Rely on your instincts: Door-to-door salesman’s questions raise suspicions

July 27, 2012
Santa Paula News

A couple of door-to-door salesmen in an Oaks neighborhood alarmed at least one resident, who reported the pair to police after he believed they were asking inappropriate questions.

Mike Gray said he was suspicious due the fact that a friend in Ojai had a similar experience when salesmen came to their door - and then the home was burglarized, which led the victim to believe the sales call might be connected.

“They said they were trying to sell kids’ books,” and Gray said the men “didn’t really want to talk about the product,” but rather started asking who occupied the home, the family’s schedule and what cars they drove so the men could see when they were home to later bring a sample book by for inspection. Gray said one man acted as the salesman, while the other waited on the sidewalk. 

“He never showed me a sample, which was odd, and he had the all the teachers’ names - even a few coaches - in town. The man said it was a great kids’ book program, asked how many people lived in the house, asked if I knew the teachers he named.”

Gray, an active volunteer community responder, asked if they had identification and licenses required by the city. “No one is supposed to go door-to-door without a special license, and although they had identification badges around their neck, they weren’t issued by Santa Paula.”  

They also did not have “anything to hand a person” such as a business card, or even a sample of the books or even literature on the program. But they did have plenty of questions that Gray said he considered too personal, which could have provided information the men should not have required.

The two, both estimated by Gray to be in their early 20s, were wearing blue polo shirts, one had dark hair and the other was blonde. Both had Eastern European sounding accents.

Gray said while he was talking to the “very nice and polite” man at the front door, the second man “was pacing around on the sidewalk, looking at everything,” and at one point disappeared. That made Gray even edgier, as sometimes thieves will distract people at the front door while a partner enters through the back for some quick burglary. 

Gray said as he spoke to the man and observed his partner, “I got that hair rising on the back of my neck feeling” of deeper suspicion. When the pair left Gray contacted Santa Paula Police, who dispatched officers out who made contact with the men.

Gray noted, “There wasn’t a lot the police could do,” other than tell the men of the city’s door-to-door license requirements and that people in the neighborhood questioned their presence, and all the personal questions. 

“Their questions were just wrong, maybe their product was legitimate, maybe they were a couple of bad apples in the group” that strayed from accepted sales policy with “just really odd questions to be asking people.... The SPPD did everything they could possibly do,” but, noted Gray, a member of the Oaks Neighborhood Watch, “It just goes to show that if you don’t report something, nothing can be done about it!” And that includes letting people know you are watching out for your family and neighborhood.

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