As a business owner, I take pride in my work, and ensuring the satisfaction of my clients. I hate to see people screwed over by shoddy companies, who care more about taking your money than providing you with good service.
That being said, the onus often lies squarely on the customer, and I have just come across a situation that could have easily been avoided with a bit of common sense.
I was reading reviews on StartLocal.com.au and noticed one specific post by Walter in the ACT.
Initially I felt a little sorry for Walter, and decided to check out the offending company’s website to see how reputable they looked. My sympathy immediately went out the window, as I was confronted with a dodgy looking website that lacked any sort of professionalism or authority.
For starters, the domain name URL was http://hpkolya.hpage.com/ Any company who can’t go to the trouble of registering their own domain name, and uses a free host with a subdomain isn’t taking their business seriously.
Secondly, the website was a cheap template with no headings, no branding and large blocks of black text. The side menu had no structure to it, many of the links didn’t fit into the buttons, and a number of menu tabs didn’t even fit on the page.
There was no About Us or Company Information page, and the Contact page had no contact information, just a simple enquiry form.
The Income Tax page had no updated tax rates, the most recent ones being from 2008-09.
A number of the links went to a URL ending in .co.in, meaning the pages were actually based in India, not Australia.
How our friend Walter came across this company to do his tax I will never know. And how he didn’t get put off after looking at their website is quite a mystery to me.
The most disturbing thing, however, came when I decided to click on their Guestbook. This revealed comments from past clients such as:
“Having your tax assessed by this man is getting yourself in a mess with the tax office. He has no indepth knowledge of the tax system and just has bogas site claiming what he is not. I have been a victim of his tax sham and went through hell with tax office and besides he leaves you hanging by not responding to your calls or emails as long as he has received his payment you are on your own, no further customer service fronm his so call business.”
“He is convicted by the court and cant operate as tax agent. Please refer to court cas Kolya v Tax Practitioners Board  FCA 215.”
I’m not sure if I’m more disturbed by the fact that HP Kolya doesn’t bother moderating these comments, or that Walter didn’t bother to read a few to find out more about the company he was about to trust with his tax return.
The fact that Walter got audited is no surprise, I just hope he learns from his mistakes!
How to protect against dealing with dodgy businesses
You can never fully be sure that a company is going to meet your expectations, but there are a number of things to consider which will help reduce your exposure to f%#-tards:
Speak to them on the phone prior to becoming a client, and get a feel for their business and their ideals
Visit their website and make sure it looks professional, has information about their company, testimonials and full contact details
Google their company name to see if there are any bad reviews of them
Look at 2 or 3 other companies to ensure the one you’re considering is on par
And most importantly, don’t be a Wally!