The following column is from the Colorado Biz Magazine, written by Mike Taylor.  I have placed the text from the article below as it appears that each month the article links may change. 

Currently (9/14/2004) this article is available at the following links: 

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Mike Taylor  Managing Editor  Mike Taylor

Troubleshooter or Troublemaker?

But I’ll say it, and I’ve got the fax to back it up.

In three years as managing editor of ColoradoBiz, I’ve grown used to an occasional company phoning to complain that it was not notified about a top-company ranking it might have qualified for. But until recently, I never thought I’d hear from the representative of a company demanding $1,000 because we DID notify it.

That happened early this year, when consumer advocate Tom Martino’s company, Fax Wars-Consumer Crusade, demanded $1,000 in damages on behalf of a Fort Collins accounting firm, Sample & Bailey.

The damage we inflicted:  Twice last year we faxed entry forms to Sample & Bailey for our annual “Top Professional Services Companies list,” a statewide ranking based on number of employees.

ColoradoBiz runs six annual lists, much like the Top 250 Private Company rankings based on 2003 revenues you’ll find in this issue. To notify companies of an upcoming list, we blast-fax entry forms to firms from the previous year’s list; we individually fax companies that have sent us press releases; and finally, we contact companies we discover through word of mouth or any other means.

I have a policy that we call companies that we don’t have a history with before sending a fax, not so much for legal reasons, but because a fax not preceded by a call is about as effective as a bottled message tossed in the Pacific. 

But apparently we didn’t call Sample & Bailey before faxing; I say “apparently” because I can’t verify it one way or another. I simply don’t keep seven-month-old phone records lying around.

But more to the point: After being notified of this pending $1,000 hit, I called Sample & Bailey President Roger Sample and left a voice mail, explaining that we weren’t trying to sell him anything with our faxes. Sample called back promptly and assured me he had no interest in collecting money from us.

He vowed to do his best to call off Martino’s fax hounds.  He even admitted he wasn’t quite sure how his company was benefiting as a customer of Consumer Crusade. 

“I know we have something where we give these faxes that come in to somebody for some reason, but quite frankly, I’ll be honest, I don’t know who it is and why,” said the president of the company we faxed.  “But certainly I’m very supportive of trying to get this thing unraveled.  We certainly have no vindictive nature on this. Let’s work together and see what we can do to help you out.”

I think Sample did all he could. His firm called Consumer Crusade lawyers and explained that the faxes in question were not sales pitches and should not have been included in the junk-fax pile earmarked for Tom Martino’s anti-fax crusade. In the end, Sample & Bailey’s effort, though appreciated, didn’t help much. For reasons maybe only lawyers would understand, we settled with Martino’s Consumer Crusade for $500. Of that, Sample & Bailey figures to get the typical cut — $25.

What is that — maybe eight minutes of an accountant’s hourly rate? Throw in the firm’s time wasted on the phone with me, and seeing its good name dragged through this column — not a great deal.

That’s why it’s hard to see how Tom Martino, consumer advocate that he is, can believe he is helping the consumer — or even a customer like Sample & Bailey — with his indiscriminant war on faxes. Instead of painstakingly examining questionable faxes and their origin one by one, it seems he’s taking the economical route and dropping a bomb on them all — imploring recipients of junk faxes to bundle them up, send them to Consumer Crusade and possibly earn $25 for each fax successfully collected on. 

It’s disturbing to think we might need a new Tom Martino just to troubleshoot the current Tom Martino: A Troubleshooter Mini-Me, not as big as the original, but at least one without business interests — such as Martino’s Consumer Crusade, his fee-based Troubleshooter Network, his paid radio testimonial ads, and his Liberty Bell Telephone Co. — a stable of business interests that seem at odds with his role as a consumer advocate.

Back on June 11 when I first checked out Martino’s site,, you could find this boast: “YOUR JUNK FAXES CAN BECOME A NEW STREAM OF CASH FLOW FOR YOU.  ” What the site didn’t say is that Consumer Crusade gives damaged “customers” only 1/20th of the settlement.

Recently I looked again at Martino’s site.

Curiously, much of the late-night infomercial bluster from two months earlier had disappeared, kind of like Martino’s trademark mustache. Maybe part of the toning down is owed to heat from a genuine consumer-advocate site, (singular), erected by a businessman in litigation with Martino, Dale Finney. That site details court cases and judges’ rulings related to fax litigation and specifically takes Consumer Crusade’s business practices to task.

Whatever the reason, Martino’s “TURN YOUR JUNK FAXES INTO CASH” pitch from June has been replaced by a less avaricious “THE FAX WAR WANTS YOU!” Martino has even added on the site that he’d love nothing more than everyone taking matters into their own hands and suing the violators without his help.

Eileen Lerman has her doubts.  The Denver attorney is representing New York Deli News restaurant in a case similar to ColoradoBiz’s, with at least one exception: The deli is being sued for more than $15,000.  Lerman says the deli only sent faxes — announcing things like menu changes for people who order lunch from their offices — to past customers of the restaurant. 

“It’s like a factory,” Lerman says of Consumer Crusade. “They’re just filing and filing and filing. 

“I’m a small-business person, too,” she says.  “To have to deal with these people – it’s extortion. 

“I personally love being a lawyer. I’ve been doing it for 35 years.  And it bothers me when people make jokes about lawyers.  But this gives lawyers a bad name. I mean, it really does.  This is the bottom-feeder.”

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