When I worked for a local home security company, my boss would tell me about the fabled door-to-door home security salespeople. She told me that the MO was to go to less privileged neighborhoods (like mine) and they usually target the houses with competitor’s signage out front.
The tactic: they hire young, attractive out-of-state college students to go door-to-door and use inflammatory thinking about your current home security provider and basically con you into signing a contract with them — usually for longer, at a higher monthly rate, and without the guarantee of fixed pricing. Then they send someone out to your house to replace your existing panel with one of theirs, have you sign your life away, and then are never seen or heard from again.
The biggest problem, other than losing customers, she would tell me, is that they’d take the panel — which is something you need to return to the company when you switch away from their service in order to void the contract. The “new” service company would then try to re-sell the panels to the original companies, making up all kinds of stories about how they got them. This would leave customers having to pay hundreds of dollars for the panels on top of cancellation fees — and nearly guaranteed within three months, the new company would jack up the customer’s monthly fees, stating that the contract signed allowed them to do so. It left many people sour on home security all together, leaving people in areas best suited for home security systems vulnerable to intrusions.
What’s worse, she would say, is that local thieves had picked up on this habit of the door-to-door salesperson, and would pose as home security salespeople using logo’ed items bought at thrift stores, and would then just come in the home, disable your alarm, and come back to rob you when you weren’t home — something they’d know because they’d “set up an appointment” based on when you’d be home to “install” the new panel.
I used to shake my head at her, thinking she was paranoid and go about my day processing payments.
That is, until a young, attractive college student showed up at my front door yesterday while my son was napping, wearing a hat, jacket, and carrying a clipboard with the logo of the shady company in question. Hearing my old boss in my head, I knew what to expect, but I decided to let the guy try his best before I burst his bubble. Here’s what I learned about the door-to-door home security salesperson, their tactics, and how to get them the crap off of your front porch.
First off, he was leaning on the side of my house, very casual, and didn’t even say hello. He commented on how busy my street is, and then proceeded to drill me about my babysitter. Apparently he’d stopped by the day before and run into her (which she neglected to tell me, but had mentioned to my husband) and tried to get a bunch of information out of her about my husband and I, our home, our security system, our pets, and the hours she was there with my son. That in itself just gave me the creeps — if you’re trying to legitimately sell something, why would you need to know ALL of that?
Second, still leaning against my house, he proceeded to tell me that the day before he’d walked the perimeter of my property and could tell me X amount of vulnerabilities that my current service was leaving wide open to any kind of intruder, including “homeless people and drug addicts” (his words) and what a shame that was for a young family to be left open to.
Mind you, he was probably about five years younger than me. But I digress.
He then started into the services his company could provide that supposedly we’re missing, and as he began to reach to open my screen door stated that once I let him in the house to take a look at our current panel, he could accurately quote me what their supposedly more extensive and secure service would cost me. He didn’t even ask if I would let him in, he just assumed that his scare tactics would grant him entry.
I was horrified — not by what he was trying to sell me with, but by his attitude and actions.
I pulled my screen door shut and loudly locked it as I flatly told him I was not interested in his service. He paused and took a step back, beginning with calling me ma’am for the first time in the conversation, and tried to ask me questions about my son and about my pregnancy (I’m confident digging for a new angle to scare me into switching).
I interrupted him and reiterated that I was not interested in switching home security service and tersely asked him to please leave my property. He took a breath in as if he was going to try another method, and I cut him off by very clearly stating that I was not interested in what he was selling and to please remove himself from my property. He snapped his mouth shut, ducked his head, quietly thanked me for my time, and left. I shut my front door and locked it and promptly re-armed my security system.
Later that day, coming home from errands, I saw him several blocks up the street, looking at a house from the side yard, making notes on his clipboard. It was unclear if the occupants were home, but that was more than enough for me. I came home and looked up the company’s website and called their main customer service number to see if they indeed had salespeople in my neighborhood. They assured me they did, so I filed a complaint about his “salesmanship” and expressed that my address be taken off of their soliciting list immediately.
I don’t know if in the end that will make a whole lot of difference, but I was grateful that I had knowledge of home security business and had heard of this company prior to my exchange with a salesperson. And really, I feel like if a company has to resort to scaring you into doing business with them instead of relying on good customer service and reasonable pricing, then maybe they’re not someone you want to be doing business with (or leaving in charge of the safety of your home) at all.
Photo: Make Lemons