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If You Work From Home, Don't Publicize Your Business Address!
by Cindy Edelstein and Frank Stankus


  

  
Google Maps has unveiled a new street-view system that allows anyone to get a ground-level 360 degree view of hundreds of thousands of addresses in the U. S. and many cities of Europe. Quite likely, yours is already on file. If not, it will be soon. This should be setting off alarm bells in your brain.

It's fine if you are a retailer and want any interested parties to be able to find you readily. But for everyone else, it creates a new security risk.

Anyone can now type an address in Google Maps and get not only a map showing it's location but an option to see a street level view as well. This is in effect for a large number of cities and surrounding areas, and every day Google is adding hundreds of miles of more images. It sure beats the older system where you could see your address from the sky.

Here's how it works. You type in an address like you always did, but now you have a new option when the map comes up. Click on the street view icon (if it's there) and in seconds a picture emerges of that address. In the upper left hand corner are some controls that let you zoom in closer, look left and right and even behind you. It's a 360 degree tour of that spot.

The effect is both fascinating and creepy at the same time. The first time we tried it -- checking out our home address -- it was totally amazing to see our house visible on the screen in the same position that we had used when photographing it for relatives who wanted to see our flowers. Then we played around with the zoom controls and could see all of our neighbors homes up and down the street and across from ours. It was unsettling, to say the least.

The implications are pretty clear-cut from a security and a business point of view. The major one is that for most jewelry-related businesses outside of the "diamond districts" in several major cities, you don't want anyone to know that at this street address is a place where people work with precious metals and stones.

This extends beyond home-based businesses to manufacturing operations in most any kind of neighborhood. You don't want to be inadvertently helping anyone with theft on their mind.

For a long time, we've been urging designers, and others in the jewelry industry, not to use the word jewelry in their addresses so as not to tip their hand. Most folks do this automatically after they think about security. But with the advent of street-level viewing, it becomes even more imperative.

There is also a potential public relations issue here. If your business address is where you make your jewelry and that location is in a decidedly down-market area, it might scare away potential buyers. It may be the safest place around, but if from the street it looks like a dump, it may influence potential customers in a negative way. Some may also feel uneasy about dealing with a company that uses a postal service in a less than desirable neighborhood. Again, it may be convenient and safe, but is it projecting an image that might reflect negatively on your business?

This is not to say that this isn't a great leap forward, technologically speaking. It's an obvious boon if you are a retailer or if you are an ordinary bloke looking for a specific location. But for just about everyone else, it's a strong argument for not putting your street address on your business correspondence.


   This picture is here to show you just how clear and sharp this mapping program can be.

Comments related to this article

From a designer who wished to remain anonymous:

I actually happen to use Google maps -- in reverse -- all the time. It's great for designers to research the "leads" that come their way. We find all too often that "stores" who contact us are really a woman sitting in her home with a resale number who isn't really up and established yet...

Some are a home office, but the great part is the way it opens the door for an open and honest conversation to learn what is really going on.

Are they really trying to do home parties with an EIN, etc. (that's a big one)?

Are they a buyer working from home?

Are they really just researching the idea of a store right now and I don't want to be giving them propriety info and pricing just yet?

Do they have an address, but the store is really a year away from opening? And where will that store be - will it be right next door to a solid account we don't want to upset?

In our case, we get a great deal of this because we have an entire wholesale website that people register on to see our linesheets, etc, and we are VERY protective of who we approve. To register, they have to give us an address from the start, and it helps us weed through what they're up to, and if they are legitimate.

From designer Paul Klecka:

Herre's another option which I use -- a UPS box. Unlike a PO Box, I can receive overnight deliveries from FedEx, UPS, etc, and there is always someone to sign for the package. They email me a note that a package is waiting. Plus the address reads like a regular street address. Been doing business like this for three years with no mishaps.

From a designer who wished to remain anonymous:

My feeling is that it is not always a good option to remove words like "design," "collection," "jewelry" etc. from your correspondence because if you work from home like I do your business may not appear professional enough. I hope I am mistaken about this.

But I do think it is wise not to show those words on any outgoing shipments. I also remove them from the recepient's address, so as not to attract attention from the postal or delivery carrier.

Please also be aware that once you provide your business information to the trade shows it becomes their property and they use it as they wish and obviously sell it to third parties. Just like with credit cards my mail box repeatedly fills up with trade show offers from as far away as Hong Kong and Germany, along with that of findings manufacturers, gem dealers, packaging people etc.

Even worse, I keep getting rather annoying telephone calls from them as well. I don't see a solution to this, no matter how low my profile is.

Last year I gave away 500 business cards; God knows where they ended up. Somebody can come across one of them or see your name in the press, Google your name, and with a little digging get your business address. For that, something like "Mail Boxes Etc." can be a good solution.

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