Driveway review coming soon…
So we’ve just bought a new house and needed a new boiler for it and as you do when you want to save a bit of money you look around to try and find the best deal.
We happened upon PlumbTraders, the site looked good, “Official Supplier of Peter Andre’s 60 Minute Makeover” it said, the boiler we found was a good few hundred cheaper than most other places online so on 03/08/14 we decided to order it, got the email order confirmation no problems.
On 05/08/14 we received an email with an invoice and an expected delivery date of 12/08/14 with details of the local branch who would be delivering it.
The 12/08/14 as the day went on and nothing came I decided to wait until 3pm before calling the local company to see where it was, when I called them the said they didn;t have anything to deliver today and would make a quick call and get back to me. They called back and said I had to contact PlumbTraders as there was an issue with processing the order, but the items were there ready to dispatch. I tried calling PlumbTraders on their 0845 number and all I got was an automated message “All our sales operators are busy, please leave a message”. I tried their 01384 number and it was either ringing forever and cutting off or constantly engaged. I left voice mails and sent emails but had no response back.
I’d figured at this point the reason we hadn’t got our boiler was because PlumbTraders were just purchasing from suppliers and not actually handling the products themselves, drop shipping basically, and they hadn’t actually paid the supplier for our boiler which is why it wasn’t delivered, so this instantly made me think they were in financial trouble as there isn’t really any other reason why they wouldn’t have paid for it, they had our money after all.
At 6pm on 12/08/14 we received an email from PlumbTraders saying “We are sending you this email to remind you that your order ref: 115035 is due to be delivered on 13 Aug 2014.” Strange we thought, maybe they were going to pay for it on the 13th so it could be delivered, we hoped! It was obviously an automated email as it was sent dead on 6pm but we thought we’d see what happens come the next day.
I phoned the local place late morning of 13/08/14 and the story was still the same, out of interest I got them to quote for exactly the same product and accessories and they came out £50 more expensive.
On the 13th the homepage of PlumbTraders started to get errors, on the 14th the site displayed a message saying they had ceased trading and to contact Begbies Traynor, they were putting the company into creditors’ voluntary liquidation.
So we’ve basically wasted over a grand, swallowed up in their bank account, it’s terrible that the money can just go that quick, they should never have been taking orders when they knew they couldn’t fulfill them.
After a bit of researching around into the history of the company and the owners I’m sure it’s not the first time something like this has happened, the directors are:
Ian Lawrence Cole
David Steven Cole
There was also a notice of striking off in January 2013 so I presume they’ve been in trouble for a while.
Steven Hancock was a founding director, who now is a director of PlumbArena which seems a similar kind of setup.
The company is actually called Traders Group Ltd There was an original company called Plumbtraders Ltd which has been disolved.
The domain www.plumbtraders.co.uk is now registered to Pioneer Bathrooms Ltd who seem to be Pioneer Bathrooms and Heat and Plumb. So it appears the domain has been sold already, why you would want to own the domain of a company who have ripped people off is beyond me.
I managed to get the contact number the local plumbing company had for Plumb Traders, it’s 01384 361084 the number of a web design company Echelon Digital. So avoid these as Martin Smith is the director there too.
We have filed a claim with our bank via chargeback, we are still waiting to see the outcome of that, failing that we’ll join the list of creditors and probably wait a couple of years to get a fraction of pence in the pound for what we’ve lost.
I like to think I’m extremely savvy when buying from places online, sometimes you just get caught.
Starting your own business used to be a huge investment. Depending on your chosen field, you might have to rent office space, purchase supplies, hire an accountant, produce mailers and all sorts of other details. It could be months or years before you see a profit, which is why many small businesses went under.
These days it is far easier to start a business. With the power of a personal computer, a home office and a few dedicated pieces of software, you can hit the ground running. Almost any function you would need a dedicated machine or hired employee for can be done with one of these or similar tools.
Keeping your budget used to require enough work to make up a full time job. Keeping the books, filing the paperwork, keeping track of all the money your business handles and all the rest quickly eats up a lot of time. Financial software made it easier, but you still need to purchase it, and most of the time if you’re not trained in using it already, you have a lot of learning to do. Thankfully, all of that has begun to change.
Xero Accounting has you covered on this front. With a free trial to learn the ropes, reasonable pricing and a robust list of features, you won’t need to worry about hiring an accountant or an entire financial department. You can create invoices, record bank transactions, share financial information and monitor every bit of your budget along the way. The program scales as your business grows, allowing you to upgrade and customise it to do everything you need it to do. Xero even supports a dozen different add-ons to customize your experience further. Xero allows you to export reports not only to excel but to Google Docs too.
Collaboration and File Sharing
Do you produce media? Of course you do, or if you don’t, you should. Whether it’s as simple as a promotional image or as complicated as a product pitch, you’ll eventually find you need to transfer a file to someone else. You don’t have to print out a flyer to mail. You don’t need to record it on physical media and ship it. You don’t need to worry about file size limitations for e-mail attachments. Just use Dropbox.
Dropbox is incredibly simple. It acts just like a folder on your computer. The data you put in the folder, however, can be shared with anyone. You can quickly and easily create a link to any file in your Dropbox folder. You can then share the link with anyone you want to give the file to. They even have a special business tier with bank level security and a ton of storage. You won’t have to worry about someone getting into your files or sensitive documents. Only the people you want to share with will ever see your files. You can use 2GB of space with Dropbox for free, you can get additional space free by getting friends to sign-up, or there are monthly plans available starting at $9.99/month for 100GB.
If you run the type of business that requires an office, you have probably encountered the expense of a business license for office software. Word processing, spreadsheets and basic databases shouldn’t be expensive, and Google has you covered. Google Drive, which was formerly a number of different services including Google Docs, combines a number of great Google features into one convenient package.
