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Thread: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

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    Senior Member AGTDenton's Avatar
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    Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    I've just been window shopping for a RAID card for some project in the distant future. I came across an Amazon seller that's 50% off Scans/Ballicoms price. This just never happens in the RAID world, they rarely discount below 10-15% these days. Decided to dig a little deeper knowing it was going to be fishy.

    Their seller name displayed the URL in it without the dots, so it was nice and easy to find.

    They're company address & registered number is clearly displayed at the bottom of every page of their website, which is something I like to look for when buying from a new company, especially for the trust & warranty aspect, and knowing whether or not it's shipping from abroad.
    The website still had a whiff about it, little effort in the design & company logo, clearly a recycled shopify/wordpress theme.

    So I did a quick check on google maps to see whether the address was their warehouse or accountants, a trick I've seen UK based companies use.

    It isn't either. The address belongs to a company that provides virtual offices, Made Simple Group Ltd.
    Here's a screenshot of the packages they offer:


    Just thought this is something to be mindful of, I wanted to highlight a UK address really no longer means UK stored items or even a business presence. It simply box ticks so they meet the minimum requirements to sell on various UK platforms.

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    root Member DanceswithUnix's Avatar
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    Re: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    Tricky one that. I work for a small company, a handful of engineers and a few others to do sales/admin/purchasing etc. By all measures a small successful company with products that are selling well. But we don't answer phones, we get a virtual office to do that. Before we moved office a couple of years ago, we had all our contact details pointing there.
    Such outfits are awesome to a startup. If nothing else, you can tell they are good for £40 per month

    From clicking around on there I see the minimum spend to sign up a basic virtual office for 3 months is £214, or £550 for 12 months as the first payment has £70 in deposits and you are paying all up front either way. That's cheap compared to hiring a receptionist, but seems an unnecessary expense for a scammer.

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    Re: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    One of the problems with Amazon, or I guess with just buying online these days but especially with Amazon, is trying to work out just who you're dealing with.

    It's made MUCH worse, IMHO, by Amazon's habit of switching suppliers if one goes out of stock. The number of times I've carefully selected a product supplied by Amazon themselves, only to get it switched by them to either Amazon EU (with implications for additional costs, taxes, import duty etc) and, of course, a completely different set of T&Cs than if dealing ith Amazon UK, or who-knows-what unknown..

    But the worst of it is trying to work out if the company if small but legit, or just a brand new startup using virtual offices etc for genuine reasons, or some individual running a part-time business from their spare bedroom, or a legit-ish business but trading from, say, China and trying to make it look like they're in the UK, or simply an out and out scammer.

    I'm inclined to think Amazon do a decent job out weeding out outright scammers, but, depending on what it is I'm buying .... and what it costs, I can be very selective about who I'm willing to buy it from. I'm not necessarily averse to dealing with small companies. Some, after all, are very good but in a niche specialism.

    But some things, especially high value ones, I'm extremely fussy about and all that type of detail would be a red flag to me.

    I will, and have, taken a punt on low value items, but only if I'm prepare to just write it off if it fails to show up, or does but is garbage. That includes buying from China, which I do, occassionally. Mostly, it's been fine but some items have been utter garbage and one simply never showed up. As it was under a fiver, it wasn't worth more than a cursory chase.

    But, before ordering anything non-trivial, I want to know what I'm dealing with, and Amazon's penchant for changing who I'm dealing with drives me nuts. It's why a lot of non-trivial stuff I don't even bother looking on Amazon, but will order directly from companies I know have significant UK operations, be it Scan, OCUK or John Lewis, etc. Or better yet, go pick it up in person.

    It all comes back to what my consumer law lecturer used to say, about 40 years ago, about caveat emptor - when buying a horse, walk round, count the legs and make sure there's one on each corner. Check things out, do your due diligence .... or risk paying for not doing it.

    Virtual services certainly have legitimate uses, as Dances said, but they also do sound warning bells with me and we have to be so, so careful.

