Buyer’s remorse? Cognitive dissonance? Second thoughts? Whatever you call it, consumers have the right to change their mind.
In fact, there is a federal law many consumers do not fully understand or even know about. It’s the Federal Trade Commission’s 3-day “Cooling Off Period” for direct sales.
Below is a video from the Direct Selling Education Foudation which does a very good job of explaining it. The DSA Code referred to inthe video is the Direct Selling Association’s Code of Ethics which all member companies operate by. Southwestern Company, along with companies such as Mary Kay, Avon and Pampered Chef are representative of member companies.
Southwestern Company’s consumer blog was recognized as one of the Achievement in Marketing (AIM) award winners by the Nashville chapter of the American Marketing Association (NAMA).
The awards are a celebration of the work the elite marketers in Middle Tennessee produce, and more importantly, the results they achieve. The event took place at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville.
The blog, www.southwesterndifference.com, won the top award in the “Online Blog” category for the content to consumers and results. In all, there were 18 award categories. A complete list of categories and winners can be found at http://nashvilleama.org/aimawards/.
Trey Campbell, Director of Communications, was in attendance to accept the award on behalf of Southwestern Company.
About Southwestern Difference blog:
The blog has a three-fold mission: to differentiate between legitimate direct sellers and disreputable ones, to educate consumers about door-to-door safety and to highlight the dangers of “traveling sales crews.” This is the fifth time the blog has won an award in its respective category from the following organizations: The Public Relations Society of America – Nashville Chapter; the International Association of Business Communicators; The National Association of Consumer Agency Advocates and the interactive Horizon Awards.
The Nashville Chapter of the American Marketing Association, NAMA, is one of 75 local AMA chapters in the United States and Canada. With more than 200 members, the Nashville AMA is one of the fastest-growing chapters in the country. NAMA is an important part of the Nashville business community, offering valuable programs, networking events, publication opportunities and benefits that help people connect, enable professionals to develop their skills, and increase the professionalism of our industry in the community.
Special thanks to NAMA, the awards chair and committee and the judges, the Lincoln Chapter of the American Marketing Association.
Straight from the lips of the FTC about how to avoid door-to-door scams… Lots of attention has recently been focused on the door-to-door security system sales industry. This attention is somewhat negative because of the pressure sales, misleading statements and irresponsibility of the individuals selling the systems and the companies who turn a blind eye to this type of behavior.
Since Southwestern Company’s independent student dealers have begun training and will be working to help families with their education, it is a shame this bad PR from the security system sales puts a black eye on the industry as a whole. Read on for information on how to protect yourself and what to look for:
Tips For Consumers: 04/29/2011
FTC Offers Tips to Help People Avoid Being Scammed By Door-to-Door Sales Agents Pitching Home Security Systems
The Federal Trade Commission is offering information to help homeowners avoid unscrupulous sales agents who go door-to-door during the summer months. These scammers use deceptive, high-pressure tactics to get people to buy expensive, and sometimes substandard, home security systems they often don’t need.
The FTC advises consumers to ask for identification before allowing a salesperson to enter their home – some states require door-to-door salespeople to state up-front their name, the company’s name, and what they’re selling; others require them to show a sales license and photo ID. The agency also advises consumers to watch for these signs of a scam:
- Pressure to act now to take advantage of a limited time offer.
- Offers of “free” equipment to get you to sign a contract. Translation: you may have to sign a long-term and expensive system monitoring contract.
- Scare tactics – “Burglaries have occurred in your neighborhood.”
- Phony upgrades – They say they have come to replace your security system, but they really want to install a new system with a costly contract for a monitoring service.
- “Your security company is out of business.” – If they say this, call your company to confirm.
The FTC also advises that, whether sellers come to your door or you seek them out, ask for the contractor’s name, address, and phone and license numbers; what state issued the license; and the name the license is filed under. Check out the company online and with your state Attorney General, local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, and state licensing officials. The FTC also advises:
- Get references and find out how the equipment and services have performed for others.
- Get written estimates from several companies and ask questions about who will install the system and how it will function. Be sure you know who will monitor the system, how much it will cost, and how often you will be billed.
- Read the fine print. Make sure the written contract includes all oral promises made by the salesperson.
