A while back, we posted a link to a story about a would-be hot dog cart seller who turned out to be a scammer. Unfortunately, there will always be those who want to take advantage of people for their own personal gain. The mobile food vending industry is not immune. Schemes like the one that took place in Virginia are especially disconcerting since the businesses of these victims are most likely in their infancy.
If you are considering buying a food cart or concession trailer, here are some concrete ways to protect yourself:
Is the seller reputable? Anyone can build a nice website or communicate professionally over email or phone. But, what do previous customers have to say? Ask the dealer for references. Check to see if complaints have been previously filed. You can check with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, but also search online complaint discussion boards. If complaints do exist, how has the seller or company responded?
Are there multiple representations of the same company on various websites? Often, "different" cart companies with separate names and websites seem to filter back to the same seller. This certainly does not mean that the dealer is automatically untrustworthy, but why should a reputable business need to misrepresent itself in any way?
Never buy a cart or trailer without knowing that it will meet your health department's requirements. Since requirements vary by state, county and city, the dealer has no way of knowing if the cart will be legal for you to use. Always take drawings or schematics of the cart or trailer you intend to purchase to the health department in the municipality where you intend to operate. Only they can tell you if the cart would gain approval, and only they can tell you what modifications need to be made.
Does the seller have a physical address? Even if it is not feasible for you to visit in person, would you be welcome to? If the seller seems more interested in getting your money than answering your questions...beware.
After you have done your homework, if there is any remaining doubt, use a credit card to make your purchase. This gives you extra protection in the event that your product is never delivered, since you can file a chargeback with your credit card company. They will then invesitgate the dispute and reverse the payment if a finding is made in your favor. This also lends the extra advantage of having a multi-billion dollar company behind you should you fall prey to a scammer.
Unless you have had prior good experiences with the dealer or have found the seller based on a personal recommendation, never pay the entire amount up front. A reputable seller will accept half to begin production with the balance due upon shipping or pick up.
Asking yourself questions like these, and doing important research before you purchase your hot dog cart or mobile kitchen will help ensure that you are purchasing quality equipment from a reputable seller.
Keep watching for more articles like this one. At DreamMaker Hot Dog Carts, we have a vested interest in making sure that industry consumers are informed.
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