Westporter: Door-To-Door Solicitation Is “Insane”

The other day, alert — and irate — “06880” reader Trish Lawrence wrote:

It’s spring — and the door-to-door solicitors are back.

At 8:30 last night, my door bell rang. I let the young woman know I wasn’t interested in buying anything. But I had to hear her whole spiel.

She claimed that because I didn’t have a sign up, she had the right to knock on my door from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The police concurred that when a permit is given to a group, those are the hours. I called Town Hall, and was told that Westporters voted yes to this solicitation law several years ago.

Door to door

Last summer, a fellow wanted to use my phone because he was afraid the van had left without him.

I told another very pushy — no, downright surly — young woman that I was going to call the police if she didn’t leave. Her retort? “No cop is gonna tell me I can’t do my job.”

Several years ago I did donate some money to a young man. He had kicked drugs and, being a felon, found it nearly impossible to land a job. So he was trying the door-to-door thing.

I know these people need help, but I don’t think going door to door is the answer.

The police say the answer is a sign. In my neighborhood, tons of little kids stop by to pet our dogs and cats. Now I have to be the nasty old lady who puts up a “No Trespassing” sign? That’s not me.

No soliciting

Perhaps folks who voted yes live in houses with gates and security cameras. I grew up here, and I can’t imagine anyone voting for this.

My husband was home last night. If he was away on business, I would not have felt safe.

The next day, Trish followed up:

I just booted another guy off my stoop — and this time my husband is away.

The police said there is nothing they can do, and admitted they don’t have the time to vet all the people who supply for solicitation licenses.

Do people realize that once a permit is given, groups fill their vans with a dozen people and drop them off in neighborhoods like mine, where homes are close together?

It’s insane.

Yesterday, Trish wrote again:

I did some homework. Door-to-door solicitation falls under the 1st Amendment. Grievances similar to mine have reached the Supreme Court. The 1st Amendment wins every time.

1st amendment

Westport changed the hours of solicitation in April to 9 a.m to 6 p.m. The police department is not aware of this, and Town Hall told me that they can only suggest these hours.

The only answer is to put up a sign. If the solicitor chooses to dismiss it you have to ask for their permit, and take down the info to show the police. I’ll put the sign up, but no way am I going to confront these people for permit info.

30 responses to “Westporter: Door-To-Door Solicitation Is “Insane”

  1. Susan Granger

    Where can I buy a sign like this?

  2. Never, never, never open your door to a stranger.

  3. Mary Palmieri Gai

    The Real reason Jehovah Wintnesses don’t celebrate Halloween….they don’t like people knocking at their doors.

  4. I also had a few unpleasant experiences with strangers surprising me in MY yard and at my door. What about trespassing laws on private property? It seems insane and dangerous having strangers within the law of invading your “property”. We, unfortunately, are forced to live with my alarm system on.

  5. Marcy Anson Fralick -- Staples Class of 1970

    Our voters here in Oro Valley, AZ banned door-to-door solicitations several years ago when the residents of a massive Del Webb Community (55+ age restricted, non-gated community of 7500 homes) were getting magazine sales people, religious people, and many others who made them feel their safety was at stake. Since “snowbirds” and retirees make up about 1/3 of our population, young families 1/3, City Council listened. Putting people at risk was an absolute deal breaker. The issue went to the ballot and voters banned all door-to-door solicitations.

    Girl Scouts now sell cookies and Boy Scouts sell popcorn, etc., in front of grocery stores on weekends or in front of Target, Kohl’s, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, movie cineplexes, and other public places since they can’t go door-to-door anymore. The solicitors file applications to sell with the city, and most legitimate organizations are given permission to sell their goods to the public, as long as the business or shopping center owners approve as well. Most places in AZ have had voters ban, or are in the process of getting issues on the next ballot to ban street corner panhandlers, the ones with signs saying “Homeless Vet — need to eat”, etc.