- Ask your police and fire departments if you need to register your system, and if there are fines for responding to false alarms.
- You can cancel the deal. The FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel if you sign a contract in your home or anywhere that is not the seller’s permanent place of business – even if the system has already been installed. You don’t have to give a reason for canceling.
For more information, see the FTC’s Knock, Knock. Who’s There?Want to Buy a Home Security System? Beware of home alarm sales scams.
Southwestern Company has been recognized with two Awards of Merit at the 25th Annual Parthenon Awards by the Public Relations Society of America – Nashville Chapter (PRSA-Nashville). The annual awards recognize the best public relations programs and projects in Middle Tennessee.
I am very proud to announce this blog was the recipient of one of the awards, and has been generously recognized in the past by PRSA-Nashville.
The annual ceremony, hosted at the Aerial in downtown Nashville, acknowledged excellence in all aspects of public relations, including programs and projects ranging from overall communications campaigns to social media projects and annual reports.
Southwestern Company’s two winning categories for calendar year 2010 were:
NEW MEDIA – BLOGS: Southwestern’s consumer blog (this one – www.southwesterndifference.com), was recognized in the new media category. This recognition from PRSA-Nashville follows on the heels of several other awards for the blog. The blog has a three-fold mission: to differentiate between legitimate direct sellers and disreputable ones, to educate consumers about door-to-door safety and to highlight the dangers of “traveling sales crews.” This is the fifth time the blog has won an award in its respective category.
MEDIA RELAIONS – MEDIA KITS: Southwestern was recognized for the effectiveness of information and design for the company’s media kit.
We are very pleased to be recognized among such creative and talented firms, nonprofits, and individuals who practice public relations in the Middle Tennessee area. It is certainly an honor to have our work recognized in such a way! Thanks to everyone who makes this blog possible!
It’s time for the “News of the Weird” when it comes to selling door-to-door. In this edition, we have bad fish, unlicensed cheese, inquiries about underwear inspections and a meat salesman attacked with none other than a “no soliciting” sign. You gotta read it to believe it.
1. Homeowners in Quebec are being warned not to buy cheese door-to-door. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Quebec remionds the public “Only cheeses made by a appropriately licensed manufacturer may be sold in Quebec.” Heh, you don’t have to tell me NOT to purchase cheese form a door-to-door salesperson. Is it just me? There are some things you might be better off buying at the grocery store. Cheese is one of them. Click here for more
2. On Yahoo!Answers, someone actually posted the question: “How can I become an official door-to-door underwear inspector?” I’m sort of hoping this is a joke, but there are some really weird people out there. Click here
3. This one falls under the category of just plain dumb! In Fort Walton Beach, a man was going door-to-door in an attempt to sell food stamps. When police questioned him, he did not have any food stamps. In an effort to prove he had none on him, he turned out his pockets. Too bad a little bag with white residue fell out. He was promptly arrested with a misdemeanor of narcotic equipment possession. Click here
4. “Door-to-door fish mongers raise a stink” Apparently, in Qatar there are folks illegally selling fish door-to-door not only to home owners, but shops and restaurants as well. Vendors working alone buy the fish at morning auctions and use a small van to reansport to the clients they generate door-to-door. This free market activity is driving legitimate market and retail vendors out of business. This brings up the question as well… how’s the quality of this fish which seems to be unrefrigerated for a period of time. Ewwwww. Click here
5. A door-to-door frozen meat salesman says a resident attacked his truck with a no solicitors sign, smashed a headlight and whacked off the passenger-side mirror Thursday. “He started yelling for me to get the (expletive) out if here” and said he has a no solicitors sign, Castillo said. “I didn’t see it because I came to the back.”
In an opinion column by Barry Coulter in the Cranbrook DailyTownsman, he writes about what wins political elections - door-to-door. According to his article, “From door to door: The backbone of democracy,” it’s not a fancy slogan, campaign promises, big rallies, sensationalism or driving voters to the polls – although all this helps.
He clearly states what wins elections is “good old-fashioned door-knocking.”
I am perplexed by this opinion. Not because I agree or disagree, but because it makes me think. As I wander the halls of various capital buildings throughout the U.S. meeting with our elected officials, I come away with two emotions – gratitude and attitude.
