Beware of door-to-door sales

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Aaron Wilson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Legal Office
This past Saturday afternoon I was enjoying my long holiday weekend, relaxing around my apartment when a knock came at the door. When I got to the door it was not a neighbor asking to borrow something or inviting me to a barbeque; instead I was greeted by a young lady selling magazines. She had some long spiel about her dreams and ambitions, which apparently boiled down to selling me magazines. She handed me her brochure with the magazines I could buy and their prices. As I reviewed the price list I noticed that the prices were about twice what I currently pay by subscribing directly to the magazine.

I tell you this story because during this summer season many students and others in need of employment will take jobs doing door-to-door sales of everything from magazines to knives. Undoubtedly, some of you will have a salesperson show up at your door. You should know about an important legal protection you have regarding door-to-door sales. This protection exists because this can be a high-pressure sales environment and you do not know if you are getting a good deal. (Chances are you are not.)

If a salesperson comes to your residence and sells you goods or services for a price of $25.00 or more, you have an absolute right to cancel the transaction within three business days. This means that if you decide you do not really need that incredible set of knives, or you found them for a better price at the Base Exchange, you can void the sale and get your money back. In fact, the sales agreement, contract or receipt must have this right to rescind printed on it.

To cancel the sale and get your money, you must send written notice to the seller postmarked by midnight of the third business day following the transaction. Remember, this rule considers any day the post office is open as a business day - so Saturday counts. If you comply with this rule, the seller must give you your money back. If they refuse, they are breaking the law and the Federal Trade Commission would like to know about it. Now, this wonderful legal right that you have does not mean that you get to keep the goods. If the seller contacts you, you must cooperate in making the goods reasonably available for them to pick up.

There are a few times when the three-day right to rescind does not apply. If you initiated contact with the seller, you do not have the right to void the sale. Also, if you bought real estate, insurance or securities (stocks and bonds from a dealer registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission), this rule does not protect you. Lastly, if you bought a candy bar from a child raising money to go to summer camp, this rule does not protect you because the purchase was less than $25.

In conclusion, if you get a knock on your door and you buy something from a salesperson, you can change your mind as long as you do so within three days and in writing. If you are not sure if the rule applies to your situation or a seller is violating your rights, contact the legal office at (509) 247-2838 or DSN 657-2838.