Georgia City Considers Requiring a Permit to Ring Somebody's Doorbell


"Ma'am, we're going to have to confiscate several boxes for testing, to make sure they're not fraudulent cookies. For public safety! You understand, right?"
Credit: The U.S. Army / photo on flickr

It is the year 2014, and the city of Snellville, Georgia, is worried about door-to-door salesmen scamming little old ladies.

The city council is considering requiring anybody trying to sell anything door-to-door to submit to a background check and get a permit. And no, adorable little moppets trying to raise money for the Girl Scouts and band trips are not exempted. From WSB-TV in Atlanta:

The city says it's about holding solicitors accountable after residents of some neighborhoods have had problems.

"People come door-to-door after hail storms or during the spring months to solicit, we want to make sure that those who are coming to sell something in our city, that we have a way to make them accountable and keep tabs on them," Snellville spokesman Brian Arrington said.

What an uptick in home repair scams has to do with Girl Scouts is anybody's guess, but the ordinance will require parents of children trying to raise money to register with the police and also accompany their kids on sales trips. When asked whether this proposed ordinance places an undue burden on parents, supporters say they "would work to avoid that." But requiring a background check to sell cookies to the neighbors is the opposite of working to avoid that. Presumably "requiring a background check" means that the police will be able to prohibit people from engaging in door-to-door commerce if they don't like what comes up. Could the police refuse to let a kid sell band candy because his dad was in the clink?

One neighborhood watch booster supported the ordinance because she knew of an incident where an elderly lady was talking to a solicitor and gave out all sorts of personal information, including her Social Security number. One wonders if this woman is familiar with the use of telephones and email. As a former small-town newspaper editor, I would hear regularly from people in the community and the police about the latest efforts going around to separate retirees from their pensions. Yes, these scammers are real, but targeting door-to-door salesmen for permits is a pretty silly way to try to deal with it, particularly given how likely it actually represents a very tiny percentage of consumer crime and yet has the potential to add an unnecessary burden on families in the town.