Junk mail for the bin or trustworthy advertising? Flyers can be a nuisance; junk mail dispatched to the bin. But for small businesses they are one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching lots of customers. I’ve used flyers to promote scuseme and found some wonderful new customers. But how can you tell if the advertised services are trustworthy?
One came through my letterbox the other day, and on the face of it sounded good. A local builder who offered a range of useful services. I took a few simple steps to see if they were as good as they sounded. I’m aware that scams exist and people can get ripped off. What I learnt along the was very revealing. Here’s what I did and what I found out.
A Cambridge base?
I called the Cambridge number listed on the card, it transferred to an answering machine so I left a message. The website listed a London and Cambridge telephone number and address; when I tried the London number and it took me through to the same answering machine as before. I then searched a useful site called whoisdomain (http://whois.domaintools.com/) to find out more: this told me the site was set up in June 2017, but little else.
Links to social media revealed a family business, apparently set up in the late 1980s. There was nothing anywhere on the Internet to confirm this. Both addresses listed linked to unrelated businesses. So, so far, no evidence of an actual Cambridge base.
Their Facebook page showed only 7 posts, all from June 2017, with random photos, no likes, no comments, no mention of Cambridge, nothing about the business, and the address did not match that of the website. The Twitter account had 9 posts, again listed on the same June date. Their listing in a free business directory provided little further information.
So, what’s missing?
There were no details of the people behind the business. No references, not even likes on Facebook that might provide some independent endorsement. There was no history, nor any mention of the business on the usual online business directories, such as 192.com let alone references to their public liability, insurance and professional indemnity. The more I investigated the more it looked like junk mail rather than trustworthy advertising.
An hour later I received a call to my voicemail. The caller told me about his small, local business, which he ran with a team who “between them could do anything and had lots of experience”. I told him about a possible roofing project. He offered to show me examples of his work and share details of local satisfied customers I could talk to if we arranged a meeting at my home. That seemed fine but I wanted some more information before I gave out my home address.
Questions but no answers
From thereon, it seemed his goal was to get my address, visit and quote for the job and only then would he provide the endorsements I was seeking. Still unsure I asked for confirmation of his business base in Cambridge. He refused to give it to me using the excuse that he got lots of junk mail (how ironic). I challenged him and said:
“Why should I let you know where I live if you won’t tell me where you work?”
He deemed this an unusual request and become suspicious, so I asked about the Cambridge address on his website. He told me it was only a postal box: so, no actual base in Cambridge.
I explained that in past I had encountered rogue traders and he told me it was probably because I paid in advance. He said he wouldn’t take any payment upfront, including a deposit, and I would only have to pay on completion of the project. My questioning agitated him, but he still insisted that we meet, or that I email him for more information. I wanted to find out more about the projects he had worked on in Cambridge. He grew tired of my curiosity and decided that “I didn’t seem like the type of person he would want to work with.” Funnily enough I felt the same way. I hung up.
What do you think? Junk mail or trustworthy advertising?
So, there you have it: a seemingly local company doing a variety of jobs, with no offered work references, no obvious Cambridge base or experience and not prepared to provide answers to my questions. He might have been excellent, but I certainly wouldn’t count on it. What do you think?
There are some great local businesses out there, but you do need to tread carefully and carry out thorough checks. Ask questions to find out as much as you can and do not give out your address if you feel uncomfortable, gut instinct is a good thing.
I set up scuseme because I’m fed up with hearing about people who rip others off. I MEET MY TRADERS IN PERSON or I have an introduction via a trader I have a successful history with. Not all traders have a website, this is not unusual as many run a successful business through word of mouth, but I always take the necessary steps to check that they are legitimate and a good local track record. At scuseme we only put you in touch with independently endorsed traders we KNOW and TRUST.
Disclaimer: This is a personal weblog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and I have drawn my own conclusions about the business I personally investigated.
Author: Dawn Giesler is the founder of scuseme, a recommendation website that provides an essential and honest resource to help your family run smoothly. Dawn has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences. Contact me if you want to have a chat about our services or visit scuseme for more information.