Do Toner Cold Calls Really Sell Any Toner?

Every entrepreneur, I think, has his or her weird ticks.  One of mine is that I answer the main phone for our office here.  Granted, there are only a couple of us here (99.5% of our parks management people are actually in the parks, something that differentiates us from the government agencies we work with).  But answering the phone and sometimes directing calls is one way I sort of keep on top of what is going on.

Anyway, one result of this is I personally hear all the spam calls that come to our company,  of which calls to sell us merchant (ie credit card) processing services and to sell us toner are by far the most common.

Since I assume rational behavior by whatever firm is paying these people to make calls, I suppose they must get results.  But that amazes me.  Does some business after the 27th call asking to speak to the person who buys toner suddenly wake up and say, "Sure, send me some toner!" on the 28th call?  Ditto on merchant services.  In fact, though I put toner in the headline, merchant services amaze me even more as they are likely much closer to a buying company's core customer service processes than is printer toner.   Do people really buy based on cold calls?  I suppose they must.

It has been observed to me that this is just like the Nigerian email scam -- people are amazed folks still try this.  But in my mind it is different.  With an email scam, the costs are virtually zero so it costs nothing to spam zillions of people on the off chance one might be a hit.  For business sales, though, there has to be more of a cost to spam people.  (By the way, for this reason I proposed long ago that a tenth of a cent per email charge would end most spam and phishing.


  1. PatrickH:

    I don't see as much of these as I did 10 yrs ago, but toner reps used to imply they were your normal supplier to trick whoever answered the phone to accept an order. It was just complete fraud. Then they'd hope the invoice would slip past the bookkeeper.

  2. Earl Wertheimer:

    Email scammers are getting much more sophisticated and are targeting their emails very precisely.
    They create an email account which is very similar to a real person's email. eg.
    The email _seems_ valid and the person is probably not easy to reach, or they assume the victim is not going to check.
    Then they send an email proposing some work that sounds very lucrative. The rest follows the usual script. Send a large advance OVER payment. Ask for part of the overpayment back. Then disappear when the original payment turns out to be invalid and reversed by your bank.
    Another method is to ask for some money in advance to arrange for some bogus services, like transport or customs.
    Professions that I know of which have been targeted: Lawyers, Translators and Artists.

    Just a matter of time before Park Reservations are targeted ;-)

  3. ErikTheRed:

    You would not believe some of the stupid contracts I've seen signed as the result of these calls. SMH.

  4. Q46:

    "By the way, for this reason I proposed long ago that a tenth of a cent per email charge would end most spam and phishing."

    Spam does not bother me. Why should I have to pay a tax on my emails to stop something I don't care about?

  5. Fred_Z:

    Cold calls work because they often spark the realization of a need, or of dissatisfaction with a current supplier. They don't always lead to a sale for the cold caller though, someone else may get the business.

  6. Patrick McGuire:

    My guess is that the toner people use affiliates for their calling. They're not associated but if they make a sale they get a cut. This would explain the lack of coordination, it's a different fly-by-night every time.