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BBB: Door-to-door sales season is a time for caution, many “want to rip you off”

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MILWAUKEE — The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin advises that you prepare yourself for the annual arrival of these visitors at your doorstep. The BBB says any are legitimate, pedaling various products or services. However, there are also many salespeople who are transient and simply want to rip you off.

The BBB says your job as a consumer is to arm yourself with knowledge so that you don’t give in to some of their pushy sales spiels.

Not ready to replace your windows? Happy with your security system? Like your untrimmed trees? Not interested in a new driveway? Do you have all the magazines you could ever possibly read?

Here’s how to hold your ground and your hard-earned cash:

  • If you do start a conversation with a door-to-door salesperson, don’t invite them into your home.
  • Reputable companies don’t rush you. If the salesperson pressures you to buy right away, that’s a red flag. Take their business card and tell them you will think about it for a day or two. Make sure you have their company name, the salesperson’s name, the company’s full address and phone number.
  • Check them out to search for complaints and reviews.
  • Get proof that they are licensed and insured.
  • Get it in writing or don’t do business with them. Be sure every verbal promise is written into the contract, with no blank pages or empty spaces.
  • Never pay more than one-third of their charge in advance. Never pay in cash and never pay in full until the work is complete and to your satisfaction.

Here are some of the door-to-door sales that the BBB receives complaints about:

  • Asphalt pavers. Claiming to have “leftover material from another job nearby,” they often do poor work with substandard material.
  • Home improvement contractors. They may be unlicensed, uninsured and unqualified, and make false claims about work (such as roofing) that needs to be done, or supposed prior “storm damage.”
  • Magazine sellers. Shop around before you buy.Always check prices directly with the magazine subscription companies directly before buying from a stranger at your door.
  • Alarm systems. Charges for monitoring the systems may not be divulged at the time of sale.
  • Meat sellers. The quality of the meat may be inferior.
  • Tree trimmers. Check with other local companies first and get several professional opinions and written estimates.

Cool off

What happens if, in the heat of the sales pitch, you gave in and then had regrets afterward?

That situation is the reason for the Federal Trade Commission’s Three-Day Cooling-Off Rule: Purchases of $25 or more that are made at your home can be cancelled within three days. You have the right to change your mind, and that’s why the rule exists.

Also, the seller must tell you about this right to cancel at the time of the sale. The law says they must give you two copies of a cancellation form. Find out more about the Cooling-Off Rule by visiting the FTC’s website.

Find BBB Accredited Businesses here.

For more information or further inquiries, contact the Wisconsin BBB at or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).

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