Word to the Wise: Door-to-door selling complaints projected to double over last year

The Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints each year from consumers who unknowingly fall for scamming door-to-door solicitors. While many door-to-door salespersons are honest, the BBB receives troubling complaints from consumers who purchased items like magazines that never came, cosmetics and photography of poor quality, even meat that was no good.

The BBB warns that deceptive door-to-door sellers are looking to make a quick buck and they’re on the rise.

In 2012, BBBs have already received more than a thousand complaints about door-to-door magazine sellers and dealers, a number that’s well on its way to nearly doubling last year’s whopping 1,300 complaints. Sellers often use high pressure sales tactics that can have anyone falling victim.

Unscrupulous marketers sometimes trick consumers into paying hundreds of dollars for items they don’t want or can’t afford. Oftentimes, their presentations are so slick that consumers aren’t even aware that they have actually made a purchase. As an example, I spoke with an elderly lady last year who unknowingly signed a credit application to purchase an adjustable bed.

The BBB offers these tips on dealing with high pressure, door-to-door sellers:

Magazine subscriptions: BBBs have already received more than 600 complaints in 2012 against companies selling magazines door-to-door.

The most common complaint received involves consumers paying for magazines they never receive. Several consumers allege the sales representative misled them by claiming to work for a local school or charity fundraiser.

Food products: Sales representatives knock on doors selling produce or meat products, claiming their prices are much lower than grocery stores. So far in 2012, BBBs have received 25 complaints against companies selling meat products door-to-door. Consumer complaints allege that their orders never arrive, or are not of the high quality originally promised.

Other industries employing door-to-door sales tactics that BBB receives the most complaints about are cosmetics, photography and cleaning supply companies.

If visited by a door-to-door sales representative, the BBB recommends consumers do the following:

Be safe. Ask for identification before you open the door. Never invite the solicitor into your home.

Be wary of high pressure sales tactics. A trustworthy company should let you take time to think about the purchase and compare prices before buying or putting down a deposit.

Research the company with BBB. Visit to view the company’s BBB Business Review to find out more about their marketplace performance. If you have a smart phone, you can download and use the BBB app to access the company’s report while the person is standing at your door, or visit on your mobile device.

Get transaction details in writing. Be sure you receive a contract or receipt explaining the details of your purchase and all the terms and conditions that apply.

Remember the “Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule.” The Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives consumers three days to cancel purchases of more than $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller’s permanent place of business. Along with a receipt, the salesperson should always provide a cancellation form that can be sent to the company to cancel the purchase within three days. By law, the company must give consumers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.

Listen carefully and be aware of high pressure sales tactics. Some unscrupulous door-to-door sellers will put pressure on you to close the deal at that moment, and even make special offers to entice you. Listen to their tone. Are they increasing in volume as they speak to you? Are they ignoring you despite saying you are not interested? Find a way to end the conversation quickly to avoid long, drawn-out sales pitches.

If you see suspicious sales people canvassing your neighborhood, report it to your local police department’s non-emergency number. This allows them to ensure that the person is properly licensed to solicit door-to-door and not wanted by authorities in other cities.

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Kelvin Collins is president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Georgia and the CSRA Inc., serving 41 counties in Middle Georgia and the Central Savannah River area. This tips column is provided through the local BBB and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Questions or complaints about a specific company or charity should be referred directly to the BBB at (478) 742-7999, or by e-mailing