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What to Leave in for Pet Store Paperwork

Posted: October 21, 2013, 10:45 a.m. EDT

By Elizabeth Creith

Now that the paperwork of opening the pet store is years in the past, I’m beginning to be able to talk about it without twitching. I had run several businesses of my own and done whatever was necessary to register them, but I’d never had a storefront. That is a whole other pot of piranha.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t gone for a numbered company. I’m still not clear on the benefits of a numbered company. I have always felt a named company is a better idea. Think about it. How many times have you heard someone say, "Hon, I’m just popping down to 11762352 for a minute. Did you want me to pick up something?” Not that often, I’m betting.

Besides, how would Hon know what to ask for unless she—or he—had the company numbers memorized? Is 11762352 doing business as Milk ‘R’ Us, the corner convenience store? Or is it perhaps Mink ‘R’ Us instead?

Comparing filling out paperwork for a storefront to dealing with the likes of a piranha can never be good. iStock/Thinkstock

Government paperwork is usually written with a tendency to obfuscate and bewilder. I have a university degree, and I’m a word nerd to boot, so I can almost always figure out what they actually want. One question, however, left me totally stumped.

"What are the restrictions on your company’s business pursuits?” it said, or words to that effect. It wasn’t that I couldn’t think of any—it was that I couldn’t think of any way to express them succinctly. We were doing business as a pet store. We couldn’t do plumbing or ductwork, legal advice, urinalysis, atom-splitting done to order or hundreds of other things. I didn’t know, in the immortal words of Bob Seger, what to leave in and what to leave out. It had to be a trick of some kind.

Never mind—there was a government 800 number for questions. I posed mine to the woman who answered the phone.

"What does this question mean, about the restrictions on my business?”

"Well, you put in any restrictions on your business,” she said. "Duh,” said her tone of voice.

"All right, I get that, but what does it mean? I mean, should I say I can’t offer legal advice?”

"I'm sorry; we can’t tell you what restrictions to put on your business.”

"No, I mean, should I put in all the stuff we’re not qualified to do, or can I just say we’re restricted to the pet trade, or what?”

"Well, that's up to you, ma’am. I don’t know what you’re qualified to do or not.”

"But do I have to put them all in? Because it’s a long list, and there’s not a lot of space.”

"No, you should be able to fit it into that space.”

"All right, so how do I do that? What do I put in?”

"I'm sorry, ma’am, we can’t tell you what restrictions to put on your business.”

It went on like that for three or four increasingly frustrating minutes. At the end of it, I was no wiser about what I should put in, but I was pretty clear on one thing—the government 800 number was about as much use as a chocolate hammer. Less, actually, because I could have eaten a chocolate hammer and had a serotonin rush, which would have helped the frustration.

In the end I went to our accountant.

"Oh,” he said. "If you change your mind about the pet store, you can keep the numbered company and open a different business. Except if you write, say, ‘restaurant’ in this box, you can’t open a restaurant. I’d just leave it blank.”

That’s what I did. After all, what with iguanas being chicken-of-the-trees, and oscars being tilapia, and "budgerigar” translating as "good to eat,” a restaurant might be a viable alternative to the pet trade. So far we haven’t invested in shish kebab skewers or iguana-sized roasting pans, but there’s no point in limiting your options.



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