West Seattle door-to-door alerts, plus a scam warning

April 26, 2011 at 10:15 pm | In Door-to-door alert, West Seattle news | 38 Comments

As the weather warms up, you’re likely to get more activity on your doorstep. First – be aware that commercial solicitors are required to have licenses/IDs, and you don’t have to be shy about asking to see them, if you choose to answer the door. Second, if you put up a “No Solicitors” sign, solicitors who ignore it are breaking the law. (City rules on “residential sales” are here.) 2 door-to-door reports from the WSB inbox, ahead, plus a phone-scam alert, received via e-mail:

From Brian tonight:

Last night around 6 pm two men went door-to-door in the 53rd Ave SW / Genesee neighborhood. They were ostensibly involved in some type of magazine subscription sales. One man would approach the door while the other stood in the street watching. The man at the door became very aggressive when one neighbor tried to politely express non-interest. Either poorly trained or just plain shady, they are definitely worth avoiding if you can!

And Kaela sent this last night:

Not sure if this is anything to be concerned about or not, but wanted to let you know. Today at about 2 pm a tall thin African American male in his early 20s wearing a blue zip-up fitted hoodie and khaki pants came to my door (on California just south of Morgan Junction) with a laminated written pitch on a clipboard about earning points for being polite or something and a wrinkled half page of signatures. I interrupted him and said I’ve seen this before and it sounds really sketchy, so I’m not interested. He said it’s not sketchy, it’s backed by the Better Business Bureau. I said no thanks, he mumbled something and left. Maybe he was casing the neighborhood?

Just checked the city maps - no burglaries reported in that area yesterday or today, so far. Speaking of the maps – more information on the city’s online resources for crime info/stats, coming up later tonight in our report on the latest West Seattle Blockwatch Captains Network meeting. Meantime, Lola shared this scam alert:

Just got an e-mail saying that cell-phone numbers on the Do Not Call Register have to be renewed and giving an 888 number tocall. According to the DNCR home page, cellphone numbers DON’T have to be renewed:

https://www.donotcall.gov

38 Comments

  1. Last week a middle aged Native American man with long hair was trying to sell poetry to fight diabetes. I am sensitive to his cause, but not to his methods. As a single woman I HATE when strangers come to the door. What do you do if they ignore your “No Soliciting” sign? Calling the police seems a bit drastic, so what are the options?
    [occured on Ida Street, off of California]

    Comment by T — 2:20 am April 27, 2011 #

  2. The basic advice is NEVER open the door.
    If they do not leave immediately..call 911 as they are in violation of the law by ignoring the No Soliciting sign.

    Comment by Ed — 6:37 am April 27, 2011 #

  3. The same man earning “points” came to our door about 2 weeks ago in the evening, and my husband had a hard time getting him to leave (34th and Findlay). Then he came back in the middle of the day last week when my mother in law was here by herself. I would say don’t answer the door, because he was quite pushy, and sketchy.

    Comment by Jo — 7:42 am April 27, 2011 #

  4. With regard to the blue zip-up hoodie incident – I am on 41st near Morgan and experienced same – called SPD non-emergency # to report and operator was very thorough in taking info (but I never did get recontacted by SPD patrol). I would note that SPD non-emergency phone select-a-choice is confusing – it took me three tries to figure out how to get operator. Do NOT select the option to talk to local SW Precinct – got no answer. SPD needs to give CLEAR instructions through neighborhood watch captains on how to use the system – bad marks for SPD in their effectiveness in communicating how to use their phone system.

    Comment by Tod Rodman — 8:02 am April 27, 2011 #

  5. And I had a young african american guy named Sean at my door late last week in North Admiral – clearly marked “no solicitors” – who pulled out a beat up laminated something… I told him no solicitors, and he went on some shpiel about soliciting in the bible meant prostitution and he had his clothes on, and so he couldn’t be soliciting (he chuckled at that – thought he was quite funny). We had a little further exchange of ridiculous reasoning, and I told him to get off my porch. I suppose I should have called the police, but …

    Comment by craig — 8:36 am April 27, 2011 #

  6. What is going on in our dear old West Seattle? Last night two white females in their 20s were going door-to-door trying to get support for some sort of “health organization.” They were wearing torn jeans and North Face jackets. It all seemed very sketchy, so I called the police. Hopefully they were arrested, it interrupted the Habs-Bruins game.

    Comment by NKR — 9:06 am April 27, 2011 #

  7. My god people…THEY’RE JUST MAG CREWS! They’ve been around forever and are NOTHING more than a minor irritation. (+1 to NKR by the way). Put up the no soliciting signs and don’t open the door…how on earth can you manage to get so worked up about all this?

