How do I stop repeated door-to-door solicitation, inside a NYC apartment building?
October 31, 2007 11:43 AM   Subscribe

How do I stop repeated door-to-door solicitation, inside a NYC apartment building? It wakes me up (I have to sleep during day shift) and it's really frustrating.

Every couple of weeks I get a doorbell ring from a salesperson trying to get me to switch from the main energy provider in nyc (ConEdison) to another gas & electric supplier.

(This is a building where anyone will be let in if they wait by the outside door -- there's no way for me to change this, it's universal behavior among 100+ tenants.)

When these people ring and you ask who it is, first they say, "gas and electric," obviously trying to get people to think they're from ConEd. When pressed, the guy today said he was with "IDT Energy."

I told him his company needed to permanently mark my apartment as one they should never visit. Instead he started to get in an argument with me, saying "We're just helping people; we're trying to help you save on your energy costs." He wouldn't give me a phone # or business card.

Even assuming these are actually sales agents (as opposed to people costumed as sales agents just seeing who's home or not), this is a serious problem for me because I work at night and need to sleep during the day shift.

I did call 911 (there is no way to phone police here except 911) and told them there was someone knocking on every door in my building, asked if a cop could come and see what the guy was doing. The operator said they would send someone but no cops have come in an hour (I'm sure this is a very low priority for them).

So is this legal? Whether or not it is, what can I do about it? If it's illegal I was thinking of having a sign made for the building's front door, "DOOR-TO-DOOR SOLICITATION IS ILLEGAL. POLICE WILL BE CALLED AND BUSINESS WILL BE FINED $__," or whatever the legal consequence is.

Although: I told today's guy I was calling the cops but then they didn't come, so it appeared to him as an empty threat.

I have an absentee management (my building is one of many owned by a big management company, miles away in another borough), no single "landlord" lives here and certainly no doorman. I left them a message but if they ever return it (not likely, you usually have to leave a few messages to get a callback) I'm not sure what to ask them for.

I'm sorry I haven't googled this thoroughly before posting, I'm just really sleepy and frustrated. I was hoping somebody here knows already.
posted by lorimer to Law & Government (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wear earplugs to bed.
posted by Bruce H. at 11:47 AM on October 31, 2007

IDT energy has been discussed extensively at the consumerist. I don't know if you can get any helpful information from them.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 11:48 AM on October 31, 2007

How about a "no soliciting" sign on your door?
posted by moosedogtoo at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

At the very least, put a sign on your door indicating that you're a daysleeper and no solicitation please.
posted by canine epigram at 11:50 AM on October 31, 2007

Hock a nice big loogie in their face when you answer the door. They'll stop coming.
posted by fallenposters at 11:55 AM on October 31, 2007

BEWARE OF DOG sign? :-)
posted by xammerboy at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2007

No Soliciting.

Proud Member of Local 1-2 of the Utility Workers Union of America!
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 11:56 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

these guys are scammers, but you're right, there may not be much you can do. here are some ideas for notes to put right above your doorbell.

"I work nights and sleep days. PLEASE only ring bell for emergencies."

"I work nights and sleep days. If you wake me up to sell me something, I will punch you."

"ATTENTION! Baby sleeping. Do not ring bell except for emergency."

"Doorbell broken."

"Solicitations NOT accepted. Don't waste your time."
posted by thinkingwoman at 11:57 AM on October 31, 2007

Put up a sign that says "I am quite happy with ConEd, thank you. Persons trying to persuade me otherwise will be viciously knifed."
posted by boots at 11:58 AM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

I would just go with a big "No Solicitations or Sales Calls" sign on the door, if that's where they're knocking/buzzing from.

If they're pressing a buzzer down at the street level, where placing a big sign would be impractical, then I guess you'd have to look into ways of disabling the buzzer when you're sleeping.

But since the police aren't going to show up, and it's sadly illegal to shoot or beat these people, I'm not sure there's much else in the way of 'direct action' that you can take.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2007

Another thing you can do is 1) Break your current doorbell 2) Install a new, battery-operated wireless doorbell above the other one, and unplug the ringer unit inside the apt. during the day.
posted by Eringatang at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2007

Response by poster: I do wear earplugs and sadly doorbell disabling won't help. This is a one-room studio apt, no earplugs will mask door pounding 6 feet away (this guy's default knock was doorbell + loud pounding simultaneously, which they have probably been instructed to do because it's more of a "serious"/landlord sound of knock).

