BBB: Be ready for the spring blooming of door-to-door sales

Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout popcorn. When it comes to door-to-door sales, those are about the only ones you can really trust. For all the rest, your Better Business Bureau warns: You’re better off giving them a quick “No, thanks!” and closing the door. Sure, there are legitimate sales people who will ring your doorbell, but the large numbers of rip-off artists that have infiltrated their ranks have ruined the technique for everyone else. Smart consumers know when to say no.

Front porch tactics

Selling everything from asphalt to magazines to home security systems to meat to tree-trimming, salesmen on your doorstep are trying to find the doorway into your money. Don’t let them do it. Here’s how:

• Ignore them. Harsh as it may seem to those who want to be polite, a great strategy for avoiding the hassles that can come once you get drawn into a salesman’s conversation, is to simply not start. Let them knock or ring your bell. Peep out. See who it is. Don’t know them? Do they have the look of a salesperson? Then don’t waste your time and theirs by opening the door.

• Don’t invite them in. If you have answered their knock, don’t let it go any farther. They are trained to draw you into a conversation. That conversation will can easily lead you into a sell.

• If their product sounds somewhat appealing, ask them for a brochure and tell them you will look it over and get back to them. They know the chances are you’ll have second thoughts and they will push you for an on-the-spot sell.

• Pressure to buy right away is a red flag of an inferior product. If their product or service is worth it, then it will stand up to a deliberate examination on your part and on your own time. Never give in to sales pressure.

• Ask them if they are licensed and insured and ask them to show you proof. Don’t fall into the trap of over-politeness because it may seem confrontational. Remember: they have confronted you by knocking on your door. You have the right to ask questions and ask for proof.

• Don’t settle for verbal assurance. Get everything in writing. And never sign any contract with blank spaces or pages on it.

• The general rule is one-third payment up front, one-third halfway through the job and one-third on completion.

• “Leftover material from another nearby job” is almost always a con. Ask them: Where was the job? What is the contact information for the customer so you can inquire? They will almost certainly have no answer because the entire story is a ruse.

The Cooling-off Rule

The Federal Trade Commission has a 3-day cooling-off rule that applies to any sales of $25 or more that are made at your home. This means you have the right to change your mind after the sale. Visit the FTC’s website at ftc.gov for detailed information about the rule.

Watch out as spring brings warmer weather and more door-to-door sales people. They’re not hatching eggs. They’re hatching plots – to get at your money. If you have questions or concerns about door-to-door sales, contact your Better Business Bureau at (800) 856-2417, or visit our website at bbbinc.org.