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Door-to-door

Jan 15, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Riverton residents now have some protection against unwanted exposure to door-to-door salespeople.

The newly passed ordinance probably doesn't go as far as some would have liked, but it is a reasonable and measured approach as the city takes the first step toward regulation of this type of commerce.

Rather than try to craft, implement and enforce a blanket ban on door-to-door selling, the city showed restraint. Council members and staff listened to descriptions of the issue, thought about it, weighed options of doing too much against doing too little, and decided to start slowly.

The primary problem with such an ordinance always was trying to make a fair distinction between the stranger knocking on the door trying to sell the latest gadget, and the Little League baseball player or high school band member simply wanting to raise funds locally for a worthwhile cause.

Also of concern was setting a proper priority for law enforcement when a violation of a tough ordinance took place. Could a homeowner count on a police officer to come zooming to her front door while a salesman waited patiently for the cops to arrive? Understandable concerns tied to workability also emerged.

An incremental approach usually is a good way for government at any level to impose itself on a situation. In this case, the "increment" is inviting citizens who would rather not have contact with door-to-door vendors to place a sign on their property, on a mailbox, front yard or front door, saying "City ordinance -- No sales vendors, please" or something to that effect.

By ordinance, any seller now is required to honor that request and not knock on your door.

If there is an overly persistent or unwelcome vendor who won't honor the posted request, then the ordinance allows the police to become involved. Chances are, however, that the simple notification will serve as a deterrent to most vendors. No seller worth his or her salt wants to argue with a non-customer. They have a job to do, and they would much rather get on to the next address that doesn't have the sign posted.

If you do plan to post a sign, one recommendation might be to make it semi-permanent rather than chiseled in stone or bolted to the door frame. That way, if a resident knows that a local youth or charitable organization is going door-to-door for a project or a cause that the resident supports, the sign could be taken down, covered or flipped over so that the trusted vendors could make contact with you from time to time.

If this solution doesn't prove satisfactory, then more stringent steps could follow, including larger fines for violators, a licensing fee requirement for all sellers, or even a citywide ban on door-to-door vending along the lines of the famous Green River Ordinance.

We're not there yet. Let's give this proportionate response to a relatively minor problem a chance to succeed. It sets up some protection at the municipal level, but it also leaves a fair measure of responsibility in the hands of the residents and property owners, which, as in many things, is a good place for responsibility to reside.

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Riverton City Council