    Is there some way Westporters can go to City Council hearings and bring up the issue of door-to-door solicitations in front of the mayor and city council members? If there is a large enough contingent of concerned citizens, could they try to get the needed signatures to get the issue on Westport’s November ballot? If the main reason for the initiative is to protect citizen’s personal safety, it might be the impetus to get a measure approved. That worked for many cities in Arizona.

  6. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Stranger Danger!

    • Leigh Ann Sawyer

      “Stranger Danger”:
      Is a Very Outdated and Widely Criticized Concept Taught to CHILDREN before the invention of Cell Phones!

      While “Don’t talk to strangers” means well, it’s not a realistic message. Statistics show that children are more likely to be kidnapped or assaulted by someone they know than by a scary man who drives by in a white van. Granted it happens but not as often. Besides that, sometimes a parent is not available, and a child may need help from a stranger. It’s better to teach your children to be smart with strangers rather than forbidding them from ever talking to one!


      “Stranger danger” — the phrase is so pervasive in our culture it has become part of the lexicon. The media and other professionals often use this phrase as a slogan to try to educate children about how to avoid dangerous situations and individuals. When well-intentioned professionals and parents/guardians use the phrase “stranger danger” it may mistakenly convey only strangers harm children. The message of “never talk to strangers” does not fully educate children about how to stay safer.

      What does “stranger danger” really mean, and do children benefit from an outdated and misleading message? Here’s what we have learned about the “stranger-danger” concept.
      ■ Children don’t get it
      ■ Adults don’t practice it
      ■ Children need to know how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations ■ Adults need to know risks to children are greater from someone they know


      Constantly warning children of possible danger in the form of strangers has also been criticised as exaggerating the potential threat and unnecessarily spreading mistrust, especially when considering that (for example) in the US, about 800,000 children are reported at least temporarily missing every year, yet only 115 “become victims of what is viewed as classic stranger abductions”.

      Only 10 percent of the child victimizers in violent crimes are strangers, and sex offenses are the crimes least likely to involve strangers as perpetrators.


      More pertinent and suitable present-day two words of advice that I’d give are today would be “Online Predator”.

      Though back to the topic, if you don’t want to be bothered by solicitors, who by the way are just trying to make a living and most are not as fortunate as the majority of Westporters, THEN JUST DON’T ANSWER THE DOOR! Otherwise, simply speak your mind and just say “I’m not interested”, and walk away. Why you are making such a big fuss about this is beyond me. Are you too superior to give a few minutes of your time to talk to someone less fortunate then yourself? If you don’t want to hear what they have to say, then politely say just that. It’s that simple folks. And, Nancy, when was the last time a Coleytown band member or Staples soccer player knocked on your door, really?

      “Cuba them!” REALLY Ms.Wilson?

      There really should be more “Ms. Daniels” in this world. You are not “LUCKY” you are a good person with a good heart and I’m sure you not only made a positive impact on her, but she made one on you as well.

      Why have we become so cynical?

      Not to mention, we all ALSO get the donation letters in the mailbox and the phone calls for donations for the Westport Police Department, right, though no one is complaining about that!

      One last thing, in order to obtain a door-to-door vendors permit one must have a drivers’s license and in the state of Connecticut, you must be 18+ to get an adult driver’s license so, whatever “kids” you are referring to, find out who they are working for and report their employer.

  7. Wendy Crowther

    Every year, this group of magazine sellers come to my neighborhood. I don’t open my door to anyone who knocks unless I know them. However, I’m often outside and therefore I can’t avoid this group. One walked into my backyard where I was dozing in a lawn chair and awakened me. This past week, it was a warm evening (8:00 p.m.) and my front door was open but the screen door was locked. The solicitor yelled into my house loudly “Hello? Hello? Hello?” I thought that it must be one of my neighbors so I went toward the front door. Once seen by the solicitor, I was in for it.

    My first encounter years ago talked me into the magazine. I never got it. In my second encounter, I told the solicitor that I’d been burned and that I feared that she wouldn’t get what she expected either. She insisted it was a legit company so I asked for the company’s name. While she waited, I went into the house and Googled it. No such company. She stormed off – she was not one of the polite ones.

