Town mulls how to regulate salesmen

Few people like to be bothered by door-to-door salesmen, but most of us probably don’t mind – and even relish – a visit by a member of the Girl Scouts or the local high school football team who drop by to sell cookies or a Bulldog Card or Grizzly Card.

And yet regulations designed to limit the former would also affect the latter.

That’s the issue the Lovell Town Council and Chief of Police Nick Lewis are dealing with as they attempt to enact an ordinance regulating door-to-door salesmen. What affects outside sellers also affects the local kids that citizens happily support.

The issue gathered steam recently when security system salesmen blanketed the community, pressuring homeowners into purchasing expensive systems for their homes and misleading the public by claiming that the systems were endorsed by the Lovell PD and even Lewis himself.

The chief started looking into the possibility of enacting a new ordinance, with the understanding that the old Green River Ordinance blocking door-to-door salesmen had been challenged in court and was no longer enforceable.

Regulating salesmen is far more complex than most people realize, Town Attorney Sandra Kitchen told the council last week. She’s been looking into the issue for other municipalities, as well. There are different categories of sellers including transient merchants, solicitors and peddlers.

Solicitors promote a product that is not physically on their person and/or comes from out of state. The security system folks are one example. A peddler brings the sales item to the door, or it is available in town. The football player selling a Bulldogs Card or the dancer selling flags fall into this category.

A municipality cannot require a solicitor to pay a fee or restrict sales, nor can it require a background check, because a local government cannot regulate interstate commerce, athough the town can require a company to register. Peddlers can be regulated more easily, though Kitchen stressed that all peddlers must be treated the same. What’s good for the out-of-state fruit salesman is good for the band member selling the proverbial fruitcake.

Lewis likes the idea of registration because it gives the police a tool to at least make contact with someone in here from out of state. He is very concerned about people being taken advantage of and also young people, and others, coming in contact with undesirable characters.

And so as this process proceeds, the chief wants to meet with local organizations, schools and others who typically sell door to door so that he can work with them to craft the best ordinance, one that won’t be too burdensome and yet is fair to everyone.

Look for meetings to be held in the coming months.

–David Peck