opposite of how it is now.”

I got a very skeptical “Ok”, heard a number being dialed and a few moments later got a correct fax through. For some reason, this user picked the phone system conversion as the most opportune time to forget how to use their fax machine.

Moving Time

This next one comes from my friend Amy:

It seems that Amy got an urgent call from someone in upper management. Their fax had stopped working and they had important puppies to kill, err faxes to send that is. Amy rushed over to the office and almost immediatly knew what the problem was.

“Hey, you re-arranged your office, I like it.”

“Oh thanks, I decided it looked a lot better this way. Do you think you can help with the fax?”

“Well, when you moved your fax machine to the other side of the room where did you plug the fax in?”

“I just found a port in the wall that the cord would fit into, that should work right?”

I think you know the rest of the story.


Number 9

This next story is a classic that I have experienced and had several people offer as a suggestion as a story to add to this post. So, I will explain it that way.

We all got a call from a user that was having trouble sending faxes out. He said that every time he tried to send out a fax he got a busy signal. We asked him whether or not he had tried dialing the number from his desk phone and if it went through or did he get a busy signal there as well.

“Yes, I dialed it from my phone and it answered just fine. Can you guys get this fixed quickly?” No matter what the fax issue, it must always be fixed quickly. Despite the fact that e-mail is faster than faxes. Kind of ironic.

We then asked, “Are you sure that you dialed 9 when you placed the fax call?”

“Yes, I’m absolutely sure that I did.”

Having nothing else to do, we all got in our respective cars and drove over. When we got to the person’s office we realized we should have carpooled because there weren’t many free parking spaces. We all headed into the office and had a look.

We all took different times to figure out the issue, but in the end came to the same conclusion, the user was pressing 9 and then a speed dial key. Unfortunately, the speed dial key already had a 9 programmed into it and was the entire cause of this issue. We all shook our heads in disgust.


Not My Fault

This next one comes courtesy of George:

George was working on a cutover recently and after the cutover ran into an issue with faxing to a remote user’s house. He checked a variety of things on the voice gateway, did a lot of research, did a lot of troubleshooting and in the end called Cisco TAC for a second opinion. Together they thought that it might be an issue with the PVDM3 that was installed in the router and a bug. The worked through this for awhile and the issue still didn’t get resolved. Finally George got results, with perserverance that most people don’t have.

He ended up figuring out that the problem was not on the corporate phone system side, but the receiver’s fax. The type of phone line that they had at the house was provided by Comcast and was not supported for faxing. A ton of troubleshooting for something that really could have been avoided if the far end knew what was supported.


Wrap it Up

I hope that you haver enjoyed this little exploration of the various end user issues that can cause fax issues that are totally unrelated to the phone system itself. I’d like to thank all of the people that responded when I asked for some funny end user fax stories, I got a lot of response and it was great to hear them. Of all the responses that I got, I think the funniest one was from a friend named Chris. He said that he didn’t have any funny stories about end users and faxes, other than the fact that they still actually use faxes. I’m with you there Chris!


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