However, traditional door-to-door selling is still around and consumers need to be cautious about it because of the salespeople's transitory nature,
"With door-to-door salespeople, you see them once and they are gone. That's not a model for building trust and a good reputation in a community," explained Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.
"The door-to-door method of selling often fosters a hit-and-run attitude with sales tactics that stress immediate decisions," he said. "There are door-to-door salespeople who are honest and provide reliable product or services, but their high-pressure sales tactics cause suspicion."
The national BBB office has received almost double the number of complaints this year, compared to last year. In the Chicago and northern Illinois region, BBB complaints are up only a minor degree.
"We believe a major part of the reason for the lack of increase on door-to-door selling complaints in the Chicago area is the huge increase in inquiries to the BBB about companies selling door-to-door," Bernas stated. "Our inquiries are up over 300 percent from last year. This is very significant.
Bernas explained that the greater number of inquiries shows that buyers are becoming more cautious and are checking out companies before making a purchase.
"Checking out a business before making a purchase protects consumers, and is exactly what the BBB has been advocating for years," Bernas said. "Consumers can do this by going to bbb.org."
The BBB offers these tips for dealing with high-pressure door-to-door salespeople:
Magazine subscriptions. Door-to-door magazine sales account for a major portion of the complaints in this category. The most common complaint involves consumers paying for magazines they never receive. Several consumers allege the sales representative misled them by claiming to work for a local school or charity fundraiser.
Contractors. Oftentimes people selling these services come into an area that has been hit by a storm or other natural disaster. Area residents who are often stunned at the damage, want to quickly fix the damage and return to their previous way of life are most vulnerable to door-to-door sales tactics. Homeowners should check with their insurance companies and the BBB about any companies offering services.
Know your rights. Illinois law provides consumers with a three-day right to cancel door-to-door sales over $25 that are made in their home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business. By law, the company must give customers a refund within 10 days of receiving the cancellation notice.
Never pay with cash. When paying by check or credit card you have at least some way to protect your money --such as canceling the check or reporting it as fraud to your credit card company. If you pay with cash and are dissatisfied, you're at the mercy of the salesperson.
Verify the individual and the company. If you are interested in buying from a door-to-door seller, get everything in writing including price, warranty and all conditions. Tell the salesperson you will check it out and get back to them. Ask for a business card and contact information. Look the company up yourself and check to verify this person is an employee. Also, take the time to check out the company's BBB Business Review at www.bbb.org.
For more advice on saving money, visit www.bbb.org