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December 26, 2012

Do-not-knock rule will help, if residents help

Royal Oak's do-not-knock registry may be about as effective as the federal do-not-call registry, which means it won't be perfect, but it will be better than nothing.

The registry may ease the minds of people concerned that strangers coming up to the door are often up to no good, that too many have pushed scams on unsuspecting homeowners.

The Royal Oak City Commission has approved an ordinance creating the registry and prohibiting salespeople from trying to sell their wares at the addresses of those who sign up.

Like the federal do-not-call telephone registry, it doesn't bar doorbell rings and knocks on the door from representatives of non-profit agencies, political parties and candidates and religious groups.

Savvy and reputable sales people and companies who employ them will learn quickly about the registry and honor the ordinance provisions.

But enforcement will depend as well on complaints from residents when salespeople break the law deliberately or in ignorance.

The city already requires door-to-door peddlers to obtain a $25 license, for which they provide contact information, a Social Security number, criminal convictions if they've had any and a list of items they intend to sell.

Residents will enter names and addresses on-line. The address will remain on the registry for five years.

Although door-to-door sales have been part of the business landscape for many years, the number of occasional bad actors has given it an image problem. The coat-your-driveway or fix-your-roof sales are traditional scams, as are many that provide an excuse for a stranger to enter a home and take cash or a wallet.

In Royal Oak, City Commissioner Dave Poulton asked for the registry after an elderly resident showed an insistent peddler a gun.

The resident's windows were frosted; he couldn't see the man outside. The man outside either couldn't hear shouts from inside to leave or ignored them.

The peddler left, but the incident left an impression on the resident and the city commissioner.

The 80-year-old resident said he was frightened because an elderly woman in the city had been murdered in her home a few weeks before by a couple who had raked her leaves for cash.

Although door-to-door sales persist, we question their profitability. And we're sure residents won't complain if peddlers find legal and more fruitful neighborhoods somewhere else.

The Oakland Press

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