Hoping to get something for free - that's the philosophy that makes people prime candidates for many telephone and door-to-door sales pitches that offer obscure products and deals.
"No one's in business to give away anything free," said Dixie Minson, director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection.She said there's just no polite way to say "no" to an aggressive salesperson. In fact, if you let a high-powered salesperson in your home and you don't purchase the product, Minson said the only way to get rid of him may be to open the door and ask him to leave. Some may not even leave then, so it may be necessary to mention calling the police, she said.
"If they're not being polite to you, you can't be polite," Minson said.
Minson said the No. 1 warning sign in door-to-door sales is if you have to pay your money that very night. If so, you may find that the company is not legitimate and may merely skip town with your money, or that the product may be faulty.
Consumers can check to see if the salesman has a solicitor's license or a local business license, since these are required in certain areas of Utah.
And there are ways to check on the reputation of a business by telephone:
- Contact the State Consumer Office (530-6601) if the company has only been in Utah a short time, or if it is a transient business.
- The State Division of Corporations is also a good option (530-4849) since it can check on the company's name to see if it's registered in Utah.
- Still another option is contacting your local Better Business Bureau (487-4656 in Salt Lake) to check on consumer complaints.
The only hangup with this type of safeguard is that the offices are closed at night - the prime time for most sales calls to your home. Minson encourages consumers to be cautious and to not feel bad about telling a salesperson that he or she willhave to wait a day so references can be checked.
If they won't cooperate, they probably don't have such a good deal, after all.
(Also, that extra time will give you a chance to search for any loopholes that may exist in the sales offer.)
(BU) But what if you buy the salesperson's merchandise that first night and then decide that it's not such a good buy? Are you stuck with it?
Minson said Utah has a law that gives consumers "three business days" to cancel or rescind their sale and get a full refund by returning the merchandise - but only on sales that are made away from a company's place of buisness.
In the case of a return, a customer should notify the business within the three days. A certified letter should also be sent since that proves the intent of the return and will give the sender a notice of delivery, too. Then, return the merchandise promptly.
(BU) Here are some supplemental tips/ideas on how you can you avoid sales confrontations on the phone or in person:
- Never enter your name in prize drawings with companies that you are not familiar with. Be selective and cautious of all information you provide at fairs, home shows, etc.
- If you'd like your name removed from telephone solicitation lists, contact The Direct Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10017, about "Telephone Preference Service." (Direct Marketing also handles mail solicitation, too).
- Another possible sales stopper is to have your name and telephone number removed from the next US WEST telephone directory. For 95 cents a month extra charge, your name and number will not appear in the phone book, but will be available through directory assistance. This is called a non-listed number.
For $1.95 a month, you can receive a non-published number that will only be available to those whom you provide it to.
These methods can eventually take your name and number out of circulation from most business callers, so that only computer-type calls - where phone numbers are dialed in sequence - would bother you.
(Contact a US WEST service representative to have your name removed, without charge, from any lists that the phone company itself may lease to other companies or organizations.)
- One Bountiful resident became so angry recently over constant sales calls that he starting screening all his telephone calls through his answering machine. The machine would answer each call first and tell any salesmen to forget it. If the caller was not a sales person, the home owner would pick up the phone and interrupt.
He didn't keep the practice up for very long because it was somewhat awkward and a lot of people hung up before leaving a message, so he didn't know who was calling a lot of the time. But this system did keep him from being bothered by sales calls.
- Learn to say: "I don't purchase things over the phone," or "I'm not interested" and then just hang up - even if the sales person won't stop talking. It's your privacy that's being invaded and your time that's being used. The most polite thing to do may be to stop the caller early if you're not interested.
- If you're listening to a sales pitch, ask on the prices involved immediately. Don't be hooked in a presentation format that's geared toward you agreeing to buy the product at any price.