Door-to-Door Solicitations

by Albert B. Kelly, Mayor, City of Bridgeton

There are several signs and signals that can alert you to the fact that times are getting tougher than usual. One of the things I have noticed lately is the number of people going door to door in neighborhoods throughout the region trying to drum up work or sell something.

In the first half of 2022, I’ve had offers for new roofing, solar panels, powerwashing, grass cutting, snow shoveling, and house painting, to name a few. In each instance, I ask to see the person’s permit and invariably they do not have one.

I highlight this door-to-door activity because it can lead to many outcomes. For those who follow the rules, the outcome can be productive and satisfying. In the worst case scenario, a person going door to door under the guise of selling could very well be scoping out someone’s home with theft in mind. In other cases, the person or company may not be reputable and the product or service they are selling may be shoddy and cheap, in which case it’s theft by another name.

It helps to know that each municipality has specific rules and these generally require people going door to door to get permits depending on what service they’re providing.

In Bridgeton, we have canvassers, generally non-sales-related such as doing surveys, polling, or getting information from the public for various reasons such as residential or animal censuses. The person knocking on doors must pay a fee, obtain a permit, and display their license in a visible place at all times.

There are also peddlers known as “hawkers” or “hucksters.” These are generally people who sell products to the public, often door to door. They generally do not sell their product from a fixed place of business that pays taxes, but they carry their products with them. If you’re old enough, you might remember the Fuller Brush or Avon salesperson going door to door.

Finally, there are also those who solicit. This is someone who takes orders for the sale of products or services, which are often to be delivered at some point in the future regardless of whether or not payment is made at the initial solicitation.

In each instance, the person going door-to-door is required to have their permits and credentials from the municipality or town with them and these credentials are to be visible and easy for anyone to see. If someone does not have proper credentials from the municipality and cannot produce them, regardless of the reason, then you should not deal with them and should notify the police.

The other thing to keep in mind is time restrictions. Solicitors or canvassers are permitted to operate between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and they cannot operate on Sundays or holidays. I would think that legitimate salespeople would take care to observe the rules on when to contact potential customers.

Truth be told, I am generally wary of those going door-to-door regardless of their mission, though not everything is equal. I try to maintain an open mind for young people in the neighborhood trying to hustle a buck with a snow shovel in the middle of winter. But this is far different from someone promising to do a roofing job, something that if done poorly could destroy a home. The same holds true for solar panels.

In today’s world, you want to know that someone will stand behind their work or the quality of their product, that if something is wrong, they’ll make it right because there are too many people and things that exist solely to try and separate you from your money. Stay safe.

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