Peddlers: Just say 'No thanks' and close the door 2012.10.24

Written by David Green.

The Schwann's food man. Mormon missionaries. Asphalt pavers. Storm window sales people. Political candidates. School kids selling food and wrapping paper. The neighbor boys carrying rakes or snow shovels.

During the course of a year, a variety of peddlers will come knocking on your door offering their goods, services or beliefs. It's the American way, where people are allowed to pitch their wares.

Some of them will be considered annoying, a few will be viewed as troublesome and some might even have a criminal intent, hoping they don't get caught in the act.

Morenci city council members tried to address the shadier element and soon learned that, in the United States, you can't pick and choose who is to be allowed on your doorstep. It's unconstitutional to allow fund-raising students and keep away the TruGreen man. 

A second attempt at regulating peddlers would have required registration at city hall, but the measure gained the support of only three council members. As one councilor pointed out, any seller with illegal intentions isn't likely to sign up at city hall, and besides, the registration process would still suggest an endorsement by the city—the very thing council members were trying to avoid from the old ordinance.

The ordinance that was finally accepted on a 4-3 vote outlaws aggressive panhandling and any solicitation where a sign indicates that property owners “do not wish to have their privacy disturbed.”

If a resident experiences possible legal problems with a peddler, the police are there to help, but don't expect law enforcement to check out the legitimacy of every salesman's offer. That's not the role of the police department.

The simplest way to handle peddlers without adding more "big government" to the solution is to approach their visit the same as you handle an unwanted telephone call. Refuse their offer—politely, if possible—and close the door. Take the peddling version of the do-not-call list by posting a small "no solicitors" sign on your door. Or take the approach that many people do when they see religious peddlers on their porch—don't answer the door. They'll soon go away.

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