How to handle "No Solitation" signs...
January 11, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

No solicitation signs...

I'm starting a new business, publishing a newsletter that will be distributed freely to local businesses that they can give to their customers while waiting on appointments, meals, etc. It is supported by advertising, so I'm not really asking for anything other than to place the newsletters in their establishments at no cost to them. I am not asking these businesses for advertising revenue or sales.

I'm not sure how to handle businesses that have "No Solicitation" signs, though. I know some of the business owners, so I don't really hesitate with those, but it's the ones that I don't know that I'm questioning. I think it is something that they would really like once they saw it, but I don't want to offend them by asking--or waste my time or theirs.


posted by Mrs. Smith to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always taken No Solicitation signs to mean no soliciting in person... so could you do a small direct-mail campaign to these retailers and follow up by phone?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 12:26 PM on January 11, 2008

It usually doesn't mean anything, people ignore it and come in to trade business cards all the time, unfortunately. Don't expect much.
posted by prostyle at 12:26 PM on January 11, 2008

I think it is something that they would really like once they saw it

Yeah, but, see, the thing is, all solicitors think that.
posted by box at 12:27 PM on January 11, 2008 [9 favorites]

I guess I'm literal-minded, but no solicitation means no solicitation... product or not, you are soliciting them to put your newsletter in their establishments. I wouldn't be too pleased if I had a sign up and I was bothered in person by someone.

I'd suggest either calling and pitching the idea to the manager/owner or writing and sending a sample issue or two.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:28 PM on January 11, 2008

You don't say what the newsletter is about, specifically, but I would generally be inclined not to ask businesses to hand out my fliers if they have "no solicitation" signs up.

A possible exception would be if the flier or newsletter in question has something to do specifically with their business, or is a "support local businesses, here's a map" type of thing.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2008

I don't really feel like offering a free newspaper for distribution is really the same as soliciting business, which I would think of as someone asking me to pay for something. But I'm not a small-business owner, or someone who deals with solicitors, so maybe there's less of a difference than I think?
posted by occhiblu at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2008

For clarification, Mrs. Smith: who buys the ads in this newsletter?
posted by box at 12:35 PM on January 11, 2008

Many of the stores that have "No Solicitation" signs also carry ads from various companies on their windows. Someone has to solicit their business.

I tend to take the signs to mean more like don't go advertising your business directly on their property to their customers, like by handing out flyers.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:42 PM on January 11, 2008

It is supported by advertising, so I'm not really asking for anything other than to place the newsletters in their establishments at no cost to them

What you are really asking is for these businesses to provide the eyes of their customers in place of those that you have already sold to your advertisers. It doesn't matter what kind of business you approach, this is going to be the initial interpretation of that statement. Save yourself some shame and leave out the "at no cost to you" bit if you do decide to ignore the signs.
posted by prostyle at 12:50 PM on January 11, 2008

I'd say it means no soliciting of any sort if you're walking in without an appointment. If you have something that will benefit their business at no cost to them, you should be able to get an appointment.
posted by winston at 1:08 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Many years ago, I worked in the arts. Part of my job was posting posters for various performances (mostly orchestra and opera performances) in shops. Some places had "no solicitation" signs. Since I was not asking for any money from the shops or competing with the shops for customers, I figured I could just stop in, tell the owner about the performance, and then leave a poster or two--irrespective of the "no soliciting sign." Who doesn't love an orchestra concert or an opera, amirite?

Suffice it to say, "no soliciting" pretty much means "don't come in unless you want to buy what I have to sell." Often, I would barely get through the door before being kicked out.

Fortunately, being sneeringly ejected from those dry cleaners, newsstands and restaurants toughened me up enough that I transformed me from a delicate not-for-profit arts person to a ferocious lawasaurus.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:20 PM on January 11, 2008

In our Real Estate office, we don't mind someone like you coming in. It's the people selling a 10 pack of car washes or hanging up opera performance posters we don't want around.

Also, as long as we are on the subject.... if you are lost, a local real estate office is NOT the place to go.
posted by thilmony at 1:23 PM on January 11, 2008

I always had the impression that it mostly means 'Stop wasting the time of my employees by asking them to buy shit from you, or advertise crap, or whatever.' If you reached out to the owners directly, or specifically chose times that wouldn't interfere with other work, they might be more amenable.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2008

"No soliciting" isn't always clear. It doesn't mention business-issues specifically, but it could could be a generic "Don't come in and ask for something unless you're a customer" form of solicit.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:54 PM on January 11, 2008

Maybe you can make a better impression on multiple businesses at once by going to a local business association meeting and making a pitch there. Otherwise try for the word of mouth approach and pick a few businesses that are friendly to your approach and ask them to distribute the idea to their business neighbors. Those people could also give you direct contacts.
posted by JJ86 at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2008

I think that regardless of what anyone says here, you are going to find two kinds of business owners who place No Soliciting signs: those who take a hardline approach and business owners who are perfectly fine with it.

So its really going to be up to you on whether you want to put up with the former telling you to get lost in order to get to the latter's waiting room space.
posted by uaudio at 2:33 PM on January 11, 2008

...and that's about the worst that can happen - "get lost!" You will endure much worse in your pursuit of advertising for your newsletter.
posted by uaudio at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2008

I had one that said "This is not a brothel, there are no prostitutes at this address." that kept people away.
posted by parmanparman at 2:47 PM on January 11, 2008

Mail them a copy with an explanation of how to use it, "keep this in your waiting area."

Mailing is cheap and then you can count your circulation numbers as the number of people you mail it to instead of the number of people who accept it when hand-delivered.
posted by Mick at 2:55 PM on January 11, 2008

Best answer: I work for a company that publishes a similar product; a free weekly newspaper in which all the articles are trivial type snippets of information. (For example, a Valentine's Day issue was all about famous love songs and the people for whom they were written.) This paper, too, is supported entirely by ads, and is the type of thing you see laying in a stack at the hair salon or Chinese restaurant that you might pick up and read while you wait. If a business owner was to actually read a copy and know that you're not asking him to advertise, I don't think he'd have any objection to placing a couple of copies in his lobby. After all, it keeps folks busy and less likely to complain if they have to wait. And you're not trying to lure business away from him; you're hoping to catch the eye of other business owners who might want to advertise. Maybe sending a sample copy to the owner along with an explanatory letter might be a good way to start, at least for the "No Soliciting" type places. Good luck with your new venture!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:15 PM on January 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

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