    This week’s solicitor wouldn’t take no for an answer, despite my explanations of past bad experiences. She then said that my refusal to buy (or donate) had nothing to do with her program or company, but that it had to do with HER – she was essentially calling me a racist.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth. I was respectful and I’d engaged with her for quite a long time. Eventually, she also stormed off and told me that I should feel lucky that I live in a house like mine (btw, my house is one of the smallest in Westport).

    Most of the solicitors from this company have been relentless but polite. They’ve left wishing me a good day. They are trained not to take “no” for an answer, and they will try to guilt you into donating. For example, this week’s solicitor held up a photo of her child.

    I think that most people would say they don’t open their doors anymore. But its hard to fight the tactics described above. I think Westport should end door-to-door solicitors in general.

  8. Peter Blau

    I suspect this not a problem faced by most Westporters. The irate reader probably lives by the beach, where lots are small and front doors are close to the road. Certainly there is a privacy trade-off in choosing to live in such a location. Insofar as ordinances, only the law-abiding will pay heed to them, so what protection does that offer? Instead, a simple video intercom would enable the homeowner to screen visitors and tell the unwanted ones to go away.

  9. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Good heavens! Either don’t answer the door or tell the magazine seller that you don’t know how to read. Likewise tell the JW “visitor” that you’re a Buddhist (and, if in the right mood, and with plenty of time on your hands, ask the JW what he/she thinks of Buddhism…) Or, if truly desperate, pull out your hand gun/shot gun… doesn’t everybody have one?
    Whatever you decide to do always smile and say “thank you”.

    Personally, I believe it is better/safer to have more people on my street, strangers or not, than few or none.

    p.s. wasn’t this same subject posted a year ago? Deja vu all over again.

  10. The fact that I do not have the right to ask -and then expect – a stranger to leave my property is outrageous. A solicitor should not (pardon the expression) trump my right to enjoy my home and grounds in peace.

  11. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Cuba, then!

  12. Armelle Daniels

    We had the same experience, once last year and once this year.

    Last year, we did not buy any magazine as we found them too pricey, and felt so bad when the young man was stopped by the police right outside of our property. One of our (white) neighbors had called to report that there was a “suspicious” (black) man bothering the neighborhood… Three police cars came to question the poor guy trying to make a buck… It felt like such a heart-breaking cliché.

    This year, the young woman who came to our door told her life story, which was so sad and reminded us to be grateful for what we have. We ended up buying one magazine subscription. She returned later at night to try and sell us some more. We were in the middle of dinner, so when she mentioned that she had not had anything to eat since 8:30 AM, we invited her in to seat with us and have dinner. It was a great experience, quite sobering for our children to understand how lucky they are to have three or more nutritious meals a day and such a great life in Westport.

    I am not trying to be patronizing or self-promoting, but just saying that yes, sometimes door to door Reps are a little annoying, but they are working and trying to get their life back together. So, be careful, absolutely. Tell the kids to not answer those calls, of course. But remember that sometimes a little annoyance for us the lucky ones, can actually make a positive impact on someone who was delt very different cards…

  13. I suggest that if someone comes to your front door to solicit, do not talk to them or say NO and only NO. Do not engage in any conversation. They work on a ####s basis and will generally move on if you are not a likely candidate/mark. My front door has glass on the upper half; if I look out and see solicitors, I shake my head “no” and move away from the door.

    Modify this if you are outside, but, again, DO NOT ENGAGE IN ANY CONVERSATION.

    BTW, is anyone else getting weekly calls from “Microsoft; there’s something wrong with your computer…..” Here, I generally scream “STOP CALLING ME” and hang up. (Ok, sometimes I add an explitive…)(Ok, usually).

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson

      We, too, get the “Microsoft” phone scams. It sounds like a boiler room in the background, so mention that sound and that you’re not gullible.

