At one time, before shopping malls and automobiles, door-to-door peddlers were probably welcome conveniences. But once people could easily reach stores to buy things at their own convenience, door-to-door salespeople became a nuisance. That they still exist at all is testament to the fact that enough people still buy through this channel to make it worthwhile to the sellers. I wish those people would knock it off!
I don’t like strangers coming up on my porch, or anywhere on my property, for that matter. They have no right to be there uninvited. I’m a nice person, and I’ll bend over backwards to be friendly to strangers in public, but my porch is not public. When I open the door to find a stranger standing there, it’s all I can do to be civil. I know the salesperson is just doing his/her job, but popular sales tactics make it difficult for me to be sympathetic.
In addition to just being plain annoying, door-to-door salespeople (and proselytizers) make a neighborhood less safe. We are used to seeing strangers roaming our neighborhoods, going right up to the doors and loitering about as they wait for their knocks to be answered; so seeing strangers hanging around doesn’t sound an alarm with us the way it should.
Last night there was a very soft knock at my front door. I thought it was probably one of my daughter’s timid friends. So I was startled to find a strapping boy in his late teens off to the side of the door (out of my immediate sight), leaning against the porch rail. He said, “Good evening, ma’am. I’m sorry to bother you . . . we’re having a contest . . . have some girls already been by here?”
I sighed and said, “No, but I’m sorry, we’re completely broke.”
He gave me a look of total confusion and overwhelming offense, but said nothing. He just stood there with his jaw dropped. I said, “You’re selling something?” Whether he was selling something or not, he should have spoken up quickly and clarified his purpose for being on my porch. But he continued to stand there wordlessly, looking even more offended and confused. By then I was losing patience. I didn’t have time to play that game. Finally I said, “Look, I’m making dinner . . . .”
He finally found his voice. He waved me away (yes, he waved me away on my porch), saying, “Just go ahead,” as he turned away. So I closed the door and went back to making dinner. But then I grew suspicious of what he had been up to. Maybe he had been checking if anyone was home, and had planned to burgle the house. I looked out the windows on both sides of the house, expecting to spot him on a neighbor’s porch, but I didn’t see him. I went outside and walked down to the street, but he had simply vanished.
Maybe he had been evasive about his purpose as a sales tactic. Maybe he wasn’t selling anything, but was actually just trying to invite neighborhood kids to a local vacation bible school. I really can’t think of any reasonable explanation that would justify his behavior. But then again, I can’t really justify anyone being on my porch if they aren’t a neighbor or I don’t know them.
“No Soliciting” signs are ineffective against the most offensive offenders (“Yes, I saw the sign, but I just knew you’d want to see what I have to offer!”), and even community rules against door-to-door soliciting are ignored (there are prominent signs at the entrance to our neighborhood). After leaving citizens to be harassed by phone solicitors for decades, Congress finally passed the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003. Though it is not perfect (it provides exemptions for non-profits and political organizations, for example), the registry is extremely popular, and most people who register report a dramatic decrease in telephone solicitation. I think it’s time for a law against door-to-door solicitation. I don’t like a salesperson calling just as my family has settled down to dinner, but I really don’t like one knocking on my door. Unwanted phone calls are invasive, but a stranger on your doorstep is downright dangerous.
I hope that someday door-to-door solicitation will be illegal. But in the meantime, all you people who are keeping the practice alive by buying things . . . stop doing that!