Shipping office services, helpline, consultancy and supply chain security

Friday, 25 October 2013

9 Top Tips for Trading on the Internet

  1. Ensure that your Terms and Conditions of Website use, Terms and Conditions of Trade (Goods/Services), Privacy Policy and Cookies Policy are brought to the attention of your website users on your landing page. 

  1. Customers should be required to click on a button to confirm acceptance of all Terms and Conditions of Trade before they can place orders.

  1. Always include a Copyright Notice on your website.

  1. Consider registering any company name / business name and any logos or devices used for marketing as trade marks so that no one can copy them.

  1. Consider registering domain names you may wish to use in the future for your online trading.

  1. Web Transactions must comply with the Distance Selling Regulations therefore you must provide as a minimum –
  •  Information about the supplier and the goods/services should be supplied to the Customer in good time before contract is concluded.
  • Notification of right to cancel goods/services within 7 working days with full refund.
  • Check that your returns policy complies with the regulations.

  1. If you are trading using a website with restricted access to password users then consider how you will handle this data to avoid any data protection and liability issues.
  1. If you are trading wider than the UK, consider whether your website complies with foreign regulations e.g. advertising, financial services regulation, purchases of goods/services.  Consult with lawyers in any relevant countries.

  1. If you are taking payment using merchant services (i.e. credit card and other payments on line) then you should consider fraud and fraud protection. The banks and merchant service providers will want to see professionally drafted terms of trade BEFORE providing you with merchant services facilities account.
By Kim Highley of Virtuoso Legal

Friday, 18 October 2013


I suppose I ought to start with an explanation for those of you who have had the misfortune not to try Grignolino red wine. I was first introduced to it during a trip to see a distributor in Milan, and on a return trip some months later had left it to them to book a conveniently located hotel . So what did they do? Well as our main contact, Stefano, lived in the hills around the historic town of Como, they booked me into a wonderful hotel on the lakeside. Grignolino is a wine from the Lombardy region of Italy which is served young, generally after only a year or so in the bottle, and just as the Italians seem to always get their food right, they get the wine to go with the food right too!

I flew into Linate Airport on that first occasion, and Stefano collected me in his tiny Fiat Cinquecento and drove me to his offices on the outskirts of Milan, about a mile from the San Siro. There I had an initial meeting with Stefano to discuss new products, pending orders, marketing and sample stocks, and was then shown into a windowless room with orange fabric walls to wait for the business owner who wanted to meet the new kind on the block. I had been forewarned that it could be a long wait. An hour passed, then two, then three, by which time I had run out of reports to tap into my laptop, Italian newspapers to try and decipher with my limited knowledge of the language, and their well-thumbed collection of interior design magazines, and spent a further half hour twiddling my own thumbs waiting for the great man to appear.

You always know an important Italian by the fact that they don’t put their arms in their jacket sleeves, and when Mr. L. finally arrived he was just so. He did not sit, but stood throughout this first encounter, probably to give his fist greater impact when he thumped the table, and he spoke only in Italian leaving Stefano to interpret and transmit the harsh words that were about to pass between us. Poor Stefano.  At one point he said to me ‘I cannot say that’ as I explained to Mr. L. that as his payment record was so appalling I would not release any more goods at that time. I never did find out what Stefano said by way of my reply! And Mr. L. demanded 120 day payment terms for his orders, and demanded rafts of samples that I wasn’t prepared to give. And to be honest after a near four hour wait, I was a bit hacked off and my tummy was rumbling. Yet after our lively encounter we parted friends with Mr. L. uttering his first words of English.

Anyway after that Stefano and I both needed a drink, and he drove me the half hour back to my lakeside hotel for a five minute wash and brush up before taking me to a restaurant a few miles around the lake. It was dark by that time, and for an Italian Stefano was not a great driver, weaving his way at high speed along roads that would only pass as back alleys in most other locations. But we arrived in one piece and shared a fabulous meal and a couple of bottles – yes bottles – of Grignolino before the white-knuckle ride back to the hotel. Actually I think his driving was better on the way back!