    Comment by ConcernedHedonist — 10:37 am April 27, 2011 #

  8. …and by the way, there is a pretty decent chance that they aren’t properly licensed, that they’re shady, etc. Mag crews are notoriously shifty.That doesn’t make them werewolves. The idea that you’d waste the police’s time with this is absolutely astounding.

    Comment by ConcernedHedonist — 10:39 am April 27, 2011 #

  9. Thanks ConcernedHedonist! I was going to say the same thing. People would probably call the police if they saw someone delivering milk.

    Comment by Steph in WS — 11:05 am April 27, 2011 #

  10. I would think if you are an older person or a single woman or anyone who doesn’t like a confrontation (99.99999% of Seattle) you might not like someone at your doorstep who won’t leave. I’m sure they are NOTHING more than a minor irritation to you CH as they are to me, but I am 6’3″ and keep a large machete by my front door. Some other people might not be as big and strong as we are.

    Comment by Dave — 11:08 am April 27, 2011 #

  11. Dave, no one said anything about a confrontation, people were merely annoyed that they were pushy salesman. Just don’t answer the door. Or close/lock the door if they won’t stop their spiel. The fact that anyone would waste police time/energy with a magazine crew is just appalling.

    There’s also a racial element to this that I find disgusting.

    Comment by NKR — 12:03 pm April 27, 2011 #

  12. Best thing I ever did was put up a “No Soliciting” sign. I haven’t had one person knock on the door since it went up.

    Comment by HelperMonkey — 12:18 pm April 27, 2011 #

  13. “The fact that anyone would waste police time/energy with a magazine crew is just appalling.”
    .
    Since this is a tactic used by burglars to case people’s homes, it’s not a waste of police time.
    -
    “There’s also a racial element to this that I find disgusting.”
    .
    If I’m concerned about someone on my front porch who doesn’t belong there, I’m a racist?

    Comment by KBear — 12:22 pm April 27, 2011 #

  14. Not opening the door is the exact opposite of confrontation. As for the racial aspect, it’s absolutely prevalent in the comments in just about all of these crime watch reports. Every time I’ve mentioned it my comment get censored. Which is fine…it’s not my blog…but I wonder sometimes if the sponsors are aware of the type of things they’re sponsoring.

    Comment by ConcernedHedonist — 12:22 pm April 27, 2011 #

  15. Again – just don’t answer the door unless you are expecting someone specific. And if you do answer the door, and you don’t want their “product” then just shut the door, don’t engage in conversation with them. I’ve answered the door 3 or 4 times, thinking it was a delivery I was expecting, and it’s been someone else. I say “No thank you” & promptly shut the door. I also only open it about 4 inches. I then wait about an hour before opening the door to see if it was a delivery – if no one answers, the delivery people just leave the delivery.

    You can also install one of those eye thingies in your door, but if you do be sure to get one with the wide 180 degree view.

    Comment by ces — 12:56 pm April 27, 2011 #

  16. NKR maybe you enjoy having strangers hang out on your front doorstep having ignored your “no soliciting” sign and giving you lip when you tell them to leave. I would call that confrontational, but clearly I should just invite them in for tea and cookies. Give it a rest with this “appalling” stuff as well, if my wife were home alone at night and someone was banging on the door and wouldn’t leave I would think the proper response would be to call the police.

    oh and no one mentioned race, that would be in your head.

    Comment by Dave — 1:26 pm April 27, 2011 #

  17. “My god people…THEY’RE JUST MAG CREWS! ”

    Eather you have pyshic powers or are their leader if you are this certain each and every one of these is a “mag crew”.

    If they fail to respect a no soliciting sign as required by law, they have lost a good chunk of their claim to being “legit”.

    I’ve suggested before and I will reiterate: Get a cheap digital camera and keep it handy. if uncertain as to who or what you are dealing with, tell them you need their picture for security purposes and snap the camera.

    Many will vamoose as soon as they see you have a camera in hand which will tell you all you need to know about them.

    You didn’t ask them over, you have no reason to treat someone at your door claiming to be selling or doing this or that or the other other than with suspicion.

