My front door needs a "Mark as Junk" button
December 11, 2007 2:41 PM   Subscribe

How can I keep solicitors from knocking on my door without feeling like a jerk?

I've had it with solicitors coming to my house. It's always some scruffy kid who's clearly been dropped off in the area to knock on doors -- last time, I wound up lending him my phone so he could call his ride -- and I'm pretty sure it's being run as a for-profit business. Most of the time, when I tell them I'm not going to buy anything they just ask for money directly.

Many of my neighbors have "No Solicitors" signs, but I think they look cheap (tacky plastic or stickers) and hostile (white on red, block letters, visible from 40 yards). But I'm tired of repeating my mantra, and tired of having my sympathy for these kids warring with my disgust at the people who are sending them out as professional beggars.

What I'd ideally like to find is something that doesn't make the front of my house look like ass (I was thinking an engraved brass doorbell frame) that says something to the effect of "Neighbors and friends are welcome. I'm happy to help you look for your lost dog, or if you need directions, or even if you're selling Girl Scout cookies. But if somebody is paying you to knock on my door, please go away." But hopefully in less space.
posted by bjrubble to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I never answer my door unless I know someone is coming over. You are not obligated to answer your door. Most friends and family let you know when they are coming over so just don't bother answering.
posted by 45moore45 at 2:44 PM on December 11, 2007

Just accept the fact that they're going to come. When I get the knock-knock I open the door, realize they are peddlers, and say, "No thanks". And I shut the door. Yeah, I hate those No Solicitors signs, too.

I used to stand and listen to their rap, afraid that I'd "hurt their feelings", or they would think I was rude. Then I realized that hey, they are the ones that are being rude. I didn't seek them out, I didn't solicit them, I don't want their stuff. No thanks.
posted by wafaa at 2:55 PM on December 11, 2007

Hm. Could you just create a "No Solicitors" sign that avoids that things you dislike about your neighbors' signs? Hand-write or print it in a nice (large) font on fancy paper with an attractive border, add the word "please", laminate it or put it in a light waterproof frame and *then* stick it to your door. I think you will have to go with something somewhat blunt and clearly displayed if you want it to have any effect, but it needn't be tacky as such.

Alternatively, you could just install a peephole and pre-screen your visitors before you answer the door.
posted by fermion at 2:57 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: If you're willing to welcome Girl Scouts, who are themselves solicitors, there's no blanket sign you can really come up with.

You could ask these door to door folks if they need help escaping a dangerous lifestyle and tell them you won't pay to support an industry that often exploits its employees?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 3:13 PM on December 11, 2007

Well this may not work all the time, but why not try being a jerk, or at least be aggressive in return. In my neck of the woods, often the solicitors work for the same company - they are hired by another company to basically peddle their goods, or at least get the resident to accept some sales pitch or advertisement. If you "firmly" tell them to get lost a couple times, it gets back to them that its not cost-effective to keep sending poor scruffy kids to that address and they leave you alone... mostly.

Works for religious peddlars too. I recall once the traditional older woman/younger woman pair showed up wanting to hand off some crap and talk to me about God - only the younger gal was CUTE! So I just blatently leered at her lasciviously for a few minutes while they made their speil and the older woman got offended and dragged the girl away. The younger one was kind of smirking the whole time and I waved goodbye and she waved back. But they never returned, nor has anyone from that church.
posted by elendil71 at 3:18 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: More attractive than usual signs in enameled metal or brass.

Perhaps a doormat would be better than a sign. Or perhaps one with more blunt phrasing. (Which reminds me: when I was a wee Girl Spout, in a time and place where parents let their 7 year old daughters knock on strangers' doors to sell cookies, I knocked upon the door of someone who posted a "No Soliciting" sign because I simply didn't know the meaning of the word "soliciting." It's possible that I'm not the only kid who doesn't know that word, either).

Also, you could put your words in stone.

Alas, as pretty as some of the options above are, I've found that for the most part, they are ignored by all but the most conscientious (or perhaps literate) of peddlers. My solution was to rig up a webcam and a speaker (a little less creepy than it sounds because due to French doors, I can't just sneak up and peek out a spyhole) which I use to boom disembodied Oz-like demurrals from the comfort of my office chair.
posted by jamaro at 3:26 PM on December 11, 2007

I never answer my door unless I know someone is coming over.

