Why F-JAS has its own version of "The List" from Game of Thrones
Posted by Dan Farrell-Jones on
When I was in high school, I had Business Studies lessons with a lovely Teacher called Mr. Thistlewood. He was a very substantial man, and the students often made fun of him due to his habit of forming spittle upon the lips which would quiver through the lecture and finally take flight towards one of us as he raised his voice. They called him Mr. Spittlewood, and he never really managed to keep control of the class.
I found business fascinating however, and Mr. Thistlewoods lecture style of teaching suited me very well, and I learned a lot even in High School about how to run a business. I received an A at GCSE and A Level, and studied the subject further at Degree level.
I never actually thought I'd ever find myself running my own business. I think I did it because I thought about the possibility of working with my father with his business, but despite a last-minute rise in status before he died, that dream never turned out to be real.
So after my Dad died, I had my first child, a little boy called Jaden, and his arrival seemed to stir in me a need to do something more with my life, and as I was already making my own screen wash for my car, I decided to start selling it, and people loved it and bought it!
So, my Business education was well worth it then? In a word NO.
Business Studies teaches you how a business should be run in La-De-Dah land where everyone is treated fairly and big companies do their jobs.
- Royal Mail
- British Gas
- Little T£@! Corporation
So what is the list? Have you watched Game of Thrones? If so you know what this list is. For everyone else, its the list of big companies who have made it so difficult to run our business that we almost failed because of them. I will now go through why each one made the list.
In the UK, if you need a new phone line, you go to BT. That is the way it is. So when we moved into our current unit, there was no phone line and BT were fairly quick in installing one for a big fee, and then started charging us right away for it. There was one problem, the Fibre Broadband wouldn't activate, and worse still - they kept stringing us a long for over a month telling us that it would be fixed, and then that they would elevate the case, then constant updates of the date it should start working. Eventually, they decided it wouldn't ever work, and didn't know why. We asked why they were charging us and this was never resolved as the phone would often cut off as we were being passed thought to someone who wasn't made by Jim Henson.
Eventually we phoned up Plusnet, itself a BT subsidiary, who guaranteed us our Fibre Broadband would be up and running instantly if we switched to them. BT wanted nearly £300 to end the contract, to move to a provider that they owned. So they made the list.
Plusnet came through on their word. No problems, upon switching it was working right away.
Paypal has been the most recent addition to the list. I have personally used Paypal since the dawn of time. I think my first purchase using Paypal was for a a lovely cave painting for my cave wall. I am practically a shareholder in Space X and Tesla the amount of money I've spent with them on fees over the years. However, Paypal saw fit to "Part Ways" with F-JAS and its directors for seemingly no reason, which put our Ebay business in peril due to the required Paypal account rule. The severity of their decision and the implications this has is what makes Paypal one of the worst companies we have dealt with in business.
On a personal level, I can no longer use Paypal to pay for Netflix or buy a playstation game for my son, and on a professional level, it denies our customers the opportunity to pay by Paypal, and renders the card reader we bought from Paypal an expensive doorstop.
We are lucky we didn't have money stored in the Paypal balance, or Paypal would have kept this for 6 months. Elon Musk, we are big fans of yours, but what you created here has become cause to hang your head in shame.
Monopolies are never good, particularly with customer service issues and Royal Mail really takes the biscuit with their atrocious, business-destroying policies.
First off, they have a habit of losing important documents you send to them, even thought they were sent signed for. Our particular issue with this was when our bank cancelled the direct debit for our Royal Mail business account, they froze our service and wouldn't re-enabled it until a direct debit was set up again. For this, we had to print out a direct debit mandate and post it to their credit centre. We did this and phoned up a couple of days later to enquire about it only to be told we had to wait 72hours before they would look any further at the issue. After 72 hours had passed, with no business account (a vital part of our business model, to be able to post orders), we were told they never received it. The constant rule of 72 hours meant our business account was offline was nearly two weeks, and what was worse, at each stage there was no communication to us, with us having to call up to be told something had gone wrong or something else needed doing. In the end our business account was enabled on a Monday but they didn't get around to telling us, and when we called them up on Thursday after the latest 72 hours, they told us we simply needed to email a team to link it to Click and Drop, which could have been done on the Monday.
