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#328 Door-to-door sales

mp3 #328 Door to Door Sales (mp3 file)

Think twice before buying from a door-to-door salesperson. Selling door-to-door is a very inefficient method, because many potential customers usually must be contacted before a sale is made. Consequently, door-to-door salespeople have to make a large commission on each item that they finally do sell--so these items often cost more than they would elsewhere. The salesperson essentially has to convince you to buy an item that you hadn't previously considered purchasing.

What should you know about buying from a door-to-door salesperson?

1. Take your time; don't buy on the spot. Compare what the sales person is offering, with what you can buy in the stores. A reputable salesperson will be willing to come back, after you have done some comparison shopping.

2. Ask to see the salesperson's solicitor's license--such licenses are usually issued by your local police department.

3. Be careful about letting the salesperson into your home. Door- to-door selling makes a good cover for burglary and other crimes. If you do let a salesperson in who then won't leave, threaten to call the police, and if that doesn't work--follow through.

4. If you are given a payment book containing coupons, count the coupons to be sure that you have the right number. Also, check to make sure that all the coupons are for the appropriate amount.

5. If you are paying by check, make it payable to the company--not to the salesperson.

What information does the salesperson have to give you?

A door-to-door salesperson is required to tell you his or her name, company and product, and to display identification when he or she first greets you at the door.

If the salesperson intentionally fails to do these things, you may be able to seek damages of twice the sales price, or up to $250, whichever is greater. At least $50 can be recovered, if you write a letter demanding that the contract be terminated and all payments returned. It is a good idea to send the letter by certified or registered mail, and to keep a copy of the letter and mail receipt for your records. However, if after you sign the contract, you sign a form stating that appropriate identification has been given, you are no longer entitled to the rights outlined in this paragraph.

What should you know before signing a door-to-door sales contract?

1. Don't sign anything until you know exactly what you are signing

2. Get all promises in writing and keep a copy.

3. Make certain the contract has no blank spaces.

4. Make sure your copy is the same as the seller's.

5. The contract must be in the same language that was used in the sales presentation. If the sales presentation was made in Spanish, then the contract must be in Spanish.

Can you cancel a door-to-door sales contract?

If you change your mind about a purchase you've made from a door- to-door salesperson, a contract of $25 or more may be cancelled by midnight of the third business day after you sign the contract. When counting the three days, don't count Sundays and holidays.

Here's how the regulation works:

1. The salesperson must give you a copy of the receipt or contract, containing the date of the sale, the salesperson's name and address, and near where you sign, a statement informing you of your right to cancel within three business days. This statement must be in a size equal to at least 10-point bold type.

2. The salesperson is required to tell you verbally of your right to cancel the sale. In addition, the salesperson must give you a separate form in duplicate, called the "notice of cancellation." The notice of cancellation must contain the date the sale is completed, the name and address of the seller where the, notice is to be delivered, and the date when the notice must be mailed or returned. The notice of cancellation also must provide a full explanation of your right to cancel the sale, and the steps you should follow.

3. If you change your mind about the purchase, all you have to do is cancel the sale to sign, date, and mail or return the notice of cancellation to the seller within three business days. If you mail the notice, send it by certified mail, so that you will have a receipt to prove that you sent the cancellation notice on time.

However, you don't have to use the notice of cancellation form to cancel the sale--a letter or telegram to the company, stating that you are cancelling the sale, is enough. Again, it's wise to send your letter by certified mail, and to keep a copy of the letter or telegram and mail receipt for your records.

4. The seller must return your money within 10 days.

5. The seller must return everything you have paid, before he or she may pick up the merchandise. If the merchandise is not picked up within 20 days after you have given notice to cancel the sale, you can keep the merchandise, or dispose of it any way you want.

6. You have even longer to cancel the sale if you are not given a notice of cancellation form. Until you are provided with this form, you can cancel the sale at any time. Once you are given the notice of cancellation form, you have three days to cancel the sale. If you have used the merchandise, you may have to pay for this use.

Important: don't be confused by this rule, and think that you can cancel every contract you sign, if you change your mind in three days. Generally the three-day cancellation period applies only to purchases of $25 or more (including interest, mailing and other charges) that take place away from the normal place of business of a firm, as occurs in a door-to-door sale, or when a company telephones you at home. The goods or services purchased must be for personal, family or household use.

Read the contract carefully, since your cancellation rights, if any, must be disclosed. Other situations in which you may have a three day "cooling off" period, include purchases or loans which result in a security interest in your home, health studio contracts, and membership camping or discount buying services (organizations to which you pay a fee to purchase services and products at reduced prices). A contract for dance studio lessons entitles you to a l80-day cancellation period; however, you may lose 10 percent of the unpaid balance as a penalty.

Whom do you contact if you have a complaint about a door-to-door sale?

1. Your local district attorney's office (look in the white pages of your phone book, under the name of your county).

2. Your local consumer protection agency, or the California Department of Consumer Affairs in Sacramento, telephone 916 445 1254 or toll free at 1-800-952-5210 weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

3. The California attorney general's office in Sacramento, which has a toll-free number, 800-952-5225.

This SmartLaw Message is from a pamphlet called, "A Consumer's Guide to Sales Tactics." For a free copy, visit their website at or send a stamped, self-addressed, legal size envelope to, "Sales Tactics", State Department of Consumer Affairs, 1625 N Market Blvd., Sacramento, California 95802.

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