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BBB provides advice about door-to-door salespeople

Burnsville, Minnesota — Summer is almost here, and solicitors offering asphalt services, magazine subscriptions and security alarm systems — among other products and services — are likely already making the rounds and may well find their way to your doorstep. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) urges people to be on the lookout for problematic sales pitches and to have a plan in place when it comes to dealing with door-to-door solicitors.

"For many businesses, face-to-face sales are a big part of their business plan and they go about it the right way," said Susan Adams Loyd, President and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. "But we know there are shady operators are out there, too, which is why we always advise caution."

Though many door-to-door salespeople operate ethically and represent reputable companies, there are others who are looking only to make a sale and move on as quickly as possible — leaving customers wondering if they'll receive the product or service they've paid for or if they've just been had. BBB offers the following advice on how to handle door-to-door salespeople:

Inquire about licensing. Many cities now require door-to-door salespeople to obtain a peddler or solicitor license. Ask the salesperson if they've checked in with the city and obtained proper licensing. If you're unsure if your city requires such a permit, call your city offices.

Ask for identification. A reputable seller will provide you with all the information you request, including a photo ID and a business card.

Verify the individual and the company. If you are interested in a product or service, get everything in writing including price, contract details and all other terms and conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to him or her. Then research the company yourself and contact them directly to verify the salesperson is an employee. Also, be sure to research the company's BBB Business Profile and customer reviews at bbb.org.

Read the contract closely. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line, and be sure you have a physical address and valid contact information for the company.

Don't be pressured. Watch out for high-pressure sales tactics and be aware that anything you sign could construe a contract.

Do the Math. Paying $30 to $40 per month for magazine subscriptions may not sound like much, but if the contract runs for two years — or longer — charges can add up fast. Make sure you have an idea of what the average subscription costs for any magazine that interests you. Most magazines have detachable postcards inside with some of the lowest rates available.

Know your rights. The Federal Trade Commission's Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule gives the customer three days to cancel purchases over $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, salespeople should also include a completed cancellation form that customers can send to the company to cancel the agreement. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.

Stand strong. Be careful about allowing strangers into your home. If you do allow a salesperson inside your home and decide during the presentation that you are not interested in making a purchase, simply ask them to leave. If the salesperson refuses to leave, tell them you will call the police — and follow through if they don't leave immediately.

Steer clear of asphalt firms that say they have leftover asphalt from another job. A classic tactic of less-than-reputable asphalt firms is to tell consumers they have extra asphalt leftover from another job and will perform the work for minimal cost. However, professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project. They rarely have leftover material. It's also always a good idea to get multiple estimates before choosing any contractor.

People who have issues with door-to-door solicitors can file a complaint with BBB at bbb.org, as well as with their local law enforcement, and state Attorney General's offices.

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