The Website That Needed to Fax It In

A recent project of mine involved updating a very old website for a local fruit market here in Brooklyn. The existing website had been created in 1998 and was long overdue for a modern upgrade.

I wanted to bring all of the newest tools and features to the new website, and for the most part we did; it’s responsive, SEO optimized, and is easily self-manageable.

The new website also has a very slick system where the weekly specials automatically get posted to the website, Twitter, Facebook, and Mailchimp — all in one easy step. More about that slick system in an upcoming post.

But we also made a new Home Delivery page, where customers can place a delivery order by filling out a form on that page — a fairly common website feature, and not a hard thing to set up.

Just The Fax

However, my client had a very strange request for the Home Delivery form:

He wanted to receive a FAX when people ordered, instead of an email. A FAX!

It was 2016 and he wanted the website to send him a FAX!

Once he explained why, it made a bit more sense.

You see, it’s an old-school type of business, and the packing guys are used to getting a fax on their fax machine back there. Old habits die hard, and the client didn’t want to change this. It had to come in as a fax. Okay, made sense.

So I had to make it work. And here’s the solution I came up with:

  1. Customers will fill out the order form
  2. The form tool converts the form entry info a PDF
  3. The PDF gets attached to the email sent out by the web form
  4. The email gets sent to an account we set up at E-Fax.com
  5. E-Fax takes the attached PDF from the email, and faxes it back to the fruit shop’s fax machine.

Beautiful! It worked! Now, the website form sends a fax back to the shop.

The Faxing Details

We use the amazing Gravity Forms for all of our web forms, and we here added a plugin from GravityPDF, an automatic PDF generator plugin for WordPress.

I configured the GravityPDF plugin to make a simple PDF version of the grocery order, and attach it to the outbound email sent by the Gravity Forms order form.

Now, how to get a FAX?

There’s no way to make a website send a fax directly. I needed a third-party fax service that I could go through.

So I searched around and chose E-Fax.com. The fees were reasonable, and I could make it do mostly what I wanted; which was to receive an email and send it out as a FAX.

But a limitation was that they can only fax attached documents, and not the content of the email itself. This limitation was the reason I had to add the GravityPDF maker to the process.

Now, most of the time these e-fax services are for businesses who need to (send and) receive faxes by email. But we needed receive an actual fax, on a real fax machine.

So I set the delivery order form on the website to send its email (with PDF attachment) to a special email address at E-fax (fax-number@efaxsend.com) which sends outbound faxes — only here we use it to send a fax back to our own fax machine, in the packing room of the fruit market.

VoilĂ ! The modern website order form now generates an old-fashioned fax back at the fruit market — just the way they’re used to receiving things!

Circus Fruits is an open-air fruit market, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They never close! Circus Fruits has a huge selection of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, a full service deli counter, and a selection of convenient groceries and products.

Visit: www.circusfruits.com