BBB challenges door-to-door sales pitch

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By Amber Coulter

Better Business Bureau officials are warning area residents about two door-to-door salesmen reportedly making false claims in Hardin County.

Two men are trying to sell what they claim are books from Sylvan Learning Center in the county. The books were being sold for $130 with the promise of being hand-delivered in August, said Cathy Williamson, Lincoln Trail Area branch manager for the Better Business Bureau.

The situation was reported to Sylvan’s operation in Elizabethtown.

According to reports, the men wore name tags to look like official Sylvan representatives and one told a resident he was an exchange student from Florida, Williamson said.

Inez Crepps, director for the Sylvan Learning Center in Elizabethtown, said the company has educational workbooks available at Barnes & Noble but is not affiliated with the men. Sylvan never sells books door-to-door, she said.

“I’m a bit concerned,” she said.

Crepps said she’s eager for people to know that this sales effort is not associated with Sylvan.

The resident who reported the incident said the men were insistent and wanted to enter his home, she said.

In the Upton area, especially on Locust Grove Road, sales people have been posing as representatives of the Hardin County Schools trying to sell phony book sets for $500, the BBB reported. They have claimed that students will need the books for next school year, Williamson said.

Similar reports have come out of the Grayson County School District, she said.

Diane Jacobi, executive assistant to the superintendent for Hardin County Schools, said such sales people come nearly every summer, but they’ve become craftier this summer.

They sometimes personalize the pitch by knowing the names of teachers that students will have, she said. The school district never will solicit sales door-to-door. If ever, residents would receive only one phone call from the school district.

Better Business Bureau tips for handling door-to-door salespeople include being aware of high-pressure sales tactics, such as pressing a consumer to close the deal immediately and offering special offers to entice them. They might increase in volume as they speak and ignore consumers when they say they’re not interested.

Consumers are encouraged to end the conversation quickly and not invite unsolicited salespeople into their homes. If they are invited in and do not leave upon being asked, the BBB encourages consumers to threaten to call the police and then follow through.

Consumers interested in buying from door-to-door sellers are advised to get contact information and all information in writing including price, warranty and conditions. They are asked to tell sellers that they’ll check it out and get back to them later.

They can look up companies and verify whether the person they spoke to is an employee. Better Business Bureau business reviews also are available at www.bbb.org.

Victims of fraudulent door-to-door sales can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau at that website or 1-800-388-2222, local law enforcement or the state attorney general’s office.

Virgil Willoughby, public information officer for the Elizabethtown Police Department, said the way the police department responds to such calls depends a lot on whether people are victimized.

Anyone selling items within the city has to have a city business license, Willoughby said.

“Normally, they do not have a city business license and we tell them to pack up and move on,” he said.

Willoughby said people sometimes pass through trying to use high-pressure tactics in door-to-door sales, despite regulations.

“If you feel that way, just walk back into your home and call the police,” he said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.