Starting a business in Greece: First submit a stool sample

by Mike Evans

As you know, I’m a frequent visitor to Greece and have written often about the bad bits, in particular the “grafeiokratia” or bureaucracy, which is endemic in daily life. But I also mention the good bits, such as when the Athens police recovered my stolen computers this month. To keep up with developments, I am a regular reader of the English edition of the national E Kathimerini newspaper.

Today, in the business section, there was a real gem. Alexandra Kassimi relates how it took ten months and a mountain of paperwork for Fotis Antonopoulus to set up his olive-oil marketing web business, Oliveshop.com.

According to the paper, Antonopoulos and his partners spent hours collecting papers from tax offices, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the municipal service where the company is based, the health inspector’s office, the fire department and banks. At the health department, they were told that all the shareholders of the company would have to provide chest X-rays, and, in the most surreal demand of all, stool samples.

Having provided the necessary samples and assurances, they now faced the “quagmire of the bank.” The issue of how to confirm the credit card details of customers ended in the bank demanding that the entire website be in Greek only, including the names of the products. Said Antonopoulos:

They completely ignored us, however much we explained that our products are aimed at foreign markets and everything has to be written in English as well.

Eventually, Antonopoulos and his associates decided to use foreign banking systems like PayPal, and cut the Greek bank, with which they had been negotiating for three months, from the middle. “It’s their loss, not ours. We eventually solved the problem in just one day,” explained Antonopoulos.

Poor old Antonopolous. Having left no stool unturned, he’s in business at last. It’s enough to put you off your olives for life.