Door to Door Sales: Scams, Schemes, and Annoying

Door to Door Sales: Scams, Schemes, Annoying

Door to door sales would seem like it should be something of the past. Yet, it seems there are still quite a few businesses that believe in a face-to-face sales method by knocking on doors. The problem with this is the opportunity for less than honest salespeople to pressure unsuspecting consumers to buy into a sales pitch. Scams involving door-to-door solicitations are also nothing new but they do seem to be on the rise.

With all the technology available for marketing, advertising, and sales why do some companies still rely on outdated sales methods by knocking on the doors of potential customers? Furthermore, what are your rights when dealing with a salesperson knocking on your door and how do you avoid being the target of a scam?

Why do door-to-door sales still exist?

I have often asked myself why I still get a knock at the door with someone trying to sell me something. The home I currently live in I have had people try to sell me solar power, new windows, a roof, tree service, auto windshield repair, cable television… and the list could go on almost with no end. Being in a pandemic currently hasn’t even slowed down the rate at which I get a knock at the door with the next sales pitch.

The thing I probably hate the most about the people that knock at my door to try and sell me something is how often they will not take “No” for an answer. I have even gotten to the point where I just don’t answer the door when I don’t recognize the person knocking.

I understand people need to work for a living. However, there are a lot of other things a person could do rather than annoy people all day by knocking on doors. You would think with the amount of distrust in the world today that selling by going around in a business area or residential neighborhood would not be very successful. If Halloween in many regards is not what it once was a few decades ago, why are people still selling door-to-door? The serial killers, predators, and weirdos ruined Halloween but they haven’t seemed to yet scare away the salespeople.

Selling door-to-door works because results can be clear.

The issue with today’s business world is everyone is looking to be noticed. Every company is trying to get attention and in front of customers. There is a lot of competition and face-to-face sales puts a company in front of people. Compared to traditional forms of advertising in print or media, sales by going and knocking on potential customers doors is much easier to measure the success or failure. Calculating the return on investment and tracking progress is simple. Therefore, some business owners still chose to have a door-to-door sales force.

There are problems with salespeople selling door-to-door.

Aside from the fact that a salesperson knocking on your door can be annoying, there are also a lot of scams and schemes that are trying to be pulled by people selling door-to-door. This is the real issue. According to an article by AARP, door-to-door scams are one of the most common crimes against people 60 and older. At the very least high-pressure sales tactics are many times used with older people because they are often less likely to slam the door in someone’s face.

Opening your door for a stranger should be a real safety concern.

Another problem with people selling face-to-face by going to a potential consumer’s home is safety. This to me is probably the largest risk for people opening the door to a stranger. In today’s world with criminals looking for opportunity and home invasions being common on the nightly news it is concerning that many local governments still allow solicitation door-to-door.

How can you protect yourself from being the target of a door-to-door scam? 

Don’t open the door

I can’t stress the importance of not opening the door to a stranger. To me, this is really the only answer. Simply don’t open your door to anyone selling anything. It’s not just a safety issue with being scammed out of some money but a security problem with being harmed physically and robbed. Particularly in today’s world, everyone needs to be just a little hesitant when it comes to strangers. It is sad the world has come to this but it’s just a fact of life today.

You don’t need to answer the door to everyone that knocks on it. Refuse to open it for anyone you do not know.

Ask to see identification

If you do want to answer the door for a salesperson knocking on it, make sure to ask for identification. Find out who the person is and what company they are supposedly representing. Furthermore, ask to see a permit if your area requires one for people to solicit door-to-door. Not all places do require approval for door-to-door sales but some do.

A big problem to be on the look-out for is people posing as a local utility worker. You should be extra cautious if you come face-to-face with someone presenting themselves as your cable or internet provider. Thieves will often use the disguise of a legitimate service to try and take advantage of people. Just because you get a knock at your door with someone looking official and wearing what appears to be a company uniform, this doesn’t automatically mean they are a legitimate worker. Make sure to ask for identification and if you don’t believe the story being told then tell the person to leave.

