A news blog for Seattle's Phinney Ridge and Greenwood neighborhoods

 

Reminder about suspicious solicitors

June 11th, 2013 · Comments

Terrie Johnston, Seattle Police Crime Prevention Officer, wants to remind everyone of safe practices when dealing with solicitors at your door.

I send you this quote from an email I received from a Block Watcher last week, “We had a solicitor come by the house last night at 9:30 p.m. When I told him I was not interested he became agitated and was spouting off as he walked down the street. I also told him he should not be knocking on doors that late at night. He was completely rude and a little off.” 9-1-1 could have been called at this point to report suspicious activity. Yes, you read that right, 9-1-1 is not only for emergencies but for reporting suspicious activity. Callers will need to articulate what is suspicious about the activity, in this case, the late hour and hostility not normally associated with legitimate sales. Burglars often seek homes they believe are unoccupied. They knock on doors first to see if anyone is home. Home sales can be a cover should someone answer. You don’t know what you prevent by getting a patrol cruiser coming into the area.

SPD recommends we ‘answer’ the door, don’t ‘open’ the door. There’s a huge difference. Since burglars seek homes where occupants are away, ignoring the knock on the door may prompt a criminal to attempt entry. I read in a police report this week a homeowner was upstairs watching TV in the evening. She heard the doorbell ring several times but ignored it. Imagine what she thought when she heard the front door open and someone enter and climb the stairs. She called out and the suspect turned and fled the home. Very scary to think about how that could have ended.

And here’s more information about door-to-door sales from Seattle Police Department:

This is the peak time of year for door-to-door sales, including those using traveling sales crews. There are many legitimate companies in this industry with professionally trained salespeople, selling between the hours of 8:00am and 9:00pm, and a long history of law-abiding customer service. There are, however, less reputable companies in this business willing to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals who trust people knocking at their door. Sometimes residents forget to practice good personal safety.

Seattle Police officers respond to calls from citizens concerned about door-to-door salespeople. The results have ranged from the officers checking identification and sending the seller to the City of Seattle Revenue & Consumer Affairs office for their business license, to arrests of individuals posing as residential sellers, but wanted on warrants. There have also been arrests for aggressive behavior, threats made against the resident, burglaries, and assaults.

Homeowners may consider posting a sign indicating “No agents,” “No peddlers,” or “No Solicitors.” In Seattle, it is unlawful for any residential seller to attempt to gain admittance for the purpose of selling at any residence displaying one of these signs.

With these facts in mind, what should you do when a person knocks at your door?

BEFORE OPENING YOUR DOOR: LOOK FOR PROPER IDENTIFICATION. Acknowledge the knock since ignoring it may lead to an attempted burglary. It is preferable to speak to strangers through your door. In Seattle, all door-to-door sellers must display the residential sales identification which includes the seller’s photograph on their outer clothing. The residential sales agent’s license has the name of the licensee as well as the agent. It shall be endorsed with the type of product or service being sold. The license is only valid for the product or service specified. If you have any questions about whether a company is properly licensed, call the City of Seattle’s Office of Revenue & Consumer Affairs at 206-684-8136.

DISCLOSURE REQUIRED: Each residential seller shall, immediately upon contacting the prospective buyer, disclose their name, company and the product or service represented. If requested to do so, they shall leave the premises immediately. If the individual does not leave, or if an attempt to gain access is made by asking to use the bathroom, the phone or get a drink of water, refuse the request and ask the individual to leave. If you feel intimidated, pressured, or threatened at any time, call 911.

USE GOOD JUDGEMENT: It is safer not to allow the salesperson into your home. You are encouraged to avoid paying immediately. Do not give the salesperson cash or a check, as it may be pocketed and you will never receive the product ordered. Instead, find out from the seller how you can order directly from the company or receive the bill upon receipt of the product/service. If the salesperson is concerned about losing their commission for the sale, offer to provide their name when placing your order.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: In Seattle, if you make a purchase, the salesperson must tell you of your right to cancel the order and the contract must include a statement regarding the right to cancel. For each sale of ten dollars or more, the seller must provide a receipt or contract to the purchaser. Do not leave any blanks on your contract. Be sure the contract or receipt is dated and that it states the terms of the transaction, the amount of payment made and the name and address of the residential seller. It must also include a notice informing the buyer of their right to cancel the order any time prior to midnight of the third business day after the date of the transaction. A completed Notice of Cancellation (in duplicate) must be provided to the purchaser at the time they purchase from the seller. You do not need to provide a reason for canceling your order.

DO NOT GIVE IN TO HIGH PRESSURE TACTICS: Never be afraid to say “NO!” If a salesperson in your home tries to pressure you into buying their product, terminate your conversation with them. Take the time to contact the company directly if you still have interest in the product or service. Avoid making an immediate purchase in order to receive a “free gift.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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