    Comment by Jim P — 1:40 pm April 27, 2011 #

  18. CH, we don’t “censor.” We have rules for comments, and we enforce them. And if they break the rules, they are at risk of deletion or, if they were held for review because their contents tripped our filters, not being approved for publication. Since we don’t require sign-ins, I have no way to cross-reference to see whether you had a comment that was not approved for publication. We’ve discussed racism in reference to crime and door-to-door reports many times before, and had vigorous discussion here about why that information is published – by us and other news organizations. Since it’s been a while, I’ll recap here:
    .
    -We do not currently have a rule banning race/ethnicity/skin color as part of a description in such reports. We publish reports as they come in from readers, some of whom include descriptive information, some of whom don’t. We’ve published reports about door-to-door solicitors of multiple ethnic groups and nationalities, yes, including white, if you are trying to suggest bias against people of color. Where we are positively rabid about banning racist discussion in the comments is this: We have rules against blanket characterizations by race, or actual expressions of racism. Most recently, in the Alki trash thread, we declined to approve several comments suggesting that people of a certain ethnicity/nationality were more likely to litter than others. And that’s one of many instances in which we have rejected comments that truly were racist. If you believe that any mention of a person’s race is racist, then certainly you will disagree with our policies, which is your right – TR

    Comment by WSB — 1:44 pm April 27, 2011 #

  19. KBear, I said there’s a racial element to this. I didn’t call anyone a racist. It’s too strong a word and too loaded.

    I do find it disturbing that we never get these updates when white people go door-to-door.

    As for potential burglaries, it’s pretty simple, just don’t answer your door if you don’t know who it is. Anyway, good burglars are going to case your house without you knowing it.

    Comment by NKR — 2:16 pm April 27, 2011 #

  20. TR:
    That was not CH or I meant at all and I think it’s a bit disingenuous to make the argument that we are seeing a racial element when there is none. It’s also a bit weird that you directed your response at him, when I was the first one who mentioned race.

    You can go through the archives and point to the handful of instances where someone emailed you because a white person was going door-to-door, but I think it’s fair to point out that the vast majority of reports you receive are about people of color. Maybe if West Seattle were more diverse people wouldn’t get so bent out of shape when brown people were in “their” neighborhood?

    It’s great that you delete “racist” comments, but that fact is that there’s a tone in the “reports” and the comments that irks me and others.

    I would hope you would agree that someone who is more concerned when a black person is at their doorstep (as opposed to a white person) is a bigot, right?

    So how do you make sure that you’re not just regurgitating the ramblings/reports of bigots? It’s actually a serious question, even if it’s said in a snarky manner.
    Thanks, Noah

    Comment by NKR — 2:38 pm April 27, 2011 #

  21. How can I read someone’s mind to know if they’re more concerned because the solicitor was a person of color than they would have been otherwise? We get bashed enough for having and enforcing comment rules (while the corporate media orgs of the world seem to get a free pass for allowing all kinds of hate speech in their comment sections), the day we get to be the thought police too, I need a new career. Anyway, to the point of alleging that white solicitors are “never” reported:
    http://westseattleblog.com/2011/03/west-seattle-door-to-door-alert-anybody-home
    .
    That was the most recent one. I have no time to analyze the percentage of reports with race x vs. race y vs. no race mentioned, and no way to compare that to the racial breakdown of the solicitor population, if anyone has ever even studied and documented that.

    Comment by WSB — 2:52 pm April 27, 2011 #

  22. Kinda my point re reading someone’s mind, but I digress. In all likelihood the WSB has published the reports of bigots, but I guess it’s worth it to make sure the public is aware of a bunch of kids selling candy or magazines.

    BTW you linked to what was basically someone breaking and entering, not really the same as going door-to-door selling mags or trying to earn “nice” points.