    • Bobbie Herman

      My brand-new laptop was hacked with the Microsoft scam. The computer techie couldn’t get rid of it, so I ditched it and got a MAC Air. I’m not that happy with the MAC, but so far I haven’t had any problems. As far as door-to-door solicitations go, I just don’t answer the door if I’m not expecting anyone. And I don’t pick up the phone if the caller ID says “Private Caller” or “Unidentified”

    • Nancy Hunter Wilson
  14. P.S. Ms. Daniels, you are obviously a very nice person, but more than that, YOU ARE VERY LUCKY. VERY LUCK.

  15. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Final thought: Imagine if the Staples soccer team or the Coleytown band, etc. knocked on your door to raise money for a trip, or a cause?
    But EVERYONE in town has a sign “No Soliciting!” “No Entry!”… “No White!”, “No Black!”, “No Nothing!”

    Then again, that scenario is moot.

  16. Nina Streitfeld

    PD is right! Never open the door to strangers. Our world now includes a variety of scammers and worse, and as Woody Allen once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”
    Nina Streitfeld

  17. Kathryn Sirico

    It is “insane” that our town leaders and police give strangers permission to impose upon my family on our property/home all day and early evening. When I get home after working with the public all day, I absolutely do not want to be taken off guard to listen to a sales pitch. In todays world I am also not comfortable with total strangers in my domain. It is called privacy which is warranted and earned. Turn it around….picture yourself knocking on someone’s door or catching them off guard anywhere on their property and demanding their attention. We would be arrested in a minute.

  18. Arline Gertzoff

    There is a very simple solution.I look out my upstairs window and do not answer the door unless it is someone I know or am expecting.Also if you have an outer screen or storm door keep it locked. Signs bring unwanted attention.

  19. Wendy Powers

    First off – I am amazed, no, stunned, that Westport voted in and approved door-to-door salespeople intruding on the privacy of the people who live there especially between the hours of 8pm – 9pm! Did anyone actually show up to vote that day? Or was that the day no one bothered to show up because it was not really important and their vote did not matter anyway?

    I have had many adults, kids, black and white individuals show up at my door trying to sell me something from candy to magazine subscriptions to have someone proselytize trying to make me a religious convert. They’d show up without notice between 11am to 9pm. The ones that really got to me were the little kids with their plastic tubs trying to make money so they could win a trip to somewhere special like Disneyland or basketball camp. Oh, I remembered ordering so many magazines over the years to help some poor kid go to college or whatever it was they were selling.

    Once the internet really enlarged out world I started doing research and found out a lot about many of these door-to-door intrusions into my privacy. The worst part is the manipulation of these innocent kids to go out no matter what the weather to sell as much as they can and get picked up at the end of the day.

    Just so I could understand the law in Westport I looked it up! For those of you who have never seen it:
    Board of Selectmen Approved April 13, 2016
     If canvassing is to occur at various times over the course of a season, the proprietor must notify both the Selectman’s Office and the Police Department (203-341-6000) of the specific streets/area of Town where solicitors will be canvassing during that particular time period.
     Door-to-door solicitors should not canvass prior to 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m., and should not canvass on private property posting NO SOLICITATION. The Selectman’s Office encourages Westport residents to contact the Westport Police Department if they feel unsafe due to canvassing activities and as such Westport Police may follow-up on these complaints regardless of the door-to-door permit(s) issued.
     Solicitors must maintain possession of the approved permit while soliciting and provide evidence of the permit if requested.
    So, this is it as the law of the land of Westport, CT in 2016. If you read it as it is written here “Door-to-door solicitors SHOULD NOT canvass PRIOR to 9-AM or AFTER 6-PM, and SHOULD NOT CANVASS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY POSTING NO SOLICITATION.”

    Sounds to me that people ought to purchasing those “No Solicitation” signs shown above or someone creative should design something tasteful, yet forceful that states ‘No Solicitation By Anyone at Anytime for Any Reason! NO Exceptions! Thank You Very Much!’

