In The Beginning
Ever since I started my journey as a wide eyed wannabe business owner some 10 years ago, I've come across a wide variety of people. Mentors, investors, customers, etc. But as with any business industry there's a dark side.
When we started this company the first thing we had to do was make customers. Keep in mind this was before Google Ads or Facebook or any review sites. So, to make customers we had to do it the old fashioned way. Call every business and offer our services to them in hopes that they would give our new small business a chance.
I'll admit it, I'm actually a really shy person. I guess that doesn't really help in B2B sales but anyway, I would nervously pick up the phone and prospect. To my surprise, when I would introduce myself, my company, and our products, I would get hung-up on, quite aggressively or even given a few colorful words before being told never to call again.
I didn't get it. Did I sound too nervous? Was my opening statement all wrong? I was just having the hardest time even getting more than a whole sentence out. I didn't blame the prospect. I couldn't imaging there is a person on this planet that enjoys a sales call. Let alone from an Office Supply and Printer Toner company. I pressed on.
During that time period, one of our newly acquired customers called me with a concern. She told me that a company had called her offering her printer toner as well. She said it all sounded good and she'd give them a shot. She received her order like normal and at the price they agreed upon, no problem there.
The problem was, not soon after paying her invoice she received more toner. But not the one or two she ordered the first time. But over 30 of the same cartridges with a bill that was astronomical! We're talking in the thousands of dollars. When she called to voice her concerns to her sales rep, he informed her that since she accepted the shipment and made the first payment that she was now in a contract with them. She was nervous. She felt like she was trapped. She tried to get out of it and return the cartridges but when ever she called, she would get verbally abused and threatened.
I honestly couldn't believe my ears. First, I couldn't believe that someone would do that to my client, she was the nicest lady in the world! Second, it hit me that the reason I was getting killed on my prospecting calls was not because I was a terrible salesman, but because there are companies out there in the Office Supply and Toner Industry that are out there scamming small businesses.
I scoured the internet. I read blog posts and forum posts about office managers, schools, and even churches, getting harassed and embezzled by toner pirates. Appalling.
Not only do toner scam companies make it thousands of times harder for legitimate businesses like ours to operate on the B2B side, but they destroy jobs and small businesses.
How To Tell If They're Legit
Well, there are some steps you can take to combat these toner scam operations. Not all office supply companies that call you are bad. You might actually be in the market for a new toner supplier. Here's how to vet a toner vendor if they call you.
- If you get a call from a company offering printer toner or office supply quotes, ask them for a website and an email address that you can reply back to. Pretty much all scam companies don't even have a basic email address for their scammers.
- Ask them for a call back number. Say you're busy and that you'll call them back. Again, like with them not having email, they'll most likely not even have a call back number.
- Listen closely when you get a call. Can you hear a lot of noise in the background? It might be a room full of agents calling.
- Tell them, "Just to let you know, I'm recording this call". They'll probably hang up on you and move on.
- It's also possible they'll pretend to be your current vendor. Don't be afraid to ask your vendor to email you when they call. This will immediately filter the toner scammer out.
How To Get Out Of The Scam
If you go through this you'll most likely never deal with fraudulent scam companies. Ok, so what happens if you get into a situation like our customer did, and now you're receiving a bunch of toner you didn't order with a crazy invoice. Here's what you do
- Don't accept the shipment. If you did take it back to UPS or whatever and write on the box Return To Sender.
- Inform your credit card company just incase they try to charge your card.
- They're going to call you and get aggressive. Don't worry, everything they're saying are empty threats. They have no power over you, they can't take you to court, they can't tap your company credit. Nothing. Tell them to "kiss your a$$ and that you're recording the all call for the FBI".
- If they keep calling, inform your local police department and the police department where the toner company is at. Stay strong. You're in control. They have no power over you or your company.
Toner Scam Company Busted In Orange County, 2019
Luckily though businesses who've been getting scammed are finally seeing some justice. I just recently came across an article in the Orange County Registry that read, "7 convicted for $126 million scheme selling overpriced toner to charities, small firms".
In the article goes on to say, "Seven people were convicted Friday in federal court for running a decades-long, $126 million telemarketing scheme in which thousands of small businesses and charities were sold overpriced toner for printers and photocopiers.
The scam, believed to date back to 1988 and targeting more than 50,000 victims, involved the defendants posing as the victims’ regular toner-products supplier, but selling them products with the price upped by as much as 10 times the regular retail cost, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office."
The people running the operation were all found guilty of
- Mail Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Conspiracy To Commit Mail Fraud
It's unfortunate so many small businesses had to fall victim to these printer toner pirates. Printer toner and office supplies are sometimes the backbone and a necessity of a small business. It's almost hard to operate with out them. Companies like IDC SERVCO have destroyed both jobs and businesses for their own personal gain. We're glad to see them go.
Anyway, I hope this article can help someone out there. Let us know your story. Have you been a victim of this type of printer toner scam? How did you get out of it? Questions or concerns? Let us know. Perhaps your story can help others out too.
Emery, Sean. "7 convicted for $126 million scheme selling overpriced toner to charities, small firms." Orange County Registry. Crime + Public Safety 13 December. 2019. Web. 4 December 2019