I have tremendous gratitude toward our public servants who give so much of their time, resources and efforts to make our communities, states and nation better in so many ways. On the flip side, because of the nature of Southwestern Company’s business model – door-to-door sales – I sometimes come away from a mission of education with an attitude of frustration. I find it somewhat two-faced that most, if not all, politicians either walk the pavement themselves to, yes, sell themselves, or have an army of volunteers do it. So, it’s ok to do it under political free speech… but when it comes to commercial free speech, some politicians want to limit door-to-door? It’s good enough for one, but not the other?
It seems to me politics and religion are taboo when comes to protective freedoms. No one dares mess with those two, but other forms are fair game.
According to Mr. Coulter:
“…the candidate who wears out the most shoes, endures the most antipathy at the doors of the nation, attempts to explain his or her thought processes to the largest chunk of bewildered citizenry, and develops the greatest caffeine addiction will end up with democracy’s greatest prize – public office.”
I have to be careful here… but can you have it both ways? Door-to-door in the name of politics and religion is no doubt protected under the First Amendment. As a society, we also have to be careful not to tread on commercial free speech (also protected) – it’s the college student who is working his way through school, the stay-at-home mom who takers on selling make-up to her friends and neighbors to earn extra money for Christmas, the empty-nest mom who seeks to do run a business to fill the void of her kids going to college, the millions of people who simply do it to meet people and be social.
Hmmm. I guess what’s good for the goose is not always good for the gander.
Author notes: (1) This blog post, as do all of the posts on the Southwestern Difference Blog, reflect my thoughts and opinions and are not always shared by Southwestern Company. (2) The “Daily Townsman” is a Canadian publication.
“Bad bad, bad boys, whatcha gonna do when they come for you…”
In the category of “So you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to traveling sales crews…,” I came a cross an article in the Asheville Citizen-Times about a police sting to take down a magazine crew – Magazine sting: Police arrest workers in Asheville area.
After one of the crew members was arrested for entering a home without permission, the police staked out the area, watching and following the van crew. They then arrested the other eight crew members. The driver of the van was also charged with driving on a revoked license.
It tells the story of nine traveling sales crew members with Someday Sales who were arrested on a variety of charges including solicitation without a permit, with one even getting a breaking and entering charge coupled with second-degree trespassing and communication threats. It even turns out one was also a convicted sex offender! He was charged in regard to a sex offender using a social networking site.
According to Lt. Wally Welch, the crews saturate the area and there have been “spikes in crime when they have been around.” At the same time this particular group were in the area, the police were getting calls about cars being broken into.
When contacted, the owner of Someday Sales said he had sold the business to one of the people arrested. The company has a long list of Better Business Bureau complaints from intimidation to orders never arriving. They, of course, have an “F” rating with the BBB.
Ironically (or not surprisingly), the phone number for Someday Sales has been disconnected according to the article.
Give credit to the quick-thinking homeowner and police for acting to put an end, at least temporarily, to this van crew. I hope this serves as a warning to those young people to get their life back on track.
Southwestern Company: Traveling sales crews getting called out by BBBs
I’ve noticed lots of internet traffic recently about traveling sales crews continuing to create havoc in neighborhoods and towns across the nation. A number of times, the Better Business Bureau has come out against this form of exploitive sales, calling out specific companies.
In Madison, Alabama traveling sales crews with (pick a name… because they seem to have several) Top Sales, Nation’s Top Sales or National Top Sales have made the news. Click here for article
A customer wrote them a check, but felt uneasy, so he went to the Better Business Bureau website where he found there had been over 200 complaints processed over the past three years. This, in addition to a few other variables, has earned the company an “F” rating. The company has about a dozen outstanding, unresolved complaints.
This brings me to a point I think is important. I can’t say whether Top Sales is for sure scamming families and individuals into buying subscriptions that may or may not be delivered. But I can say there is no reason to have any unresolved complaints. Just like getting a “F” in school, you have to work at it… or not work at it. I’m not sure which is the case here – maybe a little of both.