As businesses like ours exist to post parcels, Royal Mail denying your the ability to post them can seriously harm your business. For every 72 hours that they kick back with their feet up waiting for the policy time frame to elapse before dragging their feet back down to check on your account, your business is dying in front of your eyes.
When we moved into our current unit, the place had been empty for 7 years. No sooner than we had opened the door for the first time, British Gas started pursuing us for the unpaid bills of the previous tennant all those years ago. We were fairly lucky in this case that we were on a year-long starter tennancy, whereby the landlord dealt with the utilities for the first year. As a result we were able to let them deal with the situation. It seemed to go on for a good few months, as I often had to send them the threatening letters British Gas were sending.
The first point I will make is an observation and not a frustration, as I was aways ready to adopt an attitude of deal with all the normal, expected stuff, such as VAT registration. So my point is, that we have struggled to attain profitability, and yet, quite early on, HMRC wanted 20% of our sales. There were times when this was making the business unfeasible, but in the end we learned to embrace the premium nature of our products and started to charge a more realistic price to ensure our survival.
So we registered for VAT following their rules that say as soon as you think you may hit £80,000 revenue a year, you need to register. The problem was after our very first VAT submission, they decided to do a full audit of the company, which nearly killed us off as they made no allowances for the fact this would mean I would not be able to actually operate the company for a week. In the end, the woman came around to my house as it was at the time, and proceeded to find a load of things that we weren't allowed to claim VAT on that our accountant thought we could, mainly based around a rule that says you can only claim VAT back on purchase less than 3 months old, and our accountant said he'd never heard of that rule. Finally, HMRC STILL haven't given us our EORI number or our license to use Denatured Ethanol - both of which were applied for years ago.
Little T$%! Corporation
These eager souls threatened legal action against use twice over the use of a name which they have a trademark for. They are so strict, they wont even allow people to hint as towards the name, never mind mention it. The last time the threatened us with legal action, and actually began proceedings, was when they were unhappy with a stock image we used for one of our fragrances. Be warned, don't piss these guys off, as they have a lot of money and will make life difficult for you as they defend their intellectual property with more gusto than anyone else out there. It's possible they may even threaten legal action over hinting at their name in this article. Technically, thats not allowed, but they'd drag you though an expensive trial you cant afford even if they lost just to cost you.
An Honourable Mention to Amazon
So Amazon haven't done anything too severe to us (day ain't over yet!), but they did suspend us from Seller Fulfilled Prime recently because a problem with their shipping system forced us to use Click and Drop for 2 orders, which is against their terms. So that was a Bunch of lost sales. Further back, we were invited to a programme called Amazon Vendor Express. They asked for 8 bottles of our 5L Bubblegum Screen Wash to sell on Amazon themselves. We sent them, they lost them. Super.
Other things that aren't how they were supposed to be
Threatening Legal Action - Big companies love to make life difficult for small companies by threatening them with legal action, even when its obvious you are in the right. exaggeration of trademark rights is prevalent and the little guys can't fight the accusations. It cost us £1000 just to tell someone that they were mistaken.
Constant Incompetence from Companies - Suppliers that are constantly out of stock, suppliers sending the wrong goods, printing companies making huge mistakes and sending your absolute rubbish flyers. It seems a day doesn't go by when you are heavily affected by the mistakes of a supplier or company you are relying on.
Constantly changing goalposts- Ebay, Amazon are always changing their rules and its difficult to keep up. They will change eligibility criteria, listing template, CSV templates, and much more, all meaning you have to go over everything again, taking up valuable time.