Q: How dumb would it be to use my real residential address instead of a rented mail box to receive mail generated from my mail-order business? I don’t want people who may be weirdos to show up at my door. --K. Ling, Altadena
A: There are several issues to consider here. The first is really an image issue. If you use your home address, you can hurt your business by looking unprofessional. If you live on “Sleepy Hollow Lane” or “Wakefulness Court,” for instance, how many customers will take your company seriously?
Privacy is a real issue as well, although it doesn’t happen often that someone would seek you out personally. But if you’re selling a product that people are likely to feel strongly about or keenly involved with emotionally, it is a possibility.
We used to allow our address to appear on some of our publications, and we did have the occasional person show up at the door. If you live in a community where that would be a problem, or you don’t have time for unannounced visitors or feel that your security could be threatened, factor that in.
The best solution is to get a mail drop with an address that would be your community’s equivalent of Wilshire Boulevard or Main Street or Rodeo Drive--an address that conveys stability and legitimacy. This kind of thing does get expensive, however, especially if you want a box big enough to accommodate packages.
A post office box is much cheaper, but in my experience it is a sure way to kiss business away. A street address for a mail order or Web-based business is really important. We have done surveys in our seminars and found consistently that less than 10% of our audience feels comfortable ordering from a company that has a post office box listed as its sole address.
Major companies often use both a post office box and a street address, and this might be an alternative for you to consider if you’re not too worried about security. A post office box is relatively inexpensive so you won’t have to deal with large volumes of mail at home, but you’ll still convey the legitimacy of a headquarters and be able to get home delivery of packages that are too large for a post office box.
--Paul Edwards, home office
expert and co-author with his wife,
Sarah, of “Getting Business to Come
to You,” West Los Angeles
If you have a question about how to start or operate a small business, mail it to Karen E. Klein at the Los Angeles Times, 1333 S. Mayflower Ave., Suite 100, Monrovia 91016 or e-mail it to Kklein6349@aol.com. Include your name, address and telephone number. The column is designed to answer questions of general interest. It should not be construed as legal advice.