Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What a Massive Run Around!!!


A friend of mine is a massage therapist who also does skin care therapy. As part of her business she wants to sell skin care products to her clients. Recently I offered to track down the steps needed for her to get a tax identification number so she could sell skin care products. This work will be done outside of the city of Bradenton so any regulation (you'd think) would be by Manatee County. It hasn't turned out that way.

Launching a rocket ship and landing humans on the moon was easier than getting an answer to her question.

At my sister's suggestion I began by calling the Manatee County Clerk of Court. My sister's reasoning was simple - if there is anything going on in a county the Clerk of Court is going to know about it.

The Clerk of Court had no idea. I talked with a very snotty person there who told me "why are you calling THIS office?? We have nothing to do with that."

I answered, "I know that ma'am. I thought your office would be a good one to start with and maybe you could put me on to the right people."

"Sir" she replied, "I just told you we don't handle that."

I asked her if there was another number I could call.

"Try Manatee County. Their number is 941-748-4501" And she hung up.

Next I dutifully called the brain center of Manatee County government. A relatively courteous person there told me "Believe it or not that is regulated by the County Buildings Department. They are at extension 3800. I will connect you."

Huh?

I talked with Barbara in the Manatee County Buildings Department.

"Oh, no sir. We don't regulate the sale of skin care products. Where did you get that idea?"

"From the Manatee County call center."

"I'm sorry sir. We don't handle that."

"Barbara, do you know which department of county government does regulate it?"

"That sort of thing is regulated by the State not by us. You need to contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations in Tallahassee. They can help you."

She gave me their number in Tallahassee and I called them. After 20 minutes on hold listening to Barry Manilow music I was finally put in touch with Montrell.

"Before we begin, sir, I want you to know that your telephone reference number for this call is 268823405. Did you get that?"

"Yes Montrell, I have it."

"So, sir, how can I help you today?"

"Montrell, I have a friend who is a massage therapist and who does skin care therapy. She wants to sell skin care products to her clients and wants to know how to get a tax identification number to do that."

"Well, sir, we don't regulate massage therapists but if she's doing facials she will need a license from this department."

"Montrell, I'm not sure what she does with skin care but I know its not facials. Do you know of another agency I could contact?"

"Well, sir, the Florida Department of Health regulates massage therapists. I would call them. Their number is 850-488-0595."

A woman named Barbara at the Florida Department of Health began the call asking "How can I help you?" If she only knew.

Once again I explained what information I sought.

"We don't regulate the sale of skin care products. That is done by the county. I would start with the Clerk of Court in your county. Which county are you in?"

"Barbara," I began, "I started two hours ago with the Manatee County Clerk of Court. They told me to call the Manatee County government center. The government center told me to call the Buildings Department because they regulate these things. The Building Department said they didn't regulate skin care product sales. That was done by the State and I should call the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation told me that the Department of Health regulates this topic so I called you. Now you're telling me that I need to go back to the people who started me on this odyssey two hours ago. Doesn't anyone anywhere know who regulates something as simple as the sale of skin care products? How about the State department of Revenue?"

"I'm sorry sir," Barbara concluded, "We require her to have a license to do massage therapy but we don't regulate the sale of skin care products. I have no idea who else you can call."

I hung up with sweat dripping from my forehead.

As part of the requirements for my masters degree I had to write a thesis on a research topic and then defend that thesis and my interpretations before my graduate committee. My committee was made up of my major professor, another biology professor, a math professor and someone from the Education department. On the day of my thesis defense, Jim Richardson, my plant taxonomy professor (who was not on my committee) decided to drop in on the defense. Jim's sole purpose was to harass me.

My thesis dealt with the reproductive ecology of mourning doves and common grackles nesting near a nuclear generating plant along the Mississippi River. I was about one hour into my thesis defense when Jim decided to ask questions. One of them was "Why is the dove the international bird of peace"?

I had absolutely no idea but there was no way I was going to let him know that so I went off on a story telling binge in which I talked about the soft cooing voice and their earth toned plumage color and a bunch of other things that indicated that I had absolutely no idea what was the answer. Still I kept on piling bullshit on top of bullshit until finally, with my hole completely dug, Jim said "Stop!" I stopped. He then said "You don't know the answer do you?" I said I didn't. Jim smiled and said "That's all I wanted to know."

It was a huge lesson that helped me in many situations later in my professional career. It is really liberating to admit to someone that you don't know. It is a phrase I use often even now. Its something that at least five different levels of Manatee County and State of Florida government need to learn and to use.

After the marathon 2 hours on the phone I came up with an idea. Other people in Sarasota and Manatee county do massage therapy and skin care and they sell products. I'll just drive over to one of their offices and ask them how they did it. Where did they get the permit and how to apply.

I started with a salon nearby and was sent to another salon who also didn't know the answer. Next I tried a massage and skin care place in the Suntrust Plaza off Whitfield. The person working there didn't know but she called a Masssage Therapy school in Bradenton. Someone there wasn't sure but would look it up and call me back. The phone has still not rung.

I went to two other salons including one where I applied for a job doing Brazilian waxing a year ago ( I didn't get the job. I think I came off too eager).

Finally after more than four hours of trying to get to the bottom of this seemingly easy question I decided that it had been long enough since my last haircut that I would stop by Great Clips. Not only do they do great hair cuts (for $13 - take that Kenny's Hair Salon in Arlington Virginia that used to charge $40 plus tip for the same cut!) but they also sell hair products retail to their customers. Certainly Great Clips had to have a license or a permit or some damned thing to allow them to sell those products.

Sitting in the chair getting my ever-decreasing crop of hair cut, I asked my hair stylist (that would be a barber in northern Wisconsin) if she knew what permit was needed. She didn't know and the owner wasn't there. I should check back tomorrow when the owner is in.

Frustrated I finished my hair cut and as I turned to leave after paying my bill I glanced up and to my right and there hanging on the wall was the much searched for answer.

The Florida Annual Resale Certificate for Sales Tax. Department of Revenue Form DR-13A

A simple form that gets posted on the wall that nobody looks at and with which employees are not familiar. And it comes from the Florida Department of Revenue - the exact agency I asked the Department of Health about at the end of my conversation with them.

The application process for this certificate is relatively simple.

After more than four hours of trying including two hours on the phone and two hours driving around talking to people who didn't have a clue, I finally found the answer hanging on the wall of a barber shop!

As I wrote down the information about the Sales Tax certificate my hair stylist said "Your friend owes you dinner for going through all of this."

I think that is a good place to begin.

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