Another door-to-door concern

From the inbox (our supplementary research follows the reader’s e-mail):

I live on 45th Ave SW and had a young man dressed well approach the house requesting funds for Omni-Horizons. I told him I’m supportive of helping out community groups but wanted to do some quick research about the company to be sure I approved of the place I’d contribute money to. He said it wouldn’t help him and left.

I contacted the local police, and they said it had to be a crime before they could respond (i.e., because I didn’t give them money, I didn’t have a crime to report). I just want to make folks aware – can you help?

Here’s what we found out about “Omni-Horizons.”

Seems to be one of the names used by a Midwest-based firm that advertises around the country for “sharp people representing leading … publications,” promising they’ll be “traveling major cities.”

People using that name to solicit have had scrapes with poilce in Fairfield, CT (4th and 5th items here) and were the subject of a police alert in MN. On the other hand, the company has a positive listing with its regional Better Business Bureau. And here’s one more side of it: a website set up by parents of young people who they say have been mistreated (and worse) in the “traveling sales crew” business.

Bottom line, be wary whenever dealing with someone who comes to your door — as was the reader who e-mailed us. Seattle Police provided excellent information in this edition of the Southwest Precinct Newsletter, including what to do when someone knocks — don’t open the door, SPD says, but don’t ignore the person:

Acknowledge the knock since ignoring it may lead to an attempted burglary. It is preferable to speak to strangers through your door. In Seattle, all sellers must display the residential sales identification on their outer clothing. This ID shows the seller’s name and photo as well as the name of the business and product or service they represent. The legitimate company representatives will be properly identified and will be carrying a copy of their company’s business license. If you have any questions about whether a company is properly licensed, call the City of Seattle’s office of Revenue & Consumer Affairs at 206-684-8136.

43 Replies to "Another door-to-door concern"

  • Shell Princess September 5, 2007 (10:38 am)

    After reading and never commenting, I have another one today. I am dumb, dumb, dumb. Had a garage sale this weekend and was selling a bed/mattress combo from an back bedroom. Nice lady called and long story short, I let her and her accomplice(husband??) into the home to buy the piece. He walked into all the rooms while I was distracted by her incessant demands to give her everything in the house. They bargained hard to lower the already low price on the bed and I gave in to get them out of my home. I just wanted them out of there. They wanted to take the piece before paying and I don’t know how I had the strength to block them and demand money. She kept asking if the lamp was included, how about the wall hangings, mirror, etc and could I throw them in? When I demurred, she was angry. Meanwhile, I heard the guy going into boxes I was storing in another room and they both were rapidly speaking about my things. She wanted in the bathroom and I would not let her. They said they were one ethincity and were speaking another Sanskrit based language often heard in E.Europe.
    I was had, scammed and stupid for letting them in. I blame myself but these are two you want to look out for. They say they are in start over mode and have nothing and need everything. They were driving a large SUV van w/a navigating device. I know that because my house is hard to find and I offered to stand outside to help guide them. Gosh, I should have brought my dog out so he could carry their flashlight. I had at least presence of mind to snap their photos on my cell phone. Got the licensce plate, them and the interior of the SUV and they were furious.
    Don’t be an idiot like me! I am scared for my home!
    By the way, I know which language they were speaking and am trying not to disparage one particular group.

  • ML September 5, 2007 (10:42 am)

    Are these the guys calling themselves “cool guys in ties”? they came to our door twice yesterday and were very agressive (used doorbell and banged on doors) and were not easily turned away.
    Neither had any paperwork or ID, btw.

  • JMR September 5, 2007 (10:42 am)

    There was a veritable army of these folks in West Seattle yesterday, they were practically lined up like Rockettes as I walked north along 44th and 45th avenues.

    One came to my house too, I just shooed her away.

  • Tonya September 5, 2007 (11:05 am)

    Came to my house too, (3800 block) although he was nice enough. This is the second one in as many days. They seem to come in spurts.

  • RobertSeattle September 5, 2007 (11:37 am)

    I’ve considered getting one of these:

  • Derek Birnie September 5, 2007 (11:45 am)

    That’s very unfortunate.

