Richard Hyatt: When to ignore the knock at the door

He was close and getting closer and if I could have slammed the door on his nose I would have.

He rang our doorbell around dinnertime, as you might expect. When I peeped through the blinds I saw his smiling face and some kind of ID badge dangling from a lanyard around his neck.

Why I opened the door at all I’m not sure but I did and the young man was poised and ready. He talked about the sign in our yard and made a comment about our home security system.

It was a spiel I had heard before so I interrupted him — or tried to interrupt at least. I said we were happy with our company and weren’t interested in making a change.

He was well trained. When I started talking he started talking, keeping a big smile on his face as slowly moved toward the door.

I had a 3-year-old in my arms or I would have moved faster. He was still saying something when I shut and locked the door.

Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s college students trying to make a few summertime bucks by hiring out as door-to-door jerks. Whatever the reason, we’ve had an unusual number of people ringing our bell with something to sell — from alarm systems to water purifiers to T-bones and rib-eyes.

There is a pattern to their fast-talking scams. They wear official looking badges. They’re neatly dressed and clean-cut. They’ve rehearsed their pitch so they don’t read from prepared scripts And of course, they’re there to help you — not sell you something.

Appealing to our basic fears, selling safety is a popular ploy. Security companies are calling customers and warning them that unscrupulous people may be in their neighborhoods. Such advice is all over the Internet, indicating that this is not just a local issue.

Leonard Crane of the Better Business Bureau calls such people “door-knockers” and says they often blitz selected neighborhoods.

“They use high pressure tactics to get in your door. They tell you they want to check out your security system but they really want to sell you something,” Crane warns.

Such salespeople aren’t usually local, he says, and “they could care less if they mess you over.”

As you might expect, senior citizens are among their favorite targets. That’s why the BBA urges people not to let them inside their homes. If they do get inside, residents are urged to do their homework before signing anything.

Homework includes a check with the local BBA (706-324-0712) or the local police department. Door-to-door solicitors are required to register with authorities so the police should have such a person or company on file. If a contract is signed, a person has three days in which to cancel.Better yet, just don’t answer the door.