The restaurant location was idyllic, and Stefano always a perfect gentleman, was full of lively conversation, warmth and good humour. Neither of us smoked. I had recently given up and he had a bronchial condition, which presumably explains why the pair of us then shared a packet of twenty as we stood on the balcony over the lake watching the fish circle around in the calm waters below. I had done exactly the same at a different restaurant on my first visit to Como, but it was a welcome feeling of déjà vu.

Months went by, and lo and behold payment performance improved and the demands for rafts of samples eased. It was an ongoing battle to keep Mr.L. within our agreed terms of payment and his credit insurance limit, and I found that the secret to achieving that was regular communication and occasional threats to not release stock, but eventually we settled on a reasonable balance between the two. Every time I went to visit his offices in Milan I was made to wait the customary few hours, Stefano became piggy in the middle for a fraught half hour argument, and then the three of us – yes the three of us and sometimes four and five – would be driven to Mr. L’s favourite restaurant in an industrial part of Milan, a restaurant I doubt I would ever be able to find under my own steam. There he was happy to converse entirely in English and help Stefano and I with the Grignolino!

Friday, 11 October 2013


The Connaught Hotel in Bombay was a government run establishment, and it had an institutional feel about it, not so much in the lobby and reception area, but in the long, curving corridors that led eventually to my rather tatty room. I was tired after a long journey, but exhilarated by my arrival in this fascinating country and a little disorientated. I had finished the bottle of water that I had bought for my journey from Zurich, so I opened the minibar for refreshment. There was the usual array of extortionately priced beer, wine, whisky, crisp packets and chocolate bars, and two litre bottles of water. Picking one up I realised that that what I thought in the dim light was condensation on the outside of the bottle was actually cloudy water on the inside! So I checked the bottle top, and sure enough it was not sealed. Furious, I called reception and insisted that they replaced their refilled water bottles with new, properly sealed ones, which they did somewhat begrudgingly.

It took a while to wind down after that but in the end the safest place to be was under the bed covers because my room was already occupied, by a family of mosquitos. Their intimidating, high pitched whine seemed to penetrate my ears so I put the covers over my head and attempted to sleep. Trouble is, the room was suffocatingly hot and the inadequate air conditioning unit hummed with such resonance that the bed seemed to shake, so I was certainly not destined to have a good night’s sleep.

I think adrenalin took over the following day, because when my guide arrived the collect me I felt fresh and ready to go. Shanti Mansabdar had travelled to the UK a few months previously and saw an opportunity to sell our range of reconditioned woodworking machines into the Indian market. The purpose of my trip to Bombay was to follow up his interest and for him to introduce me to potential customers around the city. So we took a cab to an ‘industrial estate’ to meet a young, stylish man called Mr. Jain. The ‘industrial estate’ was more like a converted four story block of flats, and each of its rooms were occupied by businesses involved in a variety of activities from textiles to metalwork to furniture manufacture, which was Mr. Jain’s business. The cab could only take us so far and we walked the final few hundred yards through a crowded and vibrant market place, with telephone wires hanging loosely across the narrow street, connected between stalls in all kinds of ingenious, and largely unsafe ways!

It was clear from the meeting with Mr. Jain that selling our machines to him would be quite a task. Shanti was extremely deferential and clearly of little influence. Mr. Jain was polite, professional, but already used machinery that had kept his business going for many years, albeit in Heath Robinson fashion. Investing in better equipment is something that was not in the forefront of his mind. So we had tea and Shanti walked me back through the market to a railway platform. We boarded a train for just a few stops, and as we stood in the crowded carriage my fellow passengers decided they should practise their English on me and so a very enjoyable half hour passed, until we reached the grandeur of Bombay’s main railway station. I had asked Shanti if we could pick up some more bottled water as my supplies were disappearing fast in the 35 degree heat, and he seemed very happy then to take me into the ‘best supermarket in the city’, which was actually a mid-sized corner shop on three levels with narrow aisles, congested with others who seemed equally overawed at its splendour!

Our next appointment was with a company who made laminated furniture, and who had expressed interest in reconditioned presses, finger-jointers, and stitching machines. We arrived in that part of town an hour early so it was nice to get away from the fast pace of the city’s life for a while to have a real conversation over lunch under a big fan. Shanti was taking seeds out of a bowl on the table, as we would eat Bombay mix and I assumed it was something similar so went to try some. He stopped me and pointed out that it would not be good for me, and as I looked more closely I noticed that there were insects moving within the seeds.

