published Friday, September 28th, 2012

Biz Bulletin: Be wary of high-pressure door-to-door salesmen

By Jim Winsett
  • photo
    BBB Chief Exective Jim Winsett
    Photo by Leigh Shelle Hunt

Q. I am having more door-to-door selling activity at my home. What advice may BBB offer for this type of sales solicitation?

A. Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers who unknowingly fall for scamming door-to-door solicitors. While many door-to-door salespersons are honest, BBB receives troubling complaints from consumers who purchased items like magazines that never came, cosmetics and photography of poor quality, even meat that was no good. BBB warns that deceptive door-to-door sellers are looking to make a quick buck…and they are on the rise.

In 2012, BBB nationwide has already received more than 1,000 complaints about door-to-door magazine sellers and dealers; a number that is well on its way to nearly doubling last year's whopping 1,300 complaints. Sellers often use high pressure sales tactics that can have anyone falling victim.

Unscrupulous marketers sometimes trick consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for items they do not want or cannot afford. Oftentimes, their presentations are so slick that consumers are not even aware that they have actually made a purchase.

BBB offers these tips on dealing with high pressure, door-to-door sellers:

Magazine subscriptions: Locally, this activity is being reported in our neighborhoods. The most common complaint BBB receives involves consumers paying for magazines they never receive. Several consumers allege the sales representative misled them by claiming to work for a local school or charity fundraiser.

Food products: Sales representatives knock on doors selling produce or meat products, claiming their prices are much lower than grocery stores. So far in 2012, BBB has received 25 complaints against companies selling meat products door-to-door. Consumer complaints to BBB allege that their orders never arrive, or are not of the high quality originally promised.

Other industries employing door-to-door sales tactics that BBB receives the most complaints about are cosmetics, photography and cleaning supply companies.

If visited by a door-to-door sales representative, BBB recommends consumers do the following:

• Be safe. Ask for identification before you open the door. Never invite the solicitor into your home.

• Be wary of high pressure sales tactics. A trustworthy company should let you take time to think about the purchase and compare prices before buying or putting down a deposit.

• Research the company with BBB. Visit www.bbb.org to view the company's BBB Business Review to find out more about their marketplace performance. If you have a smart phone, you can download and use the BBB app to access the company's report while the person is standing at your door, or visit m.bbb.org on your mobile device.

• Get transaction details in writing. Be sure you receive a contract or receipt explaining the details of your purchase and all the terms and conditions that apply.

• Remember the “Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule.” 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. Along with a receipt, the salesperson should always provide a cancellation form that can be sent to the company to cancel the purchase within three days. By law, the company must give consumers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.

• Listen carefully and be aware of high pressure sales tactics. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment, and even make special offers to entice you. Listen to their tone. Are they increasing in volume as they speak to you? Are they ignoring you despite saying you are not interested? Find a way to end the conversation quickly to avoid long, drawn-out sales pitches.

• Stand strong. Do not invite unsolicited salespeople into your home. If you do allow a salesperson inside and decide during the presentation that you are not interested in making a purchase, simply ask him or her to leave. If the salesperson refuses to leave, threaten to call the police, and follow through if they do not leave immediately.

Victims of fraudulent door-to-door sales can file a complaint with their Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org, local law enforcement, or state Attorney General's office.

Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
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