I’ve had a few consumers ask me about the Southwestern Company complaint history with the BBB. As of March 1, 2011, Southwester Company has had 48 complaints lodged against our company. We have a rating of A+ on a scale from A+ to F. While 48 may seem like a lot, the BBB of Middle Tennessee looks at several things including: the merit of the complaint, the overall ratio of complaints to consumer interactions (for Southwestern this is millions per year), and how the company works to resolves complaints. This is actually a very, very small percentage for a company that has the kind of reach we do. Click here for Southwestern Company BBB Report
While our goal is to have no complaints at all, it is becoming increasingly unrealistic in today’s market. The bottom line is you have to conduct business ethically and do the right thing. If you are doing the right thing – everything else starts to fall into place.
As for the magazine sales crews refereed to by BBB’s across the US as a risky proposition for a homeowning consumer? READ THE PART IN BOLD ABOVE A LITTLE CLOSER. Thank you for visiting this Southwestern Company Blog Site.
Backpeddling – v. to change your view or back your way out of your original position knowing you were incorrect or assumptive when it comes to door-to-door peddlers or solicitors. (I made this word up and lay claim to it! Instead of backpedaling, peddling as in sales peddlers… get it? Yeah!)
Renton, Washington police, recently jumped the gun (pun intended) by prematurely releasing a warning to local residents about door-to-door scammers saying they represent Comcast.
The problem? The people they were talking about REALLY did represent Comcast.
The other problem? While the people representing Comcast were legit, the information they were telling consumers was not. Therefore, they no longer represent Comcast.
So it seems the gun may not have been jumped, but a series of miscommunications had taken place. This is partially familiar to me, as police, school and town officials have been quick to accuse student dealers in Southwestern Company products as a scam when, in fact, they are very legitimate. They have even had the necessary solicitation permit and checked in with the police. Talk about the left foot not knowing what the right foot is doing!
This “backpeddling” is usually not good for the individual peddler, as a wrong is often not corrected by a right – if at all. If I called you ugly, then said I didn’t mean it – it’s too late, the damage is done. It’s the same situation for the person who was initially wronged by assumptive allegations that become widely communicated.
Anyways… in the case of Renton, it worked out, as the people who were misrepresenting Comcast were terminated and it looks like the lines of communication will be better in the future. That’s good for the community, the police and Comcast. More importantly, it’s good for legitimate door-to-door sellers.
Click link for article at www.komonews.com:
‘Imposter’ cable guy not a scam says Comcast
In my 12 years in the direct selling industry (all with Southwestern Company), I have been fortunate to be able to work with many lawmakers along the way. Some have been at odds with the industry, where others have worked to protect those who choose to participate in the unique business model. No matter what some thinks about it, there is always the opportunity to educate them about all of the wonderful things associated with direct selling..
The first thing that stands out to me is the people – those who make up the independent sales forces of hundreds of direct selling companies across the nation. They typically get into direct selling to run a business for the financial benefits, even if it is often for a secondary source of income.
If the direct selling model incorporates door-to-door, those people, from college students to empty-nesters, are responsible for following local laws regarding solicitation (if any are on the books).
In North Carolina, the Orange County Board of Commissioners recently came to unanimous decision regarding door-to-door solicitation in residential areas. They decided to NOT create an ordinance requiring permits for door-to-door sales activities. The reasons cited as to why by County Attorney John Roberts include:
(1) Reasons of constitutionality on the basis of not including all nonprofits
(2) Reasons of constitutionality by excluding certain commercial sales such as agricultural, perhaps creating loopholes for exploitation
(3) Such a law would probably not be enforceable (as written)
Criminals do not annouce themselves first.
One of the solution they provided any concerned citizens was to put up a “No Soliciting” or “No Trespassing” sign on the property. County Manager Frank Clifton said, “People who are up to criminal activity are not going to get a permit for criminal activity.” This is a statement I have made to countless lawmakers when they, through good intentions, try to pass regulations which make running a business more burdensome for the well-intentioned and law-abiding citizen. It makes very good sense. When have you ever seen a criminal follow the rules? They are not going to provide all of their personal information and get a background check prior to participating in illegal activity. They operate under stealth and just do it.
The overall thought in this community and with the Commissioners was that “collaboration between neighbors and law-enforcement officials was a better way to handle neighborhood security.”
The same holds true with traveling sales crews. Communities want to put laws in place to regulate them… but if they are not going to follow laws in the first place…? What are your thoughts?
Source: The Carrboro Citizen
“County decides against sales ordinances”
By Susan Dickson, Feb. 3, 2011