The Quincy City Council should crack down on door-to-door solicitors

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If solicitors can't offer proof of employment, a license and an identification, then you should send them packing. | Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

We all love solicitors, right?

Unexpected door-to-door salesmen who are schlepping their goods or trying to sell you their religion?

I’m sure many of them are legitimately trying to do their work (or God’s work), but how do you know?

Girl Scouts selling cookies? Athletes selling Shakespeare’s Pizzas? Boy Scouts (Er … Scouts, now I guess?) selling popcorn. Those are all fine and dandy.

Some random guy says my roof needs replacing and says he has a deal for me? I would rather talk to my insurance guy after the hail hits, not somebody who shows up at my door.

My neighbor and friend, Don O’Brien, is the regional director for the Better Business Bureau in Quincy. He thinks the City of Quincy needs to tighten its policy and recently wrote this to the City Council:

“I have been with BBB since 2017 and also work as an investigator for the entire St. Louis BBB region. I hear from consumers every day in both roles. Through my work as the regional director for Quincy BBB, I hear from consumers from Quincy and the surrounding area.

Lately, I’ve received a number of inquiries from Quincy residents about door-to-door solicitors. While my recent inquiries are mainly about solar companies, we also see people who try to sell services like tree trimming, roof replacement and asphalt paving.

As you know, we have a healthy senior population in Quincy that is subject to these solicitors, some of whom go through the steps of gaining a permit through the city and others who do not. I’m not here to paint all solicitors with the same brush, but there are certainly bad actors who walk our streets.

I’m sharing with you a story out of Galesburg, written by WGIL radio. It details how that town, which is a tad smaller than Quincy, is now issuing photo IDs to solicitors. Here is the storyhttps://www.wgil.com/2024/05/07/city-council-approves-photo-i-d-s-for-door-to-door-solicitors/

I’m hopeful that this is something the Quincy City Council will consider to help keep our residents safe and bring more transparency to those who solicit business door-to-door in town.

I recently took a call from a Quincy resident who lives on the north side. He was a senior who said he signed something with a solar company, but was given no copy of what he signed and only had the first name and a phone number for the person who got him to sign something on the solicitor’s tablet. I worked with that man to make sure he utilized the FTC’s Cooling Off rule to cancel the contract.

That same day I was walking my dog in my neighborhood near South 30th and Woodside Drive when I was approached by a solar solicitor. The woman could not produce her solicitor’s permit when I asked her for it even though “she just got it” from city hall. She was not wearing any company ID on her. After I quizzed her, she hopped into a private vehicle that had two men it in. The vehicle had Utah plates. I reported my interaction to Quincy police.

I have done what I can through my various media spots in town to let people know their rights when it comes to soliciting. I ask you as a City Council member to consider what you can do to help keep Quincyans safe from the bad actors in this industry.”

Guess how many aldermen responded to Don’s letter?

One. And that was a drive-by “thanks” from Mike Farha (R-4th Ward).

City Clerk Laura Oakman explained the differences between a peddler and a solicitor.

“There is a difference between peddler and solicitor,” she said. “A peddler is when someone comes to a house (uninvited) or sells as a vendor and has a physical item, and money is exchanged for that item. A solicitor is when they come to a residence (uninvited) and solicits a product or a service and no money is exchanged at that time.  Both require a license. 

“An Adams County Health Department number is required if they are selling consumables. Farm products are exempt.  An Illinois Sale Tax number is required for both licenses.  A photo ID is required for a local background check by the Quincy Police Department. The fee is $25 and is good until Dec. 31.   Each person should have a Quincy license to conduct business in the city limits.”

The next time someone shows up at your door, ask for their credentials.

Then you can shut the door in their face.

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