I sadly have to report that in my fucked up building, any signs on my own door (like the ones being suggested) are guaranteed to result in asshole kids knocking on purpose to wake me up.

I have to try to prevent this at the source.

Anybody knows whether this actually is illegal?
posted by lorimer at 12:04 PM on October 31, 2007

What if you put a sign on the door that you had a sleeping baby?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:05 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

What if you put a sign on the door that just says "Infectious-do not enter"
posted by HuronBob at 12:09 PM on October 31, 2007

A roommate of mine once claimed (note: claimed) that he answered the door nude with a hardon, shouted "What the fuck do you want? If you're not going to blow me, get lost!"

...and we were never bothered again. I personally am not sure that's true, but we were suddenly not bothered by those solicitors any more.

On the other hand, I was afflicted by the mental image of my naked roommate. So maybe it's been a tossup.
posted by aramaic at 12:15 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

Don't put a sign on your door indicating your work schedule.

Do report it to the landlord, super, security, or whatever applies in your building. People should be strongly discouraged from letting strangers into the building.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:15 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]

(report the solicitation, not your work schedule)
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:16 PM on October 31, 2007

Greet solicitors with a squirt gun filled with water. Use liberally.

Or, if you have the energy, get a group together to file a class action lawsuit for harassment.
posted by theora55 at 12:17 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

In the middle of the night, put a sign on the door to the building that reads "No Solicitation." Everybody that lives there will think the management or super or somebody put it there, and management won't care since they are boroughs away. And if they did care, they can just remove the sticker.

If you stop the IDT people, I am sure your neighbors will be happy, too.

Low risk, might work.
posted by milarepa at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2007 [4 favorites]

This is a building where anyone will be let in if they wait by the outside door

It's still trespassing. Next time, answer the door, get the organization's info and call the police.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:18 PM on October 31, 2007

Also, get the landlord/super/whatever to put a 'no solicitors' sign on the outside door.
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2007

Don't put up a sign indicating that you sleep days and work nights. Unless you want to come home some morning and find your stuff gone, it's horribly bad idea to make your schedule available.

A sign simply stating "No Solicitors" might help. It's my understanding that soliciting generally isn't illegal unless you make it clear they are unwanted and not welcome. But these sound like the type of people that will ignore said sign and unless you can actually get the cops to respond it's an empty threat. Another possibility might be continuing to contact management and asking them to put up a no soliciting sign on the front. Keep calling, I guess. Perhaps try to frame it in terms indicating these are aggressive, pushy, and maybe vaguely hostile people, knocking and ringing loudly under the guise of being official. I suspect your management wouldn't be too keen on those types of people.

Another possibility is reporting these people to ConEdison. They almost certainly don't want to be associated with these assholes and enough complaints might prompt them to contact the other company/companies.
posted by 6550 at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

(or, better yet, what milarepa said)
posted by Reggie Digest at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2007

Post a sign.


Might work, ........would work on me.
posted by Freedomboy at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2007

Oh, the IDT thugs. God, those guys are the WORST. You have my sympathies.

From your descriptions, I assume your buildings is something like one I lived in not too long ago, in which apathy and neglect have taken their toll.

I'm afraid that there is no magic bullet to stop this. But maybe try these steps; they're energy intensive, but may result in your being left alone.
- Put up a sign, as permanent as possible, saying "no solicitation" on the outside of your apartment door
- take a digital picture of said sign, with time/date stamp, and store it
- next time some IDT ass knocks on your door, get his badge number and office info. He will, as you've experienced, not want to give it to you. (They're trained to be shady.) But if you are persistant, or if you get the guy's partner (they always work in pairs), you can then call 1) Con Ed (complain they're impersonating ConEd - this pisses ConEd off and they'll go after the marketing firm IDT hires) 2)call the IDT office and complain.
- Follow up your calls with a letter documenting your complaints, attaching the date-stamped "no solicitation" sign.
- CC your complaint to your local Community Board, City Council representative, and state representative.
- Call the Community Board, City Council and State Representative. Ask them if they got your letter and what they plan to do about it.

