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Solicitor selling childrens books

Original post made by Craig, Palo Verde, on Jun 27, 2007

At about 9:30am, a young man (20's-ish) rang my doorbell pitching something about children's books. He wanted me to "sit down" and look at the various materials, then wanted to know which families on the block had kids from kindergarten to high-school. He also was dropping names of other families in the area, but I didn't recognize any of the names. To be honest though, I certainly don't know all of the people on my street. He had dark hair, glasses and was wearing a polo shirt. Anyone else seen this guy? Think its legit? He pulled out a glossy pamphlet showing pictures of some reasonable-looking books for learning to read, but I'm just suspicious of all solicitors. This is near Palo Verde school.

Comments (20)

Posted by A.J.
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 27, 2007 at 9:59 am

That is a common tactic of solicitors, to pretend they are from the area, that they grew up in the neighborhood, that they know your neighbors or that they are doing business with your neighbors. I have on occasion had a little fun questioning them further on these claims -- one young man told me a lovely story about how he grew up around the corner. When I pushed him to be exact, he pointed toward "Atascadero" (he meant Arastradero), and from there his hands started waving more and more.

One thing to be very careful of is never to drop an actual name of a neighbor, they will use this information instead of making up names.

Who knows how old this tactic is -- I first realized solicitors were using this tactic maybe fifteen years ago, when I lived in a very close-knit neighborhood where I knew my neighbors in every house as far as you could see in any direction. When the solicitor started dropping names, I had my fun pinning him down (it's amazing how people who know they are lying squirm and try to keep it up even when it's obvious to both people that they are lying). But I was careful not to drop any actual names myself.

Just for yucks, it might be funny to drop some of those names Bart Simpson calls in to Moe's as if those are your neighbors' names. If you pick some obscure ones, the names might get repeated... On a more serious note, you could always agree with your neighbors to use a name that warns everyone that this is not a legitimate solicitor, and drop that name.

It's always good to know the neighbors, for so many reasons!

Posted by Craig
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:12 am

I think you're probably right - maybe "Max Payne" is a good name. I think he was probably just out to make a buck, but I certainly don't care for the way he was doing it.

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:18 am

Sounds like the same guy who was in our neighborhood last week. His name is Alex Butler and he is passing himself off as a college student and this selling thing is his college thesis project (his words). He seemed very slick and not at all aware that not everybody appreciates his unwelcome wasting of your time. His selling tactics were embarrassingly sophomoric and his sense of humor was non-existent.

Posted by natasha
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 27, 2007 at 10:35 am

Oh, yeah -- this weekend he came and talked to my husband, who said he wanted to talk to me about it before buying anything, and then came back yesterday and asked to set up a time to talk to me because me husband had allegedly wanted me to talk to him. I set an appointment on Thursday, planning to put a note on the door telling him we are not interested and don't want to talk to him and also put up a "No Solicitors" sign. My husband was under the impression the guy was selling some sort of encyclopedia for children. Whatever he's selling I don't need. If my kids want to research something, Mitchell Park Library is a few blocks away and the computer is right in our house. I really hate when people won't leave you alone. It's bad enough on the phone, but invading my house feels unacceptably intrusive.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 27, 2007 at 12:31 pm

When I get the sales people at my door, I simply say That I only buy stuff from the neighborhood kids who go to schools near by. It has always worked for me.

Posted by k
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 27, 2007 at 4:47 pm

I highly recommend placing a "no solicitors" sign by your front door.

Posted by Carol
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 27, 2007 at 4:55 pm

I had the same scenario, but the seller seemed different. I did know some of the names he mentioned. The stuff seemed great and I would like it, but I don't buy like this and he wouldn't give me business card or anything. I am suspicious, but I would still like the stuff.
I didn't buy, but would like to be able to find the publisher to look at it again and maybe buy from somewhere else.

Posted by Neighborhood Watch
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2007 at 7:07 am

To the resident of Duvenek/St. Francis. I've had a "no solicitation" sign at my front door for years; solicitors simply ignore such signs.

All solicitors who come to your front door must have applied to the City for a solicitor's permit. First thing, always ask to see their permit. If they don't have one, or show you a fake one, close the door. Even neighborhood girls selling girl scout cookies get a permits. If someone won't leave you alone just close the door. NEVER LET SOLICITORS INSIDE YOUR HOUSE.

This is a classic way for someone casing your home to see if anyone is home.

Posted by Concerned Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2007 at 7:33 am

A solicitor must have a license from the City, ask to see their license. You can buy any books you want from a store or the internet. Call the City's non-emergency number: 329-2413 if you have any concerns about door to door salespersons.

