The traveling brush salesman my be a thing of the past but I suspect you’ve noticed that there’s still plenty of doorbell ringers offering this or that. We get asked a lot at City Hall whether these modern peddlers are legitimate and what role the City has in authorizing them to disturb your dinner — so I figured I’d offer a few insights into door to door solicitation in Kent.
Between cold calls, television ads, emails and internet pop-ups, its seem darn near impossible to escape the long arms of salesmenship. And if all the modern sales methods don’t get you, there’s still the old stand-by of door-to-door solicitation. You can’t even hide in your own home.
That’s usually when we get pleas from residents who are at the end of their rope and are desparately seeking some relief from all the pitchmen and women that invade their lives. Seemingly making a last stand, residents talk about the sanctity of their home and they look to the City to honor that with laws prohibiting door to door solicitation.
We do have regulations that govern the peddlers but in a black and white regulatory world these regulations have a distinct grey hue to them. The City’s regulations try to balance an individual’s right to earn a living with another person’s right to privacy which means they do a little of both and seem to make neither side particularly happy.
The staff and City Council recently re-examined solicitation and vending regulations within the City limits, and we did make some progress on tightening them up, but probably not as far as many folks might like.
When facing tighter controls, the solicitor and vendor folks argue that adding further restrictions threatens to take away their only means of making a living, and they argue that these jobs are often filled by people that otherwise have a hard time finding work, which tends to give politicians that are committed to serving the needs of everyone in the community some pause for any significant change.
The City does have an application, review and approval process for solicitors. Here’s a link to the section of the City Code that regulates door-to-door peddling and if you read through that you’ll get a better idea of who needs a permit and who does not.
Plus, I’ve provided links to the forms that the prospective vendors must fill out.
The bottom line is anyone selling a product door to door must have a permit from the City — anyone just asking for donations would only need to have their Exemption Form (no permit) with them.
For many reasons, peddling and solicitation remains hard to tightly regulate and we suspect that there are people going around without City approval. I would suggest that if something seems suspicious to a resident that they call the police while the peddler or solicitor is still in the area. The Police Department and Dispatch both get a copy of all exemption forms and permits issued and they can then investigate and enforce the ordinance if a violation has been made.
Unfortunately we typically hear about these concerns after the peddlers are long gone so we rarely get to stop the illegal vendors. Sort of a modern version of ding dong ditch.