BBB Warns of Door-to-Door Workers

February 18, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. – Spring brings warm temperatures, blooming flowers and itinerant workers and sales people who move through neighborhoods offering a variety of services. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests that consumers first carefully conduct research on the contractor’s company before hiring him or her.

Tom Gallagher, the president and CEO of the BBB in Central Virginia, points out that not all itinerate workers are dishonest. “Many of these folks are hard-working individuals who are trying to make an honest living,” he said. “However, there are some shady characters in the bunch that we all should be on the lookout for.”

A woman in Colonial Beach, Va., recently reported that a man offered to paint her barn for only $500. He said he was able to give her a good price because he had leftover paint in his truck. The woman wisely contacted the BBB to learn more about the contractor. The BBB’s vast database of companies revealed that this particular painter carried “F” ratings in Peoria, Ill., and in Macon, Ga.

Gallagher said the contractor’s last name was Costello. “I’m betting that he is one of the first of the Irish Travelers to work through Central Virginia this year. We expect lots more between now and the end of spring,” he added.

Under a new rating procedure established in 2009, businesses receive a letter grade, A-plus through F, similar to the grades given to students. The ratings formula takes into account 16 weighted factors, using objective information and actual incidences of a business’ behavior. The letter-grade rating represents the BBB’s degree of confidence that the business is operating in a trustworthy manner.

Consumers can check the reliability ratings of businesses at or by calling 804-648-0030.

Gallagher recommends being cautious of a door-to-door salespeople or itinerant workers if they:

  • Use high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable seller will give you time to think through the deal and make an appointment to return at a later date.
  • Offer a deal that sounds too good to be true. The adage holds true that you get what you pay for and many people have been quickly disappointed when the products didn’t live up to the hype or the company did a shoddy job.
  • Can’t or won’t provide you with personal identification or contact information for the company they represent. Any legitimate salesperson will be able to provide you with positive identification for both themselves and their company.
  • Fail to follow federal law. Federal law requires that if you purchase more than $25 in goods, the salesperson must inform you of your rights to cancel within three business days.

BBB recommends that you can further protect yourself by paying with a check or credit card—rather than cash—in order to take advantage of the consumer protections provided.

The BBB in Central Virginia serves Richmond and Tri-Cities, as well as 42 surrounding counties, from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The nonprofit organization was established in 1954 to advance responsible, honest and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through self-regulation of business. Core services of the BBB include business reliability reports, dispute resolution, truth-in advertising, consumer and business education and charity review.