    The US has a long tradition of civic engagement through person to person neighborhood organizing. Voter registration drives, local politicians, neighborhood watch, student organization and a number of social and environmental organizations derive their public support and effectiveness from this kind of in-person approach. I’ve personally doorknocked neighborhoods in the last few months to invite neighbors to our Night Out event, and to engage neighbors in thinking through the design of a new community development.

    I hope the bad experiences with scam artists don’t keep us all in our homes afraid of our well-intentioned neighbors and community leaders.

  • 44th & Graham September 5, 2007 (11:49 am)

    please don’t give these people any money.
    we got swindled last year by another group selling magazines.
    if they belong to a legitimate organization, they will be able to leave some literature for you for donation later on your own time.
    this Omni Horizons group was even better polished than the one last year – super slick with photo IDs even.

  • s September 5, 2007 (12:18 pm)

    I have some things to sell and thought about posting on Craigslist, but decided I didn’t want to invite strangers into my house. I’m donating the goods to Goodwill instead. They have a very convenient drop-off in the International District. (Does anyone know of a closer one?)

    Shell–At least you took those pictures. If they truly were casing your house, their knowing you have their pictures should deter them from coming back.

  • Amy September 5, 2007 (12:27 pm)

    We got burned a year ago — very nice kid comes to the door, very sweet, you want to help him/her. We bought a couple magazine subscriptions and never got a single magazine.

    A young woman came to our door last night with the same pitch, and I told her no thanks. The whole thing is just too shady.

    But I agree with Derek – hopefully the scams won’t turn people off from the door-to-door work that is legit.

  • add September 5, 2007 (12:39 pm)

    Don’t know if it’s closer, but there is a large Goodwill store & drop-off just off Ambaum Blvd in Burien. A handy stop on your way to Trader Joe’s or the airport. :)

    Also, Northwest Center used to have a drop-off trailer on Saturdays and Sundays in the parking lot at the Junction – behind the bank that’s across California from the late Ovio. Does anyone know if they are still there on the weekends?

  • Wendy September 5, 2007 (12:54 pm)

    Goodwill has a location on SW 128th in Burien, just east of 16th Ave SW / Ambaum. Not as well staffed, but they do have someone curb-side to help unload.

  • 44th & Graham September 5, 2007 (1:08 pm)

    I’ve heard good things about Sharehouse – a local non-profit that picks up and distributes to victims of domestic abuse.

    Sharehouse isn’t as fussy as some non-profits, (as long as it isn’t broken, they will take away your sofa, chairs, lamps, even small appliances).

  • eric September 5, 2007 (1:30 pm)

    just like the guy holding the sign by the offramp….. if nobody did business with anyone who solicited door-to-door or over the phone, these guys would just go away.

    Like they say, there’s a sucker born every minute.

    The only people I buy anything door-to-door from are local kids I know doing girls scouts or school activities.

  • 34th and Thistle September 5, 2007 (1:57 pm)

    Got to agree with Derek above – door to door organizing at the neighborhood level is very important and effective, and done well, empowers communities and counters cynicism about politics.

  • WSB September 5, 2007 (2:28 pm)

    Semi-related item just e-mailed to us by a reader who wanted to be anonymous — a newspaper article today about a woman attacked by someone claiming to be a door-to-door salesperson. We are totally with Derek B – we don’t want to see the world shut itself away (even though we love communicating in this non-F2F medium ourselves) – but there must be a way to tell the difference between the Dereks of the world and the people who are a risk to life, limb, and/or wallet.

  • Danno September 5, 2007 (2:42 pm)

    The important difference between these crooks and people like Derek is the Neighborhood connection. Derek and those like him getting neighbors outside to meet each other and have potlucks and such, are alot different from strangers bussed in to harass you into buying junk you don’t need.

  • bbilly September 5, 2007 (2:50 pm)

    even more reason to be careful:

  • pat t. September 5, 2007 (3:18 pm)

    The same guy with white shirt, tie etc… was all around Alki Tuesday afternoon. I had a locked steel screen door and a barking dog so he kept his distance. I remember the same group coming through last year. The guys are very personable and nice, employ a chatty technique to get you to talk about yourself.

    When I told him I was busy, and he immediately shifted to the magazine sales. I gave him a polite sorry and he immediatley left, didn’t want to waste time.

