A Scary Lesson in Door-to-Door Sales

NO SOLICITORS. Those are two words my Girl Scout troop doesn’t like to see when they go door-to-door selling cookies, but I’m finally going to print them out on my label maker and post them by my own doorbell today, and hope that in the future, the football players, Scouts, Campfire Girls and other well-meaning kids will simply email me, as some already do, when they want to sell me something.  Because there’s just been too many not-so-well meaning door-to-door salespeople in our area lately, and I’ve had enough.

You’d think I’d have had enough long ago, since I’ve hung up on probably thousands of telemarketers (or fought with them– remember the Gay Marriage telemarketer?) and I’ve had every nut in the candy dish knock on my door since I’ve been a work-at-home mom for almost 15 years.  One memorable snaggle-toothed saleswoman slurped her bottle of miracle cleaning product in front of me after she demonstrated it on my front door handle, to prove to me that the product was non-toxic; another salesperson told me that I, pregnant with Emmie, was abusing my unborn child if I didn’t buy his water purifying system.  And even though I think I’m a savvy consumer and can easily say no after all this practice, several times my heartstrings have been tugged and I’ve been “suckered” into buying something I don’t really need, especially when it’s an older teen or twentysomething who says they are in the area raising funds for college, “and just need to close two more sales to get that scholarship”.  But really, it’s time to say “no more”, for our family’s safety as well as to teach our kids the right thing to do in the future when they are on their own.

I should have had the “No Solicitors” sign out a couple months ago, after two muscular guys came to our door saying they were raising funds for a select LaCrosse team.  These were not teens or college students, these guys looked like they were in their late 20s or early 30s. They didn’t have anything that made them look official, I don’t even think they had a clipboard.  (Of course I never open a door to a stranger– I talk to them through the glass/screen door or even a window, and my kids have seen that and we’ve talked about that.)  I said I couldn’t donate anything at this time and wished them well.  But I was definitely suspicious.  Things didn’t add up. Why would older guys need to go door to door for a sports team? If they’re working adults playing a sport on the side, what would they need to raise funds for, anyway? I concluded they were casing the neighborhood, trying to find out who was home and who wasn’t, so they could go around back and break in, and I let Karl, our neighborhood crime watch captain (and the police) know about them, and Karl alerted our neighbors.

This past Saturday afternoon, the dogs started barking as a large, tall, 20-something young man began walking up our front walk.  Andy was out back doing yardwork and as I watched the young man approach, I asked Emmie to please go lock the front door, as she was closer to it.  I failed to tell her “screen door” and as he got to the doorstep, she proceeded to look at him and shut the main door in his face. Not wanting her to be THAT rude, I was apologetic when I went to see what he wanted, talking to him through the glass.  Not a good way to start.  Fifteen minutes later, I had purchased a $40 magazine subscription.  His soft-spoken spiel about growing up in a tough New Jersey neighborhood and how he had only been in Texas a couple days and was part of an organization trying to help kids stay on the right track– well, it got to me. I wanted to help him.  He said he got extra points because I chose to donate the magazine subscription to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.  When we were finished with the transaction, he asked if he could buy a bottle of water from me, that he was thirsty, and (with the door still locked of course and him on the front porch) I brought him one, but didn’t charge him anything for it.  Emmie stood next to me and witnessed the whole thing.  As he walked away, I had a feeling, that even if I’d helped him out in some small way, that most of that money was probably going to a not-so-great organization, and that the Boys and Girls Clubs of America would never see those magazines… 

The next day, with receipt in hand, I checked out the organization’s website and Googled to find its other websites and mentions as well.  All of the websites were poorly put together and half-finished, but from what I could tell, it’s an “entertainment” company based in Detroit, that brings in kids from tough neighborhoods with the promise they are going to give them an opportunity in the rap music and film/TV industries, build their self esteem, and give them a chance to turn their lives around.  It says nothing about how these kids will be brought to other cities to sell magazines…when I clicked on one of the workable links to see the company’s “music videos”, there was one finished video, called something like (I’m not kidding) “Ax Murderer”, featuring two black rappers and showing a fat guy in a welder’s suit and mask tying up young white women and acting like he was attacking them with an ax, and also attacking a young white couple sitting in a car.  Gulp.

I don’t know how he knew, but…last night, Andy asked me if I’d bought a magazine subscription from a door-to-door salesman over the weekend. “Yes,” I admitted, and before I could tell him about my folly, he showed me breaking news online from a local TV station– a resident of a nice neighborhood about 8 miles away from us had been stabbed in the face when he refused to buy magazines from a door-to-door salesman “who said he was with an organization”, and around the same time, a door-to-door saleswoman named Tontanisha was arrested for threatening a homeowner in the same neighborhood when they also refused to buy magazines.   I made sure to tell Emmie, and Allison, and I’m alerting Captain Karl, once again.  

Like Andy says, door-to-door sales wouldn’t exist if people would just quit buying in that way, just like panhandling for booze money will stop if people quit enabling.  But because there’s always a soft heart and a fool around every corner, it all continues… apparently at a frenzied pace now that spring has sprung and north Texas is in the midst of a narrow window of decent weather…

Just this morning, I heard the young, married, bright, mother-of-two manager of a local coffee shop excitedly tell a customer about the vacuum cleaner she had just bought from a door-to-door salesperson.  “My husband didn’t want to listen to the presentation, but I talked him into it,” she said.  “When the salesman vacuumed our mattress and we saw all the dust and crud that came off of it, my husband and I were amazed, and so we bought one,” she said.  The customer’s jaw dropped as she told him the price.  “We had to take out a loan in order to afford it,” the manager continued, “but at least it will last a lifetime.”

11 thoughts on “A Scary Lesson in Door-to-Door Sales”

  1. The New York Times did a story on how these “magazine” companies exploit the kids that work for them. Many of the kids are former foster care kids and are mislead into believing it is a good job opportunity but instead they end up in another town going door to door. Sad!

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