Every summer, your Better Business Bureau receives inquiries about door-to-door solicitors who approach people at their homes in an attempt to sell everything from vacuum cleaners, meat, magazine subscriptions, home improvement services and more. While many reputable companies do utilize door-to-door solicitations as a marketing tactic, BBB is warning consumers to be on the lookout for offers that sound too good to be true or salespeople using high pressure sales practices and emotional appeals.
In 2013, the BBB system received over 5,000 complaints regarding door-to-door sales. Common issues include purchased items not arriving by the promised date or failing to arrive at all, difficulty contacting the salesperson or company after the purchase or work is completed and difficulties with cancellation or refund requests.
“When someone knocks on your door uninvited, a good rule of thumb is to always ask to see identification and a solicitation permit if one is required by your municipality; never invite a solicitor into your home,” says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “If you are not interested in the product or service being sold, don’t be afraid to say no and shut the door. If a salesperson is refusing to leave the premises, threaten to notify authorities.”
BBB recommends the following tips when dealing with door-to-door solicitations:
Verify all information. After requesting to see identification from a salesperson, directly contact the company they claim to represent for verification. Only use known contact information for the company and never confirm through a phone number provided by the solicitor.
Research the company. Visit bbb.org to review information contained in its BBB Business Review, including complaint history and BBB rating. Keep in mind that even if a salesperson has taken the required steps to obtain any necessary solicitation permits for your area, this does not automatically mean that they can be trusted or that they meet any additional industry licensing or registration requirements.
Get everything in writing. Obtain all verbal promises in a written contract, including payment terms, any warranties or refund/return policies and start and completion dates for projects. Never sign a contract that contains blank spaces and request a copy of the contract at the time of signing.
Protect your identity. Some scammers have been known to allege representation of consumers’ current utility service providers, banks or credit card companies in order to appear legitimate. These unscrupulous “salespeople” will request account numbers and other personal information to supposedly verify your account, determine eligibility for upgrades or even prevent service from being shut-off. Keep in mind that if you are already associated with a company, they should have access to this information and not need to see a copy of your bill or latest statement.
Pay with a credit card. Payment by credit card, rather than cash, check or wire transfer, is the safest method for you to conduct a financial transaction since certain consumer protections are provided. Request a receipt that documents any payments that are made and keep it in a safe place.
Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives consumers three days to cancel purchases of more than $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. By law, the company must give consumers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.
Stand strong. Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics. A trustworthy company should allow you time to think about the purchase and compare prices before requiring payment and/or signing of a contract. Some door-to-door salespeople will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment, and even make special offers to entice you. If you find yourself in this position, don’t be afraid to end the conversation quickly.
If you feel threatened or unsafe as a result of any door-to-door sales experience, report the incident to local law enforcement and file a complaint with BBB. For additional tips on door-to-door solicitations, visit bbb.org.
About the BBB System:
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Reviews and BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 113 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4.5 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.