Better Business by Robb Hicken: Don’t let questionable automatic supply reorders catch you by surprise

ROBB HICKEN, chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionSeptember 10, 2013 

Robb Hicken

The Supply Reorder Number and description of materials ordered is clearly marked along with a master order number: PC446906.

“It just looks so real,” says MaryAnne Pettingill, office manager for Evans Realty in Emmett. “But we are very hands-on in our ordering for the machine in our small office.”

The link associated with the email suggests Xerox supplied the email alert stating that the Xerox in Pettingill’s office required more toner. But Pettingill wondered.

“If we had an order from Xerox, I’d be first to know about it, because I would have placed the order,” Pettingill says.

Bob Wagner, director of Technology Business for Xerox, told the Better Business Bureau, “The email is a confirmation of the customers’ next automatic supplies replenishment shipment, and the customers will receive a second email once their order has shipped.”

Turns out this was part of a service agreement Evans Realty had signed with Xerox.

Matt Ingersoll, president of Boise Office Equipment, said this order appears to be correct. On many occasions, companies sign agreements that will process an order automatically after they report a certain number of copies on their equipment.

“This appears to be a BOE service agreement where the toner is ordered and sent directly to the client,” Ingersoll says. “It was wise to question any order, invoice or shipment, since there are crooks trying to take advantage of small business.”

Office supply scam artists generally use three ways to take your money — the phony invoice, the pretender, and the gift-horse. All are attempts can ruin your business.

Because Evans Realty accounts payable had an invoice check system in place, the invoice was questioned.

Companies that have such procedures in place, along with regular service agreement reviews, are less prone to be scam victims.

Small businesses can save themselves from paying for things they do not receive by reading every sales, service or work agreement before you sign it.

Every such paper you, as an owner, sign is probably a contract that binds both you and the seller to do certain things. Contracts can be long or short, but they don't have to look legal to be binding. Because most contracts are written to protect the seller, watch to see that the contract also protects you.

You and the seller are not bound by anything that is not in the contract. But you, the seller, or both are bound by everything that is written in the contract. Be sure that the contract says what the seller will do for you as well as what you are to do.

Generally, verbal representations do not count legally once you sign a contract. If they are important, have them written into the contract.

Remember this before you sign:

• Be sure the contract covers everything you want and is priced as agreed.

• Be sure the contract covers all extra work and is properly priced, is specific, and is all that the salesperson promised.

• Be sure you are not agreeing to pay for anything you do not want.

• Read every line before you sign. Be sure to read the fine print. Be sure it does not take away rights you thought were yours.

• Deal only with a reputable business. Check it out at BBB.org.

•••

rhicken@boise.bbb.org, 947-2115

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