Repeat as needed. Exhausting, I know. But the squeeky wheel gets the grease here in New York.

Good luck. (A white noise machine and better earplugs might be less involved.)
posted by minervous at 12:34 PM on October 31, 2007

This is the text of the no soliciting sign on our door. It works.


If you are selling something DO NOT knock on the door, or ring the doorbell. We do not need your magazines, coupon books, or eternal salvation. I’m sure your cause is important, and it will still be important without the donation you will not get from us.

If you are a Boy Scout or Girl Scout this does not apply, please knock. One can never have too many Thin Mints in the house!

posted by COD at 12:48 PM on October 31, 2007 [3 favorites]

Call IDT?
posted by Pants! at 12:57 PM on October 31, 2007

Display a radioactive waste sign outside, and loop a recording of a Geiger-Müller counter on a boombox. Then, aim a green light at the door and dim the hallway. It's what I'm doing for halloween.
posted by |n$eCur3 at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

I did call 911 (there is no way to phone police here except 911)

You probably should have dialed 311 for this.
posted by bdk3clash at 1:22 PM on October 31, 2007

Make sure there's a 'No soliciting' and 'No Trespassing' signs on the main door. When they knock on your door, (which should also display 'no soliciting/trespassing' signs) ask for ID, take the ID, close your door, call the police and say you want to report a trespasser. If you have a scanner or photocopier, copy the ID. Otherwise write down the details on it.

Under § 140.05 of the New York Penal Law, “[a] person is guilty of trespass when he knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises.”

It must be proved that the person charged with trespass “‘knowingly’ entered the premises without license and privilege and, therefore, a person who enters upon premises accidentally or who honestly believes that he is licensed or privileged to enter, is not guilty of any degree of criminal trespass.” So a person who enters land with permission, or believing he has permission to do so, or by accident, is not guilty of criminal trespass.

A person also is not guilty of criminal trespass if he enters apparently unused land that is not enclosed unless he has received word from the owner that he does not have permission to enter, or it is posted with “No Trespassing” signs.

In addition to criminal trespass, a person who enters another’s property may be liable to the property owner for civil trespass, for which the owner can sue in a civil case. In New York, “the essence of trespass is the invasion of a person’s interest in the exclusive possession of land.”

Liability for civil trespass requires the factfinder to consider whether the person, without justification or permission, either intentionally entered upon another’s property, or, if entry was permitted, that the person refused ‘to leave after permission to remain ha[d] been withdrawn.’

A person who asks or hires another to enter land, even though he does not personally do so himself, also is liable for trespass. So this would cover an action against IDT.

“One is subject to liability to another for trespass, irrespective of whether he thereby causes harm to any legally protected interest of the other, if he intentionally (a) enters land in the possession of the other, or causes a thing or a third person to do so.”

If, by any act of his, the actor intentionally causes a third person to enter land, he is as fully liable as though he himself enters. Thus, if the actor has commanded or requested a third person to enter land in the possession of another, the actor is responsible for the third person’s entry if it be a trespass.”

Therefore, in a civil case the jury will find trespass occurred if a person entered, or hired or asked someone else to enter, the land of another. Unlike criminal trespass, a person does not have to “knowingly” act for liability to attach; the mere act of entering another’s land without permission or justification constitutes trespass.

Once liability is established in a civil trespass suit, the property owner may be entitled to damages.

So the ultimate solution, if you can persuade your building owners to do this, might be for the building owners to threaten IDT with a civil suit for trespass.
posted by essexjan at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2007

I don't know this company, IDT but they have a toll free line and if you complain enough and take their names, your address should be removed from their contact files. Otherwise, I do agree that doing something a bit disturbing -- nudity, verbal abuse, curses rather than threats, e.g. "I hope you die a long and painful death, in front of your children" not "I'll kill you" -- when answering the door can make you memorable to the point where people don't want to knock again, when simple request not to come back (e.g. Jehovah Witnesses, et al) is not enough.
posted by Listener at 2:06 PM on October 31, 2007

Response by poster: essexjan, thanks for the excellent info.

I really appreciate all the suggestions.

All you people with your clever/verbose signs sooooooo don't live in my neighborhood. :)

Trust me, there should be nothing on my apartment door. What I'm going for is to get solicitors to leave my BUILDING alone without calling any attention to my APARTMENT. That's why my initial idea for anonymously putting the sign on the building's front door.