Not a good idea. You never know if someone is trying to see whether anyone is in so they can burglarize your place if it's absent. Or if the cops are trying to get in.

You might consider making up some fliers regarding your policy and sticking them under the door when the solicitors arrive.
posted by grouse at 3:28 PM on December 11, 2007

Grouse, as a single female, answering the door is just plain stupid for me if I don't know who it is. WTF would the cops be doing knocking on my door unless I called them? They'd be screaming "POLICE" anyway, and until saleman start yelling "STEAK KNIVES" I'll just keep the door shut.
posted by 45moore45 at 3:35 PM on December 11, 2007 [3 favorites]

You're not a jerk. They are. You're afraid of violating a social norm to someone who is violating a social norm?

How can I exploit this with you? Maybe you'd feel sorrow about being a tattle-tale if I steal your car. How rude would I have to be that you'd be as rude back?

hey know that they're being rude to come to your doorstep. They hope to exploit your hesitation to say "I don't want to talk to you" to pressure you into doing something you don't want to do. They practice scripts to deflect your "no"s. Do you know how many elderly, senile, lonely, or easily-persuaded people they exploit? Even if you turn the garden hose on them and ruin their afternoon, they're still coming out way on top.

What you should really do is learn not to feel bad about telling them to buzz off.
posted by cmiller at 3:36 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

WTF would the cops be doing knocking on my door unless I called them?

I wanted to know the same thing when three of them showed up at my door with weapons at the ready. Turns out they were looking for a previous resident who was allegedly wanted regarding some sort of firearms law violation.

As for the bad guys, I think you're at far more risk when they think no one's home than when they think someone is home. The only time anyone's ever tried to burglarize somewhere I lived was after they knocked and I didn't answer. YMMV.
posted by grouse at 3:54 PM on December 11, 2007

"Neighbors and friends are welcome. I'm happy to help you look for your lost dog, or if you need directions, or even if you're selling Girl Scout cookies. But if somebody is paying you to knock on my door, please go away." But hopefully in less space.

Yeah, I hate to tell you this, but you've just exactly described a "no soliciting" sign. I know the red stick-on ones look like ass, but there may be other options - and if you're handy, or know someone with tools, you can probably make one out of wood or metal (like the one you described) that will blend better with your decor.
posted by pdb at 3:58 PM on December 11, 2007

Three things:

1) Ever since my battery-powered doorbell's battery died, I've been much happier at home. That was months, if not years ago. I think I'm going to replace it, however, as I had one FedEx problem a couple weeks ago where the guy couldn't get me for a signature. (My deliveries almost never require signatures, obviously.) But I haven't decided. After the first delivery attempt I can always put a "please knock loudly" sign on the door in anticipation of the second delivery attempt.

2) Before that battery died, whenever the bell rang I'd go to a window at the front/side of the house to check for a delivery truck. (Or a police car ... there was one once.) If I didn't see a vehicle of anybody I cared to speak to, I'd ignore the bell. I had no problem doing this. If I worked outside of my home like a regular person, I wouldn't have been home to answer the bell anyway. (To tackle other points: if it's a burglar or whatever, I certainly do NOT want to answer the door to let him know I'm home! And my close friends/family have a key if they need to get in, and police can get in on their own as well. This doesn't even occur as a blip on my "might be a problem" radar.)

3) The "no solicitors" sign doesn't have to look tacky. Just a little bitty sign the size of a nameplate will do. It needn't be visible from across the street; it just keeps someone from pressing the doorbell. My parents use those and you don't even see them til you're standing right there. If you prefer solicitors over displaying a sign that small, that's your own wacky doing. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 4:24 PM on December 11, 2007

Response by poster: croutonsupafreak, that link made me feel ill. At the very least, I'm going to tell my (not very large) girlfriend never to open the door to these people.