You can use Google Drive for free, which is a huge boon for new businesses. It has some cloud storage features similar to Dropbox, allowing you to keep your important documents shared with your entire team. Google is always handy with support, they have a reputation for unparalleled uptime and you’ll never lose your files.
Scheduling and Task Management
Whether you’re running your business solo or you’re managing a team, you’ll quickly learn the importance of task management. There’s simply so much going on that has to get done. Letting any task, however trivial, slip through the cracks is just asking for trouble. Producteev is a task management application that allows you to organize tasks and projects for yourself and your staff. It incorporates a programming language of its own to turn notes and messages into tasks easily. It works with various e-mail clients and instant messaging programs. Best of all, it’s very cheap. You can use it for a solo business for free, or use it with your entire business team for a low fee.
Harnessing the Cloud
Cloud computing is something a few other entries on this list have touched on. Google services and Dropbox both use the idea of the cloud for storage, allowing your data to be accessed anywhere. Salesforce takes the cloud one step beyond. What they do is known as Software as a Service. Many enterprise software applications are bulky and expensive. You need computers to run them, you need servers to hold your data and you need people to use them. For many small businesses, these enterprise solutions simply aren’t cost-effective.
Software as a Service through Salesforce allows your business access to these pieces of software without all of the hassle. Salesforce holds the servers and runs the software. Your business simply makes use of the service they provide, for a moderate fee. Full enterprise solutions are available, but for many small businesses, the cheapest tiers are perfectly serviceable.
If you need a basic contact management solution, you can get this from Salesforce for just £3/month, check out the full features here.
Businesses have phone numbers. More importantly, businesses have reliable phone numbers. If someone wants to contact your business, do you give them your mobile number? If you do, then you have to deal with issues when your phone is off, or when you’re out of your service area, or when the battery is dead. What happens if they want to fax something to your office? You would need a fax machine and a landline just for that. Having a Geographic number for your UK area code will give the perfect impression.
Soho66 is a unique Voice Over IP (or VOIP) service that can quickly prove indispensable to your business. You don’t need to shell out the cash for a landline or a fax machine. All you need is an Internet connection and an inexpensive subscription to their service. They offer lines for one or for many, depending on the size of your business. They support conference calls and all the phone services you would need. How does that take care of faxing? They offer an additional feature that converts incoming faxes into e-mails for you. No bulky fax machine, no landline and no wasted paper. Soho66 also allows you to transfer an existing phone number or register a local line for their service.
Acrobits is one of another type of application you might find useful, especially if your business is mobile. It and other apps are called softphones. They hook up to your VOIP connections and channel them to your smartphone. With versions for both iPhones and Android devices, you’ll be able to tap into your business phone network without needing anything else. Hold your conference calls and video conferencing over VOIP. If you want, you can even record your calls.
Of course, if you have a business small enough to consist mainly of yourself and your computer, you can always opt for Skype. One of the first major VOIP companies to produce a popular client, Skype offers a wide range of functionality. You can call other Skype lines or landlines, link it to an office phone system or use it for video conferencing. Skype has the benefit of working wherever you have an Internet connection, even if you’re out of range of a cellular network or not in your office. The only possible downside to using Skype for your business is it doesn’t allow emergency phone calls.
Sometimes, you simply can’t do everything online. Maybe you need to have products mailed to or from your business. Maybe you need a physical address to register for some product or service. Maybe you need to send and receive communications with customers or businesses who don’t like using the Internet for everything. For these occasions, you need a physical address.
If you’re running your business out of your home, do you really want to list your home address as your business location? You run several risks, including a volume of mail your carrier simply won’t handle. Your personal mail may get lost in the flood. There are even times when you’re not home, not present to take a delivery.
Thankfully, it’s easy to rent a mailing address. Companies such as Regus offer mailing address facilities as well as extra virtual office services. It can be a bit harder to find a mailing address if you’re outside of London, it is possible though and MBE seem to be available in most major towns. Royal Mail offers PO Box addresses which are cheaper and allows you to collect letters and parcels at a time and place that’s convenient for you.
Total Business Functionality
Starting a business seems intimidating. Even with the wide range of tools available, it still takes a lot of work and a lot of resources to succeed. With the use of many of these tools, a little creativity and a lot of hard work, you can create and run a business out of your home much more easily than ever before. With Internet-based software services, online storage and communications, VOIP phone services and a post office mailing address, you have everything you need.
So I sold a domain to someone but have kept the domain pointing to 1&1 nameservers at request of the new owner, the domain ownership has been transferred at Nominet and there is a new registrar.
Yesterday I got an invoice from 1&1 which included the ‘sold’ domain, I informed them they are not the registrar and to credit this item, they say;
“We would like to inform you that invoices raised prior to cancellation or transfer would still be valid invoice here on our system and still needs to be settled.”
Surely they can not charge for this domain registration fee when they are not the registrar? Can they?
Whilst checking up on the rankings of my sites I came across a site which I hadn’t seen before which was similar to one of mine, I clicked through and was surprised to see that it was pretty much identical to mine, “You Cheeky Affiliate!” I thought, so I went to Nominet to check who had registered the domain and was surprised to see it was Bodypower Sports Plc, I’m already aware of them as I’d ordered stuff from them before myself.
To be honest I’m not too bothered about it, I actually find it funny that a company with a £19m turnover have to resort to copying sites.
Here’s the evidence: (click image to enlarge)
Fitness Superstore Site
Fitness Superstore Footer
You can see it’s an exact copy of the layout of my site, the menu layout, the image names are the same, it has the same YouTube video and best of all the footer is worded exactly the same as mine, which I worded myself.
So even the big boys copy other sites, thank you Fitness Superstore / Bodypower Sports Plc