Salespeople have been using pity tactics for years to talk would-be customers into buying their products.

“Save the rain forest.”

“Help me raise money for college.”

“I have to meet my sales goals or my kids won’t eat this month.”

But the Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners to beware of door-to-door sellers — the result of recent calls to the agency concerning questionable solicitors.

“A Boyle County resident was concerned because two solicitors from a Washington, D.C.-based company asked her some personal questions about what kind of job she had,” said Neil Kingery, BBB president and CEO. “One of the sellers also told the homeowner that he was selling magazines to get out of his bad neighborhood and made comments about the homeowner’s upscale neighborhood.”

No reports have come recently from the Madison County area, said Heather Clary, BBB director of communications.

“That’s not to say it’s not happening,” she said. “That’s why we put out the warning, in case of other people seeing similar activity.”

There are several ways homeowners can protect themselves, Clary said.

“The first thing you want to find out is if the person soliciting you actually represents a reputable company,” Clary said.

According to Kentucky law, all door-to-door salespersons are required to have a transient merchant’s license for each Kentucky county in which they are selling, a BBB press release states.

“If you say, ‘Can I see your merchant’s license,’ that is supposed to outline all of that information,” Clary said.

If you truly are interested in the product, but are concerned about the validity of the salesperson, not being in a hurry to buy and utilizing the BBB services before handing over money also can prevent homeowners from getting swindled.

“We have had people who have salespeople on their doorstep who say, ‘Wait a couple minutes,’ and have called us to check them out or pulled up the BBB Web site to use in making their decision.”

If you don’t want to ask them to wait, get all their information and ask them to come back, Clary said. A Jessamine County man was talked into a sale from a Las Vegas solicitor who told him the magazine and children’s book purchases later would be donated to the local children’s hospital. After writing the man a check, Clary said the man called the children’s hospital only to discover it had no relationship with the solicitor’s company.

Using checks instead of cash when you do decide to buy is a good idea, Clary said. If you find out the company you bought from is a sham, you have the ability to stop payment on the check. If you pay with cash and the solicitor disappears, you might be out the money.

If you start to have second thoughts about your purchase, the federal trade commission allows a “three-day cooling-off period for most door-to-door sales transactions of at least $25, a BBB press release states. It is important to remember that there are some reputable salespeople out there, Clary said, but if you feel uncomfortable, ask them to leave and shut your door. If they persist, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance from law enforcement.

“It’s one thing if it’s the little school children in the neighborhood that you know,” Clary said. “It’s another thing if there is someone at the door who may be from out of state that you don’t know, and they are wanting to find out all the information they can.”

Kelly Foreman can be reached at or 624-6694.

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