It was clear after our second meeting that the price expectation of Shanti’s customers was significantly below what I was prepared to sell them for. Therefore I quickly came to regard the Bombay leg of my trip as an educational opportunity, and for making connections for the future. As we left that meeting for others in an industrial area a little farther out of town, I noticed that the streets were stained with red blotches, just as the staircase had been at Mr. Jain’s industrial estate so I asked why, and it was because the locals chewed on a form of rice leaf that made their spittle red, and which they habitually disgorged as they went about their daily business. 

As with part 1 of this Tale, I was struck at every corner by the gulf between the haves and the have-nots, between the men and women who owned the businesses, factories and shops, and the poor scraping a living from waste, or by begging on behalf of the street mafia whose exploitative trade will feature in part 3.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Around the world in...219 days pt 3 - Train adventures around the Black Sea countries

My official arrival into Bulgaria was marked by being rudely awakened and questioned by border security in what seemed like a fairly intense encounter at 4am! I think most likely, it was more the shock of being woken for the 6th time on a fairly horrendous train journey across the Turkish border, than any kind of malice from the border guards but it definitely made me think again about the country I had just arrived in.

The city of Plovdiv was my first experience of a country that had grown up behind the iron curtain and despite the fall of the Berlin wall, I found the atmosphere veered from cold and suspicious to incredibly warm. A chance encounter in one bar led to a full night out... Bulgarian style! It was great to see this side of Bulgarian life, especially as the couple we met, brought some friends along to make sure we stayed safe in a notorious (but fun) part of town.

The first major difference that struck me was the use of Cyrillic script. In most countries I had visited previously, despite any language barrier, there was a degree of understanding from the familiar lettering and as we were relying on trains for this section, I had a feeling of foreboding about the days ahead! Another shock to the system was to see the use of horse and carts in everyday life, including one entrepreneur who was giving city tours on a settee strapped to the back of his cart! It is clearly a country that is developing fast however, and the capital Sofia was as good a city as I have visited in Europe with its own unique style of architecture leaning more towards the Ottoman empire than to that of the Russian communist which were often based more on scale and functionality than design.

Typical architecture in Sofia with a heavy Ottoman influence but showing Cyrillic script

Travelling around Europe with an Interrail ticket made things easier, as I only needed one ticket for the whole trip. However, the challenge is in reserving a seat, which is vital for sleeper trains in areas where there may be only one train per day! To add to the confusion, we were told that it is not possible to reserve train tickets directly from the station. Instead, you have to find the offices of the train reservation company and book with them instead. Booking was in itself a challenge due to the lack of common oral or written language, so a combination of mimes, drawings and extreme patience on both sides were required to accomplish our goal. On the whole, we were quite relaxed about time with the only constraint being that I had to be in Stuttgart in 18 days for my next flight and thankfully, our second long train journey passed in far more comfort than the first!

One of the issues with long distance trains however, is that you tend to arrive late at night or very early in the morning. We concluded that arriving places at night is far more fun than early in the morning when there is nothing open and nobody on the streets to ask for directions. Also the trains tend to get really cold towards the end of the night, so it can be a miserable experience trying to find your way around a new city! However, there are downsides of arriving late at night. For example, our arrival in Bucharest was one of the more hairy moments on the trip, as the walk from the train station was on unlit roads, half of which seemed to be under construction. It is one of the few times that I have felt unsafe whilst travelling and I was relieved to get to the hostel.

Romania was fantastic to see from a train and I wished that I had more time to explore the smaller cities and especially the countryside. I was disappointed with Bucharest which seemed to me to be undergoing a lot of construction, and the number of stories of people being ripped off was a little concerning to say the least. One recurring story was of unlicensed taxis driving unsuspecting tourists to remote locations and forcing them to withdraw vast sums of money. In the worst case I heard, one German tourist had 200 euros taken (in the local currency, the leu). It’s a shame as the majority of Romanians go out of their way to help you but I always felt a little exposed as a tourist there. I would like to return to Bucharest when the current phase of building is complete.