What pisses me off is that I want my neighbors to feel comfortable coming and knocking on the door anytime they need something. I want the Girl Scouts to come around selling cookies. I want to live in a real neighborhood. I hate the idea that I need to radiate this general misanthropy just to keep a relatively small group of assholes from trying to take advantage of me.
posted by bjrubble at 4:30 PM on December 11, 2007

If it makes you feel better, your sign can say, "No solicitors over age 12" or whatever. "No solicitors" does not apply to neighbors, people asking for directions, looking for lost dogs, etc! :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 4:34 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Had a guy on the stoop just last night. I opened the door, saw that he was peddling something and just shook my head. He shrugged his shoulders back and went away. No words were spoken by either of us. It was rather comical.
posted by trinity8-director at 4:36 PM on December 11, 2007

I had a no soliciting sign that didn't seem to work. People would start their sales, religious, or whatever pitch to tell me that they weren't selling anything.

Now I have no sign. I just smile, say no thank you, and close the door before they can say anything.
posted by found missing at 4:42 PM on December 11, 2007

I just hang up on phone solicitors. Door knocking solicitors get a "no thanks" when they take a breath. All concerned can return to normal activities soonest.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2007

Had a guy on the stoop just last night. I opened the door, saw that he was peddling something and just shook my head. He shrugged his shoulders back and went away. No words were spoken by either of us. It was rather comical.

Isn't that great? That's how it happens in the movies. I *know* the problem is me when we stand around for 15 minutes before I finally whine my way into a "I'm soo sorry, I realllllly can't right now...." Just take care of the problem right away when you answer the door. Solicitation exists, even in the idyllic neighborhoods.
posted by iguanapolitico at 4:45 PM on December 11, 2007

As for the bad guys, I think you're at far more risk when they think no one's home than when they think someone is home.

When you don't answer, you're given the gift of seeing exactly what strangers coming up to your house are doing. If they start trying the door or walking around to the back yard, then you'll know you have a burglar, and making some noise is going to cause them to run away (people who watch too much local news and cop shows probably will say otherwise). Each time you have a stranger come to your door like this you'll have a greater awareness of what is going on in your neighborhood.

My advice, and what I do, is peep to see who is banging on the door... if it's clearly a neighbor, UPS, a cop, or some such, I open the door. Otherwise I don't answer but I monitor them to make sure they go away.
posted by chips ahoy at 4:52 PM on December 11, 2007

(and make sure they don't steal anything from the porch -- that does happen)
posted by chips ahoy at 4:53 PM on December 11, 2007

I don't know how to keep the girl scouts from coming (where I live, they don't go door-to-door but mostly sell cookies in front of the local grocery store or their parents end up bringing the sales sheets in to school or their workplace). But there are ways to get your point across. Before the "Don't Call" list, my father had a phone message that said, simply, "Sorry, we don't take calls from solicitors."

Of course, some of the kids selling things don't know what 'solicitors' are. You could certainly hang a nice sign with, "We don't open the door to strangers--no salesmen, please," or, "Door-to-door sales are discouraged in this neighborhood," or similar. You can let your neighbors know that they are more than welcome to hit you up. They'll understand.

My own home approach is just like iguanapolitico's, and it works for me.

Also, when I get a call from a professional fundraising for some charity, I tell them, honestly, "I'm sorry, but we have designated charities that we give to each year. That's all our budget allows." After that, they leave me alone.
posted by misha at 5:44 PM on December 11, 2007

Thank you for being a thoughtful neighbor and citizen!

Solicitors suck, no doubt about it. But I worked a few years ago for a political organization and door-to-door fund raising was more than half of our budget. Regardless of your feelings toward interacting with political parties, salesmen, or whatever I will tell you from first hand experience what kept myself and my crew away and what didn't.

First, forget the signs. Unless there is a specific law within your town which says to effect: "It is illegal for people to ring the doorbells of homes displaying 'No Solicitations' signs," they are meaningless. I instructed my political canvasing kids to ignore signs. I would say, "Look, we're not selling tube socks, we're trying to change America!" No sign is going to stop that.