    But I too was concerned this morning when I heard the news report of the woman in the Eastlake neighorhood who was attacked. It sounded like the same description with the tie etc..and like many mentioned here I was also concerned about him scanning our yard, neighborhood in a reconnaisance to see who was about and how easy it would be to come back and rob a home.

  • Christopher Boffoli September 5, 2007 (4:21 pm)

    A pair of twenty-something men came through my neighborhood a few months ago. White, polo shirts, spiky gelled hair. They rang my doorbell an obnoxious amount of times. When I opened the door they said “We’re selling magazines without a permit. Wanna buy some?” I told them to leave. They went across the alley and I think they actually convinced my neighbors to buy some. As soon as they left I called the police who took a description and said they’d be by. I have no idea what happened after my call, other than my neighbor finding an obscene message in the dust on top of his mailbox. Two weeks later we had a burglary across the alley. Related? Who knows? I agree that not everyone who knocks on the door is a criminal. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to call the police.

  • V Bar September 5, 2007 (4:27 pm)

    #1 – NW Center still has a donation truck in the Junction by the Washington Mutual drivethrough just off California and across the street (to the east) from True Value Hardware. They are there indefinitely every weekend – I drop stuff there frequently, it’s very convenient.
    #2 – I’ve also donated to Sharehouse before – they took away a futon mattress and frame as well as a couple other smaller pieces of furniture I had to donate also very convenient as most other nonprofits don’t offer pickup service any longer.

  • Gina September 5, 2007 (4:55 pm)

    I too have a locked steel screen door. And I am in the 45th area. Clean fellow with a corn row hairstyle banging the heck out of the screen door, then started making bizarre noises. I simply assumed he was impaired by chemicals in some way, made sure all the windows were locked, and went back to the computer. After a while he became bored, and it does hurt to pound on the steel mesh and bars.

  • Jiggers September 5, 2007 (9:47 pm)

    Thank gawd I live in a condo on the upper floor with tight security and not have to worry about crap like this.

  • Jan September 5, 2007 (10:20 pm)

    hey…jiggers….welcome back…where ya been?

  • Jiggers September 6, 2007 (7:06 am)

    Jan, I went on a trip for awhile..

  • Karma September 9, 2007 (1:47 pm)

    I, too, was visited by an Omni-Horizons salesman this week. I did chat with him a little and felt like helping out, but something in my gut said it was shady. After he left, I googled O-H and felt better about my decision. Now that I have a toddler, I am way more cautious and protective of my home than before. I was a little nervous that he — or someone he might have been working for? — might come back when we weren’t at home, or when I was there alone with my daughter.

    Also, a couple of weeks ago, there were a couple of very young teenaged girls who knocked on my door. My daughter was asleep so I quietly said no thanks before they could get very far with their message. They didn’t like that very much, got louder, rang the doorbell. I told them to leave or I would call the police and they just laughed and went to another house.

  • LB September 12, 2007 (4:50 pm)

    Had the Omni-Horizons “people” stop by our place this afternoon. Pretty obvious hustle, but only after the pitch for magazines came up. Onec I said no thanks to that he was on his way grumbling. Did a search on the web after he left and confirmed the scam.

    I am putting up a “No Solicitors” sign this weekend. This way I can save my breath and just point to the sign.

  • pickledeedee September 12, 2007 (6:22 pm)

    Does anyone know if the guy Antonio Smokes who was just arrested in Oregon for the choking assault of the woman was affiliated with Omni Horizon? Scary, if so. We had the same guys coming through here in Seward Park/Lakewood neighborhood. Same M.O. aggressive knocking and ringing the doorbell over and over. Our guy went around TWICE in twenty minutes–guess he didn’t like our answers? Thanks to your blog coming up when I googled Omni Horizons, I was able to forward some info to our local officer who let the burglary unit know.

    I agree with the police advice, let them know you are home– but don’t open the door. We have a lot of elderly neighbors and it really scares me for their sakes.