    “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

  20. Dale Nordling

    I find that just saying “I’m not interested, thank you.” is usually enough to terminate the interaction. However, I’m in the San Francisco Bay area, so my mileage may vary…

  21. Wendy Powers

    With spring comes kids showing up at your door selling magazine subscriptions. Problem is . . these kids are victims of unscrupulous companies using them to sell overpriced subscriptions to make them huge profits while earning the kids little to nothing at all.

    You will also be victimized if you subscribe to these magazines thinking you are helping these poor kids who have legitimate stories of difficult lives who believe they are working hard for a legitimate company that actually cares and wants to help them. The truth is – these parasitic companies could care less about you or these innocent kids. They only care about the huge profits they will be making off of you both.



    I know from a very personal standpoint how easy it is to feel sorry for the kids trying to sell you something either at your door, at a store or on the street. Those sweet little kids carrying the plastic containers with candy for sale really pull at your heartstrings.

    I have learned you have to be more concerned for the welfare of the child than what they are trying to sell you. If they are underage and not accompanied by an adult, but have been dropped off expected to sell the candy or whatever it is until they are picked up hours later – that is blatant child endangerment and the authorities must be called.

    If the kids are teens or young adults there is still a risk that these kids are being manipulated by unscrupulous adults – handlers – who have also dropped them off to walk house to house to sell whatever it is often without food or water for hours until they are picked up – usually after dark. If you talk to these kids you will find they come from places nowhere near where you live – sometimes as far as across the country on another coast!

    In many cases these young people have been really sold a bill of goods and really believe that these ‘handlers’ have their best interests at heart and are going to give them a chance to have a better life. In most cases that is far from true.

    Check and see what the laws state in Fairfield County specifically Westport, Weston, Fairfield and the surrounding areas. I am sure a permit needs to be purchased and proof of that permit or license needs to be shown freely if not openly on a badge or visible paperwork. Any child who not of legal age, 18 or 21, needs to be accompanied by an adult at all times. Check out child labor laws in your state. Always ask to see a legal permit to sell and If you are even in doubt just a little bit – call the authorities be they the police or child protective services.

    I always remind people that a child’s brain is not fully developed until they are about 25 years of age. The last part to develop is complex reasoning with the ability to fully understand cause and effect – what action will create what end result. As adults I think we often forget that kids do not think the way that we do.

    No matter who the salesperson is always ask to see their legal permit. I have seen all kinds of certificates, letters, forms and the like that are supposed to be legal permission to sell, but they are not. A legal permit is purchased at city hall and is obviously a legal document. But, if you still have doubts – always check it out before you even think of buying anything.

    Scams are everywhere – especially in wealthy towns like Westport, CT in Fairfield County – one of the wealthiest counties in the United States – prime territory for scammers. SO – Buyer Beware!

  22. Jack Whittle

    I would just like to point out, to those who question why Westport doesn’t just ban door to door solicitation actour Supreme Court has weighed in with some frequency in this area and, just as the main post points out, strikes down efforts by towns to ban these activities outright, as well as any effor to overly restrict them. Generally speaking, a municipality can only reasonably limit the hours of door to door activities, and require permits be obtained for activities aside from advocacy.

    If you would like to be free from door to door sales activities, your choices are (1) live in a gated community, or (2) put up a no solicitation sign (which may be heeded, or not – but you can point to and enforce that If you decide to speak with the visitor).

  23. Harris M. Falk

    Unfortunately, there is no way to ban door to door solicitations without also banning petitions for people running for office, attempting to get laws passed, looking for lost pets, etc.

  24. Luisa Francoeur

    For those individuals who do not like the solicitation phone calls whether scams or not, there are ways to block the telephone number of the caller on both an iPhone and a landline. Frontier provides our landline and if you dial *60, you can initiate call blocks for specific numbers. Maybe the “company” will use a different number but just keep blocking them !

    • Thanks, Luisa! The best way to block unwanted calls SHOULD be the Do Not Call registry. Obviously, that is an abject failure.

  25. Elisabeth Keane

    A ringing phone or a ringing doorbell are not commands to answer.