Action Line: Check out door-to-door sales pitch before you buy

FresnoJune 22, 2014 

From a reader: A person selling a computer-assisted tutorial program recently knocked on my door. Since I have a daughter in middle school who's in need of a tutor, I was interested in the program. I purchased the software and after a few days it stopped working and froze my computer. I have made many attempts to contact the representative, but have not received a return call. I have done business with door-to-door salespeople in the past and have had positive experiences. Now I question if I can tell the difference between a legitimate or fraudulent door-to-door seller. Do you have any tips?

Action Line: While, there are many salespeople who go door to door and represent reputable companies, there are also scammers that attempt to rip people off.

Before you consider making a purchase from a door-to-door seller, it's important to keep the following tips in mind.

In certain cities door-to-door salespeople must have a business license. In the city of Fresno, door-to-door sellers in some cases do not have to carry a business license, while in the city of Clovis it's a requirement to carry one at all times. Check with the business license department in your city to see what rules apply to door-to-door sellers.

It's important to be aware that door-to-door sellers can always fake credibility. Some solicitors that go door to door try to build credibility by claiming to be with a reputable company or have a special credential or experience. Be sure to call the company they claim to be with and independently verify that the information provided to you is accurate. You should also always research a company before doing business. An easy way to search for a company is by visiting www.bbb.central-california.org.

Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics and emotional sales pitches. A trustworthy company should let you take time to think about the purchase and compare prices before buying. Unscrupulous solicitors often use emotional sales pitches that tempt you make an emotional decision and put pressure to make a purchase at that moment. If you find yourself in this position, find a way to end the conversation quickly.

Beware of products or services that require you to sign a contract or make a payment in advance. If you choose to sign a contract, make sure to look over the document carefully. Confirm information such as installation price, monthly price, installation time, length of contract, refund policy and cancellation procedures. If you're unsatisfied with the work or don't receive the product you paid for in advance, there may be no way of getting your money back.

Most door-to-door sales fall under the three-day cooling-off rule from the Federal Trade Commission. If you feel you were misled or deceived into signing a contract, file a complaint with the BBB or the FTC. To learn more about the cooling-off rule, contact the FTC at (877) 382-4357.

Remember that a legitimate salesperson will not mind waiting or coming back later. Tell the solicitor you check companies out before doing business.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 4201 W. Shaw Ave., Suite 107, Fresno, CA 93722 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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