Where did all the fax machines go?

I was involved in a deal this week that finally closed at 4:40am PST on a Thursday morning. The lawyers were chasing down signatures until 3am PST.

Amazingly, several of the signatories in the deal did not have fax machines at their house. Now – the deal should have been done in such a way that everyone had signed the docs and they were in escrow well before close of business the previous day; it was totally unnecessary to be chasing down signature pages in the middle of the night. However, it never occurred to me (and – apparently – it also didn’t occur to the lawyers who were the ones responsible for getting the signatures) that the people involved wouldn’t have fax machines at home.

Interestingly, everyone had Internet access and a printer. The problem wasn’t getting the documents to them (although no one really appreciates having to wake up in the middle of the night to “sign just one more document.”) However, once the document was signed, the idea of driving to the office at midnight to fax one page was ludicrous. Fortunately, everyone involved that didn’t have a fax machine was in the bay area, which was where the lawyers were, so the couriers had a busy, but lucrative night.

This deal had a real timing deadline as we had a number of announcements that assumed we would be closed before the markets opened in the morning. Since the acquirer was a public company, the timing was critical and not easily (or conveniently) changed. We got it done, but it was close.

I’ve been a long time user of integrated printer-fax-copier-scanner technology (I used to have three separate devices and no scanner – I dumped this as soon as the “all-in-one” models came out several years ago.) I currently have an HP Laserjet 3330 in each of my houses and my folks have a different, but similar model at their houses. When you can pick up an HP LaserJet 3015 for $299.99 I just don’t know why you wouldn’t at least have a low end “all-in-one” machine around for those unexpected late night emergencies.

So – while it’s not Christmas shopping season yet – consider putting this on your next “computer buying spree list” if you currently don’t have a fax machine. With all of our current technology, until electronic signatures work and are widely accepted, fax machines will continue to be useful.