Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

'To take orders off the internet, you need a shopping cart. So now the maddening questions start'
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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

Oh, gawd, it's this part of the cycle, it's the worst one, the one I dread. It's the questions, the maddening questions. You can't get ahead without answering questions you don't even want to know exist: "What is the estimated import credit licensee number lodged against the insurance certificate date number (last 18 digits only) with the authenticated originals (not copies) of three years' tax returns?"

To take orders off the internet, you need a shopping cart. So you get in touch with a provider of these services. You end up wanting to tear your own head off and mail it to them in a box. Oh, the vile expression on your face (you will have propped the eyes open with cocktail sticks). That'll make them look silly, when they open the box and see you blazing hatefully at them. They'll be sorry then.

It has taken me months to work out that the payment processors who take the card details off the website don't actually handle the money. I now understand that if you get an order, and you manage to get a processor to process your order, you're no nearer getting the cash because the credit can only be handled by a merchant account at your bank. That's different from a commercial account or a business account. Merchant accounts aren't given to merchants just because they're merchants. Banks won't give you a merchant account unless you've been in business for 50 years and you have 800 kinds of trade reference and 250,000 kinds of identity documen - it's not an application so much as a petition. The possibility of taking money over the internet is zero. It can't be done.

It won't always be like this. With 50,000 sales a year (that's like a moderately successful book), this will be generating £1m a year. I may have to be taking the money in barter goods, and I may have to go round collecting it personally, if the card people keep to their current standard, but let's dream along a little longer. With £1m a year coming in, there will be staff. Then, when administrative idiots ask for the import credit licensee authorisation code, I will tell them to talk my Import Credit Licensee Authorisation Director.

Thinking this through, though, there will be times when the Import Credit Licensee Authorisation Director is on holiday and the deputy is off sick and the assistant deputy is at a funeral and the person who actually does the work of this infernal trio won't tell me what the code numbers are without also telling me about her boyfriend's verruca problem...

Business isn't really about buying and selling things. It's about having an insatiable appetite for people, for talk, for contact. I want to be rich to get away from people, behind my high gates, or in my cave. The whole thing is endlessly self-defeating.

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