  • pickledeedee September 12, 2007 (6:25 pm)

    by the way, here’s the link to the KOMO article with his photo in case you want to see if you encountered the guy

  • Amanda September 13, 2007 (8:30 pm)

    I just had my doorbell ring and when I got to the door I looked thru the peep hole to see a nice dressed young man walk out into my yard to look in my front window. I looked at him thru the window and he came back to the door. I asked if I could help him thru my door without opening it and he said he was from “OH” and that “OH” helps people like him go to school. I just said I wasn’t interested and he turned and walked away. I wouldn’t be so worried, but the way he walked out into my yard to peer thru my front window worries me just a bit. Beware.

  • pickledeedee September 14, 2007 (2:54 pm)

    Just got a call from a neighbor here in Lakewood/Seward Pk and the Omni Horizon guys are BACK AGAIN. Strange, however, they have only returned to “certain” homes, they didn’t ring my door or some others. Perhaps they’re looking for homes with NOBODY home? I called 911–that’s what our local officer told me to do if they came back. I don’t want to kick myself if we have a rash of burglaries.

  • T September 15, 2007 (4:18 pm)

    My neighbor in the Pigeon Point neighborhood had a young woman in her 20’s come by her house last night selling the magazines for Omni Horizons. Just so you know they’re still around West Seattle.

  • Tara September 15, 2007 (6:47 pm)

    Just had a man from Omni Horizons knock on my door about 4:25 p.m. today. I did not open my security screen door, and because my dogs were barking incessantly at him, he kept his distance from my door. When I told him I was not interested he asked why. I told him that Omni Horizons has been associated with potential suspicious activity. He puffed at me and left. I then called 911. I then watched him continue down my street, then to the other side of the street, skipping a couple of houses along the way. I spoke with a neighbor while waiting for the police to arrive and she stated the same man was at her door last night at 7:30. We are in the Seward Park neighborhood, and will continue to be on the lookout and will call the police if they come back.

  • Seward Park Resident September 15, 2007 (8:57 pm)

    The Omni Horizon jerks are back in the Seward Park / Lakewood area again. I stopped one of them on the street today at about 6pm to ask him what compaany he was with – he confirmed he was OH. He had the usual white shirt and tie, corn rows and a tattoo across his neck that read “Melissa.” When I told him that it was my understanding that they are to have a peddler’s license, he produced a crumpled up copy of what appeared to be a City of Seattle business license with a Michigan business for address for OH. He then called his “supervisor” named “Brian” on his cell and wanted me to talk to him. I told him that I was not talking to his supervisor and that this was not a discussion. I was stating my understanding of the law, that all the neighbors in the area have been circulating emails and fliers about their shady company, and that they were not welcome here. I was happy to hear him relay this info to his “supervisor.” The idiot then told me to wait there and he would get his supervisor. Needless to say, I didn’t hang out to meet “Brian.” I just read Pickledeedee’s post above. Next time I’ll just call 911. Oh, and 20 minutes after chasing that one out of the neighborhood, there were two more right behind him. The last one, I yelled “no thanks” through the window while my dog barked at him. He then just gave me a dirty look and walked away. I later read that there is a loophole in the Seattle ordinance that allows door to door sales without a “peddler’s” license if the company is out-of-state and selling an item for future delivery – such as a magazine subscription. We need to apply pressure on the city to change this! Call your city council members!

  • Fremont resident September 17, 2007 (1:22 pm)

    For North Seattle residents who may come across this site – had an Omni-Horizons seller come to my door today. He knocked and then stepped back onto my front steps instead of staying on the porch (odd, but also kept him further from my door, which I appreciated – he said it was a company rule). I opened the door and stood on the porch while I talked to him. He gave me a spiel which I couldn’t quite hear because I live on a busy street, but it was mostly about how he is in a job-training program and people rate him on his professionalism and he also gets “points” for selling subscriptions. He said that many people had him renew subscriptions they already had; I told him I don’t have any, being on a limited income, and he left very promptly.

    He was very polite and well dressed (white shirt and tie, as others have noted) and did not act suspiciously around my house. I am home sick from work today and glad I was able to answer the door.

  • Suzie-Q September 17, 2007 (9:29 pm)

    Just today a young man was beating on my door… I had the door open with the screen door locked. I was busy in the laundry room and he yelled is anyone home loudly into my home. My fiance got up from a nap and asked him what he wanted…. He said he was checking fire alarms and started laughing. My fiance just stared at him and he then said he was selling magazines. He was very persistant and finally my fiance had to get somewhat of an attitude and just shut the door on him. Not to rude or anything but this day in age I do not believe it’s safe for people to do door to door sales this day in age. Not only can it be unsafe for the person doing the sales but for home owners as well. After reading this site I also found it strange that they had no identification and were driving in a car with Washington license plates and we live in the Midwest?