Posted by Lynn
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2007 at 2:48 pm

"Alex" came to our house THREE times last week. Each time, he was told in no uncertain terms that we weren't interested, but he kept coming back. Our experience was very similar to what others have described. If he comes again, I'll call the City's non-emergency number to report him (thank you for the idea, Concerned Neighbor). FYI - My son noticed that "Alex" was driving a gray car with a Wisconsin license plate. We've noticed his car parked in various locations in South Palo Alto.

Posted by Be careful
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 29, 2007 at 2:35 pm

You should never buy anything from a door-to-door solicitor. You don't know who they are. Many of these "solicitors" who claim to know your neighbors are actually from out of state. They are flown/bused into the area by unscrupulous "companies." Many of them have criminal records. Solicitors have been arrested by local police agencies for arrest warrants, sex crimes, and being sex registrants. Nothing that any of these people are selling cannot be located locally or online, so there is no need to risk being victimized by these people. Remember, once they have your name, check or credit card number you are just a sitting target to become a victim of identity theft.

The previous poster was correct. All solicitors need to have a license issued by the police department. If they don't, call the police department immediately.

Posted by worried
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 3:16 pm

This guy was haunting our neighborhood a few weeks ago. He was so odd, I almost called the police. Has anyone seen his permit? What does a legitimate permit look like anyway?

Posted by Colleen Hall
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Alex visited my house too and dropped neighbors' names. He was driving a silver VW with Wisconsin plates. He seemed suspicious and I talked with my neighbor about him later in the day. I decided to call the police. They said that since several hours had passed there wasn't much they could do, but to alert my friends and neighbors. They said to call when he is in your neighborhood and they would send someone to talk with him. So if you see Alex again in your neighborhood don't hesitate to call the non-emergency number:329-2406.

Posted by julie
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2007 at 6:51 am

I live in st louis and this just happened to me last night! the guy was really acting strange and tried to sell me 500.00 worth of books. He mentioned all my neighbors and had their names right but I still didn't believe him. His friend was just laying on my sidewalk doing nothing. it was really weird.

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 1, 2007 at 8:42 am

Has anyone who ordered anything from this guy received their products? I ordered some educational software from him at appx. 06/19 and have not received a thing. If I don't hear that someone locally who has received their orders, I will have to dispute this on my Visa.

Posted by neighborhood watch
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 12:42 am

Remember, if you had called the police when your gut told you that something about "Alex"'s spiel just wasn't right, you might have prevented your neighbor from being ripped off or worse.

Instead of agonizing when someone without a permit rings your doorbell, pick up the phone and call the police dispatch center (329-2413) right away. Someone will be sent out to check nearby streets. If you can give a good description, it could lead to police contact and possibly this particular scam artist will feel uncomfortable and leave.

If you do nothing, your elderly neighbor who lives alone will be at risk, or the kids home alone might be taken advantage of. Get more tips at National Night Out next Tuesday:

Web Link

Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2007 at 10:25 am

For the record: I received a postcard from his company in the first week of August advising of pending delivery and he delivered the order sometime last weekend.

Posted by Lisa...
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 13, 2007 at 4:11 pm

I do not live in the area, but I will say this: There are bad seeds everywhere- Police Department,Hospitals,Law Offices,Shopping Malls,Fast Food Restuants..But this does not stop you from using the sevices...Remember in order to recieve a Blessing you sometimes have to be..if you aways have your hand out looking for your blessing and the recieving hand Closed..Then you Stop the Blessings and Chances and Opportunity for other to Succeed...To reach thier goals and be Successful just as you are..God spend only son down to die on the Cross for all of us..Not just some of us...So what gives you the right or authoriy to choose who should have a chance or not..God is Good "All the Time"..."And All the Time" God is Good. To the city of Palo-Ato may you all have a Blessed Future and Pleasant Days to come..Love Lisa M....

Posted by Lhaley
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2008 at 3:21 pm

That is really scary! I live in northwest Illinois and recently we have had the same "solicitor" come through our neighborhood and went through other neighboring communities in WI and IA. He had a white car with CO plates and was in his 20s. He was selling childrens books and got into several peoples homes. He had the story that he was doing this for some internship. The very weird thing about this salesman was that almost every house we went into, he asked to use the bathroom. Some people even let him! He also asked who else had kids in the neighborhood. He never had any sort of business card and carried an expired school ID. These people need to be checked out!!!

Posted by me
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 15, 2008 at 8:08 am

I have to agree with all those that posted the simple solution, and that is call the non-emergency police number. I've called them before on some solicitors and they ended up running the guys plates only to find that he had a warrant out for his arrest. He was escorted out of the neighborhood in the back of the squad car.

Bottom line, call the non-emergency #.

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