These people are clearly just knocking on every apartment door in sequence -- and it's been a different person knocking every time -- so I don't think it would work either to make myself 'memorable' or to try getting IDT to take me off any list. There's no list... it's human junk mail. They're just looking for Current Occupant.
posted by lorimer at 2:17 PM on October 31, 2007

Aha, I see. Well, basically, you're screwed then.

They're not going to ignore your building, because they're not around long enough to learn to do so. Whatever you teach one drone will not affect the next drone.

...if people are letting them in, they will continue to get in, and they will continue to knock on every available door in sequence.

All the fancy naked/swearing/311-calls/signs won't change that, because next time it will be a different IDT drone. You may have taught one, but you won't have taught the next one.
posted by aramaic at 2:33 PM on October 31, 2007

or who honestly believes that he is licensed or privileged to enter, is not guilty of any degree of criminal trespass.

If a resident lets him into the building, even carelessly, he may be able to claim he was (or at least thought he was) invited.
posted by ctmf at 2:41 PM on October 31, 2007

Lorimer, call the company. People get assigned to areas. If the company is sloppier than that, they deserve a severe inquisition, because they are harassing you, and that is wrong. Tell the company that in no uncertain terms. Take the names of who you talk to. If you don't get a promise from someone with name and title, talk to their supervisor. Ultimately you will be referred to someone too busy to talk to you. Then you write to them. Someone is in charge of assigning people to certain areas, and they should stay away from you.

I'm thinking that those horrible insect/mouse glue traps covering a large area of your door would be very nice to have.
posted by Listener at 2:44 PM on October 31, 2007

And tell them their people have no right to bang on the door as though they are cops or B&E artists testing for opportunities. It's scary, it's invasive, and it's not right. They are in charge of training those jerks better than that. You can always take a photo of these idiots and send it along for identification purposes, as well.
posted by Listener at 3:02 PM on October 31, 2007

I'd pee on their shoes. Every time.

Call 311 as mentioned above. Report the company to ConEd and the police. I'd also call the police every time they bang on your door and report them. Even if they can claim they are not guilty of trespassing, going through the hassle of having to explain themselves to the police every time they go into your building might make the company stop sending people out to your building so much.
posted by bedhead at 4:13 PM on October 31, 2007

I made bogey stickers for the hordes of magazine salesmen that used to knock on my door back at school. It started simply as a post-it note with tick-marks of how many of them came by. Eventually, I made a nice sheet with a silhouette of a water gun.

They got the hint and passed over my apartment after 6 or 7 bogeys.

Life soon got boring again.
posted by idiotfactory at 4:48 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]

In NYC the police will not make a trespassing arrest in the circumstances you have outlined unless the management company (Or the landlord or a representative) has signed charges.

As for a cause of action for a civil suit, although I am not a lawyer, my understanding of this issue (one I have been involved with before) is that you will need to have someone from the management company willing to work with you.

I would advise:

1) Contact the Community Service unit at your local police precinct. You can see a list of precincts here with links to the various units within each precinct. Here is a map of precients in case you need to determine which one covers your neighborhood. The Community Service unit is going to have lists of who to contact at the management company, and you may learn that you are not the first person in your building to make a complaint.

2) If you were to call 911 again, and I certainly would if the person refused to provide you with ID (please don't open your door to look at the ID rather look through the hole) I would present it as a suspicious activity complaint, which you could in good conscience do. After all, the man refused to provide you with identification, he is a stranger and you do not know what he is doing in the building. Just please, please, get a description of him before you call it in (Race, approx age, height, weight, hair color, what color/style of clothes).
posted by mlis at 6:43 PM on October 31, 2007

I do the naked crazy bastard thing... If it's not my landlord knocking at my door, I do the "OMG naked person at the door" thing. It works. I can listen to my neighbors being assaulted by the Mormons or other door-to-door type things. Really, it only takes one or two knocks on my door before they learn to leave me alone...

Whip open the door butt naked and tell them "OMG my prayers are answered"... Soon enough they'll leave you alone....
posted by zengargoyle at 6:52 PM on October 31, 2007

there is no way to phone police here except 911

Yes, there is.
posted by oaf at 6:05 AM on November 2, 2007

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