  • sw September 20, 2007 (10:56 am)

    OH was hitting Gatewood hill last night. Very polite 20-ish young woman from “Georgia” trying to get points to send herself to nursing school. You know the rest of the story…

  • Michelle September 22, 2007 (2:45 pm)

    Today around noon we had a woman come to our door (we live in High Point). She said she was from Ohio and wasn’t going to sell us anything. Then she showed me how this cleaning solution was great on windows, jewelry, and a towel. She was pretty friendly and I asked her what she was selling and she showed me and my husband two bottles of cleaning solutions. I told her we weren’t interested and she made a pouty face and said “So you don’t like me.” I just told her we weren’t interested again and then she gathered her things and left. As I was writing this message to post, I saw another two kids (not older than 20?) across the street knocking on my neighbors’ doors with cleaning bottles hanging from their backbacks. When they didn’t answer they just walked away. But, it makes me nervous that they’re scouting the neighborhood to see who lives here, see if we’re home, and see what kind of stuff we have. That’s what I didn’t like about the woman who came to my door- I felt like she was looking past me too much- seeing what possesions we have. Has anyone else seen these “cleaning solution” sales people??

  • Jared September 22, 2007 (10:25 pm)

    Ah! I just found out I got scammed by “Omni Horizons” also. sheesh, here I was thinking I was doing this guy a favor and I get screwed for $80. Looks like I’ll call the police tomorrow and file a police report.

    Have any of you reported this? I’m in Renton highlands.

  • Todd September 8, 2008 (9:05 pm)

    This message is for Michelle….sounds to me like you had a lady selling Advanage at your door, and sadly, it sounds like you are a bit racist. She was not “casing” your house, she was doing her job, demonstrating a cleaning product for a homeowner, which does mean that you need to look for dirt to clean. She was not casing your home. Generally a cleaning product sales crew works in a neighborhood for 1 to 2 weeks. Due to this fact, you will often see them “skipping” homes of the people they have already talked to. If it’s the first couple of days they are in the neighborhood the sales agents often go after the houses that have obvious signs of life so as not to waste time knocking on homes where no one is. There are many door to door sales companies that are legitimate today. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the business, there are many unscrupulous people who POSE as door to door people in order to commit crimes. Regardless, I for one will not begrudge someone the opportunity to earn a living. I should hope that all Americans feel the same way. After all, one more person earning a living, is one less person asking for handouts. Speaking of which….to the gentleman above who compared door to door salesman to pan-handlers…..c’mon, are you serious???????

  • vcap3 September 11, 2008 (8:21 pm)


  • Melissa October 7, 2008 (11:55 pm)

    i think door 2 door sales is a way for the young women and men that dont get the same chance as most people had in life and gives them a second chance to make some legal money. Im pretty sure i rather see a young man go door 2 door in a tie then on my street corner selling drugs to my kids behind my back. If it was so bad stop in all in general. Its not going to happen because to many people have made a living doing it. So Seward park were just very rude about the matter and thats why when Omni Horizon salesman called 911 on you for chasing him down the street like a mad man

  • Rae November 14, 2008 (10:30 am)


    I give up. What did Michelle do or say that was racist. Just because she doesn’t fall for these sleazy sale tactics of lying (the salesperson said she wasn’t trying to sell anything) and then getting all pouty when she said she wasn’t interested. The Advanage people flat out lie when they say you can only buy it from a door-to-door salesman.

  • Josh December 30, 2008 (2:11 pm)

    Omni Horizons guy just came by my home in Sunrise, Florida. Points to get his daughter back… How do points give you back your child? Doesn’t the law do that? Anyway, his was an extremely well rehearsed part. Named Lance (Wilson I think) according the name tag. I was burned by a magazine subscription before so I passed. But he gave me websites to check the validity of his company and actually waited outside while I looked em up. Luckily I did a google search and found this site. Big time thanks to all of you for relaying your stories. Saved me from another scam! Cheers!

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