    So, thanks for the reminder, AGT.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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    Re: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    Quote Originally Posted by DanceswithUnix View Post
    Tricky one that. I work for a small company, a handful of engineers and a few others to do sales/admin/purchasing etc. By all measures a small successful company with products that are selling well. But we don't answer phones, we get a virtual office to do that. Before we moved office a couple of years ago, we had all our contact details pointing there.
    Such outfits are awesome to a startup. If nothing else, you can tell they are good for £40 per month

    From clicking around on there I see the minimum spend to sign up a basic virtual office for 3 months is £214, or £550 for 12 months as the first payment has £70 in deposits and you are paying all up front either way. That's cheap compared to hiring a receptionist, but seems an unnecessary expense for a scammer.
    That's interesting hearing from the good side.

    For that reason I made sure not to call it a scam or fraud. For small business, startups & self employed it's definitely a very worthy service.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    One of the problems with Amazon, or I guess with just buying online these days but especially with Amazon, is trying to work out just who you're dealing with.

    It's made MUCH worse, IMHO, by Amazon's habit of switching suppliers if one goes out of stock. The number of times I've carefully selected a product supplied by Amazon themselves, only to get it switched by them to either Amazon EU (with implications for additional costs, taxes, import duty etc) and, of course, a completely different set of T&Cs than if dealing ith Amazon UK, or who-knows-what unknown..

    But the worst of it is trying to work out if the company if small but legit, or just a brand new startup using virtual offices etc for genuine reasons, or some individual running a part-time business from their spare bedroom, or a legit-ish business but trading from, say, China and trying to make it look like they're in the UK, or simply an out and out scammer.

    I'm inclined to think Amazon do a decent job out weeding out outright scammers, but, depending on what it is I'm buying .... and what it costs, I can be very selective about who I'm willing to buy it from. I'm not necessarily averse to dealing with small companies. Some, after all, are very good but in a niche specialism.

    But some things, especially high value ones, I'm extremely fussy about and all that type of detail would be a red flag to me.

    I will, and have, taken a punt on low value items, but only if I'm prepare to just write it off if it fails to show up, or does but is garbage. That includes buying from China, which I do, occassionally. Mostly, it's been fine but some items have been utter garbage and one simply never showed up. As it was under a fiver, it wasn't worth more than a cursory chase.

    But, before ordering anything non-trivial, I want to know what I'm dealing with, and Amazon's penchant for changing who I'm dealing with drives me nuts. It's why a lot of non-trivial stuff I don't even bother looking on Amazon, but will order directly from companies I know have significant UK operations, be it Scan, OCUK or John Lewis, etc. Or better yet, go pick it up in person.

    It all comes back to what my consumer law lecturer used to say, about 40 years ago, about caveat emptor - when buying a horse, walk round, count the legs and make sure there's one on each corner. Check things out, do your due diligence .... or risk paying for not doing it.

    Virtual services certainly have legitimate uses, as Dances said, but they also do sound warning bells with me and we have to be so, so careful.

    So, thanks for the reminder, AGT.
    We're almost at the point of having to take an open university course just to go shopping.


    Another tip worth mentioning is to check their returns policies, it should show a valid address to return to.
    In my example it's a completely blank page and so is a total no no for me.

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    Re: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    It's why a lot of non-trivial stuff I don't even bother looking on Amazon, but will order directly from companies I know have significant UK operations, be it Scan, OCUK or John Lewis, etc. Or better yet, go pick it up in person.
    I've more recently been using Amazon as a means to find something I'm looking for, then going direct to the company itself to purchase. Sometimes it works out cheaper, but either way it means the businesses get to keep the profits and not Amazon. Sometimes it's nicer just to deal with the little guy.

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    Re: Virtual Company Addresses - to be aware of while shopping online

    Good idea, Iota. I like the philoophy too ... support the little guy, because Amazon have enough money without me adding my drip to their ocean. I'd also not mind paying a bit more to the little guy, rather than saving a bit by giving any to the behemoth.
    A lesson learned from PeterB about dignity in adversity, so Peter, In Memorium, "Onwards and Upwards".

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