    Comment by NKR — 3:39 pm April 27, 2011 #

  23. I live in an area where I have only one neighbor next door to me and have hillside beside and in the back of my home. Despite the No Soliciting signs prominently placed at the top of my driveway and at my front door, I heard what sounded like my doorbell just as I was walking out to my back yard to water my hanging flower baskets. The next thing I know, there are 2 men (I won’t mention skin color since that seems to upset some people) walking around the far side of my house (the hill side and not the closest pathway from the front yard) who seemed as surprised to see me as I was them. They then started in on how they were selling magazines and went into their spiel. I was VERY uneasy, home alone and not near enough to my back door to quickly get away from them and not engage in any way. I was afraid to out and out say I wasn’t interested so I asked them about their license and they told me they did not know they needed one. As I moved closer towards my back door I told them that my husband would have to make that decision and that we only do business with licensed salespeople and contractors so I didn’t think he would be interested. They then started walking towards my back door too and asked to come in and talk to him. I asked them to go around front and I would get him and quickly shut and double locked the door and called 911 to report that I was afraid and felt very uncomfortable and pressured. While on the phone with 911 I saw them head up the hill and into a waiting car, which I couldn’t see well enough to get a good description of or the license plate. Not being an urgent call, police did not get there for over an hour and they were long gone by then. Less than a week later, our house was broken into (through a back thermo pane window that the thieves broke out) which was the first time we had been robbed since owning the house for over 30 years. Was it a coincidence? Maybe, but I now feel like I have to shut the curtains and hide inside my own home for long periods of time because I don’t know if the person who was at my front door is now walking under the deck in my back yard (I don’t have a lot of vantage points to see out without being seen). I found out later, from talking to one of my neighbors up the street, that the same day my house had been broken into that they had 2 men fitting their description knocking on their door (which they did not answer) who then walked towards the side of their house but their dog came to the fence in their back yard and started barking so they quickly left and my neighbors didn’t feel the need to call the police. The thing you don’t know whenever anyone is at your door is if they are up to no good or not. There is a chance that if my neighbors had called 911 that the police might have caught them or possibly have seen them walking on the street (it’s a dead end) and stopped and asked them a few questions which, if they were thinking about doing something illegal, might have made them feel uncomfortable enough not to do it knowing people were willing to call 911. But who knows. Maybe it wasn’t them and maybe it was just a coincidence, we’ll never know. And even if the neighbors had called, it certainly doesn’t mean the robbery would have been avoided, but to say that calling the police is “appalling” is easy to say when it’s not your home or life that’s been affected.

    Comment by Keepinganeyeout — 3:49 pm April 27, 2011 #

  24. craig — I had the same guy last week, kinda short fellow who was overly found of his own attempts at humour. However when I immediately asked him for his Seattle license/ID # for door-to-door calling, he acted like I was either an idiot or unpardonably rude. I didn’t care, and pointed to the gate as I asked him to leave. He did, kindof snorting at me, walked across the street, ignoring another house where people were obviously home to knock on another house with no-one home, then kept walking.

    And CH, it’s not their melanin, it’s their (lack of) manners we don’t like.

    Comment by LivesinWS — 3:56 pm April 27, 2011 #

  25. “I would hope you would agree that someone who is more concerned when a black person is at their doorstep (as opposed to a white person) is a bigot, right?”

    Are you assuming that the “someone … concerned” is white? It’s how the person acts, not their color. I yell at ‘em in my yard regardless.

    Comment by LivesinWS — 4:00 pm April 27, 2011 #

  26. I am glad the WSB posts the information about these solicitors. About two years ago someone rang my doorbell and I did not immediately answer it because I was not expecting anyone and I was trying to deal with a fussy baby. A few minutes lapsed and I checked out a window and there was someone checking my door handle. I went to the door (which I now think was stupid in retrospect) and a guy was there and asked me if I wanted my trees trimmed. No badge, no ID, no logo clothing. I said no and shut the door not thinking much about it until I heard from my neigbors later than someone nearby had a break in. They asked if I had seen anything out of the ordinary and when I mentioned the “sales guy”, they were pretty sure I was being cased since the guy fit the description of someone departing the scene of the robbery. Lesson learned. I was super naive before but now I am more cautious. I wouldn’t say paranoid, but I am definitely wary of people going door to door peddling merch.

    Comment by Mags — 4:11 pm April 27, 2011 #

  27. Keepinganeyeout, I just want to point out that I see a huge difference between someone at your door making a sales pitch and someone who has the gall to follow you around making the same pitch or ask to come inside. Those last two are huge red flags.

    I’d also add that I don’t have a problem with racial descriptions per se, but *almost* all of the reports where the solicitors don’t do anything besides their sales spiel are people of color. That’s the part that disturbs me.

    Comment by NKR — 4:33 pm April 27, 2011 #

  28. for the sake of argument let’s just say these people are legit. Now having said that I will never knock on the door of a stranger nor would I open it for one ( without my winchester in arms reach ). Those of you up in arms that many are concerned go ahead and open your door ( you might as well leave it unlocked too) and you might as well pick up some hitchhikers while your at it. I suppose I am just over reacting, not like there are ever house break-ins. And I don’t give a ratt’s you know what which race you are

    Comment by Paul — 4:35 pm April 27, 2011 #

  29. Lets face it….If someone walks around the side of a house and into a private residence back yard, after not having the door answered to them…they’re not really selling magazines are they? I don’t care if they are purple with blue stripes. The fact of the matter is these people are to be up to no good. They are at the very least trespassing. I also had a solicitation on Monday near 54th and Dakota. I just looked at them out my front window and said “NO” without opening the door. The two gents(is that sexism?) did try another house with no luck and then quickly left the block. Frankly as many have said before the days of door to door anything are long over. Most people get their goods, services etc. through research and by their own means. We don’t have to wait for the Fuller brush man anymore. I also see more than a coincidence that these solicitations have been happening for quite a few weeks now and the reports of burglaries (I believe it was on WSB c/o the Southwest precinct?) have taken such a dramatic increase. Door to door no more! Say it with me…..