The last few days also saw the start of train delays that we hadn’t suffered up to that point. For example, the train from Ruse on the Bulgarian border to Bucharest which should normally take about 2 hours was delayed by an extra hour and a half! During the wait we were offered a variety of lifts to Bucharest, some by taxi drivers and some by locals, all of which we gladly declined. It is possible that we were misjudging the intentions of the locals in Ruse, but from the stories passed on from other travellers, we both felt it would be better to be safe (and late) than sorry.

Overall, I definitely enjoyed my time around the Black Sea countries and feel privileged to have witnessed both Bulgaria and Romania at a time when they are still adjusting following their accession to the EU in 2007. They were both countries with a real edge and although the majority of people were friendly, crime rates are still quite high. As they both develop within the European Union, I look forward to seeing how these countries adapt and more importantly, how they keep their own unique identities as they progress.

Friday, 4 October 2013


I love the atmosphere of New York, and I love New Yorkers. They are straight and direct, and also incredibly hospitable and fun to be with. Back in the day, probably around 1993, I was visiting a machinery dealership whose offices were a stone’s throw from Shay Stadium. My journey to their office was a little fraught because the Yugoslavian yellow cab driver seemed not to have a clue where he was going, and had an insufficient command of English to be able to put right the wrong turnings I knew he was making, and he seemed happy that the bill was mounting up . I had driven before along those self-same, tyre-pitted roads that had been worn in grooves by countless articulated trucks, and my limited knowledge of how to get to my destination from there just about carried me through. No gratuity. He wasn’t very happy but that’s tough! In the end, with a little help from the people I was meeting, the cab driver was sent packing.

After a quick calm-down coffee (if there is such a thing), their President, Richard Bass, promptly took me to their ‘warehouse’, a ramshackled but large building somewhere on the New York dockside, ostensibly to look at their vast stock of second hand woodworking machines. None of them were in especially saleable condition and many were probably beyond any form of economic repair. However, there were some useful component parts and Richard was interested in selling our reconditioned British machinery because of their reputation for durability. Fascinatingly, in one corner of this huge space were 43 British phone boxes that he had acquired over the years for their antique and curiosity value. Even at that time he was making a very good living from them, and had sold them to customers across the USA to decorate their back yards, some converted to working order and others just there as a conversation piece around the barbecue grill.

We got on famously, both in business and on a personal level and spent a good number of hours together between warehouse and office putting together whatever deals we could. I met his father who had many years of experience in the woodworking machinery sector and there was little or nothing he did not know about the machines, their tooling, and their many applications. After my Yugoslavian cab driver experience, Richard kindly offered to drive me to Newark Airport via a late afternoon / early evening meal in ‘a special part of town’. “You’ll love it” he said, and how right he was. We talked more as we drove through horrendous traffic, eventually parking up on a smart street of large terraced houses with their entrances raised several steps above street level, from which I assumed he was taking me for dinner at his house, to meet his family, his friends, and maybe family pets. But no, not his family.

This was Little Italy and we walked into what felt like the front door of someone’s home into a most fabulously intimate, family run, New York Italian restaurant. It felt just like being on a film set. We were guided to our table by a young man in his late teens, who took our drinks orders. Then a thiry-something man took our starter order, and following that a man in his late fifties took our main course order. Finally we were joined for a brandy by the grandfather figure, a man who must have been in his eighties who smoked like a chimney and entertained us with his gravelly but wholly assured voice for a good half hour. Four generations of one family had attended to our table in one way or another. So there was family, good food, warmth and respect, but being where it was I could not help wondering how legitimately they had developed their restaurant business! “You don’t ask” was Richard’s view. And after that once-in-a-lifetime experience, Richard drove me to Newark Airport. Except that when I arrived and looked at my tickets, I was supposed to fly to Philadelphia from La Guardia!

I had a meeting in Philadelphia scheduled for 7am, so I simply had to get there but by the time I could have arrived at La Guardia by cab (with my cab experience  earlier in the day having not left a good taste), the Philly flights would all have left. So I decided to drink a lot of coffee for a few hours, hire a car and drive the three hour journey, finally arriving at my hotel there around 1am. It wasn’t the greatest preparation for an important meeting with someone I had never met before, but the Little Italy experience will live long in my memory. And the Philadelphia meeting went well.