Second, if the front of your home is visually vague, or uninviting, this will weed out a lot of walkups. Additionally, if you don't have a house number clearly displayed this will stop a lot of people in their tracks. For our political campaigning, we had our kids make a notation of the house address before they walked up. If they couldn't see or discern the street number, they would likely pass the home over.

Third, know the law in your town for door-to-door solicitations. While I don't know of any town that could get away with outlawing solicitors (there are freedom of speech issues involved), many towns have specific requirements. I'd say that 90% of the time before I could send my people into any municipality I had to secure permission (and individual permits) from the city manager. Sometimes this would involve background checks, sometimes a fee, other times it would just require registering with the town before setting out on our door-to-door rounds.

The point is: if your town has specific requirements (say a permit) then you should ask for that and if the people can't produce the required information, definitely call the police. The idea is that when your doorbell is rang, or when someone knocks, that they have already been filtered by your community to their (and your) standards.

Of course, if your community doesn't already have legislation on the books protecting you from abusive solicitations then it's time to start lobbying your representatives.

Good luck!
posted by wfrgms at 5:52 PM on December 11, 2007

This is the text to my No Soliciting sign. It is 100% effective. The Mormons were trolling the neighborhood last week and even they skipped my house.


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 6:38 PM on December 11, 2007

Best answer: I printed up a small sign that says No Soliciting, with a picture of the evil monkey from Family Guy. We haven't been bothered since (even by the Jehova's Witnesses who several times, before I put the sign up, tried to actually open my front door). That kind of sign is clearly not meant for neighbors, or for people who need help, etc.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:35 PM on December 11, 2007

You can do what I did: have kids, and adopt barky little dogs.

Granted, I did it for different reasons, but as soon as someone knocks on the door the dogs start going nuts and the kids start screaming because the dogs are going nuts. Then I make a half-hearted attempt to gather it all in and calm it down, fail, and end up shouting "sorry, I can't hear you, sorry!" and closing the window again (our kitchen window opens to the porch.)
posted by davejay at 11:57 PM on December 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I didn't want to put up a No Soliciting sign. But I was tired of the constant parade of Jehovah's Witnesses, meat peddlers (there were a ton of then in town for a while), curb number painters, magazine salesmen, etc etc. When we put it up, it was like hitting a switch. The doorbell got quiet. And since we live around the corner from a Kingdom Hall (Jehovah's Witness church), the sign has been a true godsend.

Put one up. But be creative.
posted by azpenguin at 12:29 AM on December 12, 2007

At my house, none of us answer the door without a sword, spear, mace, axe, or other medieval weapon in hand and poised to strike. Then, when the bewildered, perhaps terrified solicitor stands staring at the weapon in stupefaction, we hurriedly shout, "WHAT DO YOU WANT" in as much of a I'm-looking-to-kill-somebody tone of voice as possible. This has proven 100% effective in deterring solicitors, as they quickly take any excuse or inquest to leave the premises quite rapidly.

The downside of this strategy is that opening the door on a cop with a sword in hand is probably not going to produce great results, but the chances of that happening are remote, and scaring the shit out of people is fun.
posted by baphomet at 9:20 AM on December 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Two things work for me. If a canvasser comes to my door I smile and say "I don't do canvasses. I used to work for a canvassing organization and I burnt out on it." It’s such a burnout job, pitting make-a-difference against meet-your-quota, the kids almost always get my point. I get a smile, a nod, and they move on.

Then a year ago I put a small printed & laminated sign on my door saying "No Canvassers or Solicitors. Have a Nice Day." followed by a smiley. I'm not an emoticon kind of person, but the sign has been incredibly effective. They get close enough to read the sign then start backing down the sidewalk. Last night I had one apologize because he rang my doorbell before he read the sign. He was halfway to the neighbor's. We laminate the signs in bulk now and give them away to friends when they see how they work.
posted by clownboat at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2007

Reading this book by Robert Cialdini on how psychology is used in selling/peddling may make you feel a little better about ignoring them, too. They're playing a dirty trick on you and they know it.
posted by danteGideon at 2:09 PM on December 13, 2007

Surely this is against legal professional ethics.
posted by oxford blue at 5:15 PM on December 13, 2007

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