    Comment by dancingcat — 5:07 pm April 27, 2011 #

  30. I read these reports religiously and I really have to beg to differ on the assertion that they are predominantly about non-white solicitors. They are frequently about ethnicities and races of all kinds and my personal experience of door to door in gatewood matches this. I think people are pretty uncomfortable with the door to door thing these days and that is what the alerts are about. Just last week there was a post about a suspicious white dude in westwood entering people’s yards. I am obsessed with this blog and read all day long so I think my knowledge of the breadth of reports is pretty accurate.

    I also want to commed wsb for having monitored comments and clear policies. This is no small thing and I am convinced it is why we have a more civil and robust online dialogue here. I work in neighborhoods that don’t do this on their blogs and the comments are rife with trolls and outlandish statements. The end result is that no one comments (average numbers of comments are below ten on posts) as opposed to the amazing info sharing that happens in comments here. This is because wsb spends time investing in the value of comment dialogue and that should be recognized and commended. I for one am very very thankful for this.

    Comment by kgdlg — 6:00 pm April 27, 2011 #

  31. Quoting from above: ” . . . point to the handful of instances where someone emailed you because a white person was going door-to-door, but I think it’s fair to point out that the vast majority of reports you receive are about people of color.”

    Maybe the vast majority of reports are about people of color because the vast majority of people going door-to-door are people of color. I have lived here for quite awhile, and every time a solicitor has knocked on my door it has been a person of color. I have never had a white door-to-door solicitor come to my house. Does it make me a racist to state those facts?

    Comment by Overly sensitive people drive me crazy — 6:09 pm April 27, 2011 #

  32. Not answering the door & no soliciting signs are all great but don’t work when you are on your deck watching your kids play in the front yard and the aggressive sellers come by. I told him “no thank you” and it was another 10 minutes and me yelling at him before he left. Pissed me off the whole rest of the evening and scared the kids. I believe it was the guy annoying everyone with his “humor”. I agree…door to door NO MORE!!

    Comment by WestC — 6:20 pm April 27, 2011 #

  33. I disagree with everything NKR says. and I agree with everything dancingcat says

    Comment by Paul — 7:58 pm April 27, 2011 #

  34. Thanks for the kind words, Kgdlg … For context, in semi-defense of other neighborhoods, you can’t really make a comparison since we do not run this as a blog, nor as a sideline … it’s a professional, commercial, journalist-owned-and-operated, national-award-winning news/information service (you may already know that but since readership keeps growing, there are many who don’t, and our “About” page is way overdue for an overhaul). Many neighborhood “blogs” are run by folks with day jobs, generally not in journalism, who care enough to try to at least keep a place for neighborhood issues to be discussed, but aren’t able to do much if any original reporting, 24/7 breaking news, etc. The only reason we even have “blog” in our name is an unfortunate decision I made one night in 2005 when I had no idea we would wind up running a business … That said, nonprofessional sites’ owners could have similar rules if they so chose, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there about legal liability among other things that leaves some afraid to so much as delete a comment. And then there’s a minority of site operators who just decide to have a free-for-all, which is their prerogative, as long as their readers understand what they’re getting into … Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 8:21 pm April 27, 2011 #

  35. I appreciate being alerted when magazine crews are in my area. I realize that assault that I’ve linked to here didn’t occur in West Seattle, but it’s a reminder to be vigilant.

    http://www.komonews.com/news/9746087.html

    Comment by Denise — 11:08 am April 28, 2011 #

  36. If I don’t know the person, I don’t open the door. I sure do check and see who is banging away though.

    I also have a phone with a 20 ft cord for people who have broken down and need to use a phone. I can walk outside with phone and let people use it. With a locked front door.

    Comment by Gina — 3:48 pm April 28, 2011 #

  37. I know you can’t be too careful. I recently video taped this shady salesman who came to my door. Have a look. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfmIppKX2ic

    Comment by dave — 2:49 pm April 30, 2011 #

  38. I would usually NOT approve a comment like that but your video is such a … random creation, somebody might be amused. And if anybody ever really opened the door to a real solicitor in those circumstances … omg.

    Comment by WSB — 3:04 pm April 30, 2011 #

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