Rather than asking for identification from someone knocking at your door that you do not know I will return to my first point. Don’t answer the door for anyone you do not recognize.

Don’t pay for anything with cash

Not paying for something in cash that a salesperson is selling at your door should really go without question. Moreover, if a salesperson tries to sell you something and specifically only says they can take cash, this should be a definite warning sign that something is probably not quite right.

Although paying for things with a credit card can offer more protection compared to using cash, I wouldn’t quite give credit card information to a door-to-door salesperson either. There is a chance they just want to get the card information to then use it fraudulently. Credit card fraud is a much bigger problem than most people realize and obtaining card information is an easy target for scammers.

If someone knocks on your door to sell you something, it is just best to not pay them anything. Don’t give a door-to-door salesperson any kind of down payment, deposit, or full payment. If someone asks for money that is knocking on your door, just tell them you are not interested. This is always the safest thing to do.

Know your rights and get it all in writing

If you are presented with an offer for a service or product by a door-to-door salesperson and you just can’t resist it, you should at the very least know your rights. Furthermore, you should ask for anything the salesperson tells you in writing.

Door To Door Sales - It's important to know your rights.

There are some honest salespeople. Yet, for the most part, the saying is very true in many instances when it comes to people selling. You can easily tell when salespeople are not telling the truth and this is when they are talking. I know it is a label that might seem unfair to salespeople. However, true sales professionals know how to say things that might sound a little different than they might be in an actual agreement or contract.

Selling door-to-door can be a challenging occupation and these people can be very good at what they do. Do not believe everything a salesperson at your door is telling you. There is a good chance something might be left out or not exactly what it ends up being. Make sure to get all prices, warranties, and cancellation policies in writing that a door-to-door salesperson presents.

You also want to know your rights to canceling anything you might buy from a salesperson going door-to-door. The Federal Trade Commission has a rule that states you have the right to cancel a door-to-door purchase of $25 or more within three business days to receive a full refund.

Bottom Line

Although there might be some honest door-to-door salespeople, it likely is not a good idea to trust a stranger knocking at your door. In the world we live in today it is hard to believe that salespeople knocking on doors is still a way that companies want to try and get new customers. If you get a salesperson knocking on your door, it is best to not buy anything. It is probably an even better idea to just not answer the door for a stranger that you do not recognize.

Buying something from a door-to-door salesperson not only puts a person’s money at the risk of being lost from a scammer, but there is also a much bigger danger and this is safety. Opening the door for a stranger is simply a risk. It allows an opportunity to be robbed or physically harmed.

If you must answer the door for a stranger knocking and you are interested in what is being sold, at the very least follow some simple guidelines to avoid being scammed. Don’t immediately trust what might appear to be a friendly unfamiliar face. Ask for identification and never pay in cash for something someone is selling you by knocking on your door.


2 thoughts on “Door to Door Sales: Scams, Schemes, and Annoying”

  1. If they show identification, sell with integrity and don’t impersonate the utility companies…why not let them do their job ethically. There are plenty of scamming companies out there. I was once a door knocker myself. However I never tried to lie or cheat my way into someone’s pockets. I understand to protect the older folks from making rushed decisions. What I’m not fond of is targeting salespeople who make an honest living even if it’s door to door and with required permits. Not all door to door companies are bad. Just like not all police officers are bullies with a badge.

    1. I don’t disagree with your comment. I have no doubt there are some honest and ethical door-to-door sales professionals. Although the article cautions against door-to-door sales, at the end of the day it is up to the person on the other side of the door. The article even goes into there might be some really good people selling door-to-door.

      I also understand the comparison with not all police officers being bullies with a badge. However, the article is really more about the dangers of door-to-door sales and not just the financial ones. There are great people in every profession and ones that are not. Data supports the dangers of door-to-door sales. This is not only for the person that answers the door but also the salesperson. Selling door-to-door as a salesperson can be very dangerous and I even have personal experience with this.

      For the people that can do door-to-door sales and make it a success, I understand it is a challenging job and I at the end of the day I have nothing against the ones that are ethical and honest.

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