I received the following email this evening; here it is in it’s entirety and my response is directly below:
From: Steve [LAST NAME DELETED] [EMAIL DELETED]
Sent: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:45 PM
Subject: Door to door news spot
I saw your news spot on the WFSB website about the girls going door to door, and read your blog post. Seems there is a lot of FUD around the situation, and I thought I would let you know that at least one of the students is a great, hard-working, and honest kid. I know because she's my little sister. I'm sure the other two girls are very respectable too, but I don't know them personally. I don't know if you got the chance to talk to any of them in person, but if you didn't, you can find out more about their company here:
Obviously, Wallingford is a tight-knit community, and you are just looking out for your neighbors. I can see where the asking for a place to rent might put some people off, but hundreds of students in their company do this every year all over the country without incident. They have really good products to sell, and they work hard. If you are curious or want to discuss this further, feel free to drop me line.
Over-protective Big Brother,
I appreciate you dropping me a note; the problem is the way they handled themselves and I even indicated early on that it might just be “young people who are acting a little quirky” and that wasn’t meant as a slight. I am sure my behavior at 19 was odd to most adults.
The problem here is their approach – they are going into neighborhoods trying to sell (in this case education materials) and at the same time asking about housing.
We’ve had over the years in Wallingford and the surrounding areas a number of situations where people profiled homes; who lives there (elderly, single parent, etc) to get a sense of who might be home when and when they might not. A guy casing houses by offering in home estimates for repairs, cleaning out basements, etc is going to have a difficult time because more times than not that man will be turned away. But all I have to do is hire a few young girls and the alarm level goes down on the homeowner especially women that are mothers.
You indicate “hundreds of students in (this) company do this every year all over the country without incident” I can tell you from the responses directly to me (and I have had 30,000 blog hits on my post alone) NO ONE in Wallingford that contacted me ever heard of a practice like this.
If these girls simply said as they approached homeowners “my name is [NAME], I go to the University of [SCHOOLNAME], and I am trying to pay my way through college by selling educational guides from Southwestern Advantage – do you have school age students in the home?” this would have been a non-issue.
Of course now that I have a company name (which they did not volunteer to anyone they approached) I can do some quick look ups online and I hate to say it, it’s not making me think it’s ALL FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) because here is what I can find:
Criticism about the operations of Southwestern Advantage revolves around its recruiting practices and the financial risk to students whose profits from sales do not substantially cover their expenses. Because they are independent contractors, Southwestern Advantage expects students to fully finance their living expenses similar to any other career job. Southwestern Advantage does not pay for expenses like food, gas, or rent. In addition, expenses of the required Sunday meetings with managers are not covered by the company, but by the students themselves. Foreign students in particular carry a major financial burden, as they must pay for their visas and airfare themselves.
Students are taught to indirectly ask if there are other families in the neighborhood who may have small children. Such questions have sometimes been regarded as suspicious, resulting in complaints to local police, close police scrutiny and even an arrest for disorderly conduct. By traveling door to door, students sometimes draw the attention of local law enforcement. Local requirements are reviewed by the company prior to the summer in order to sell products legally, and Southwestern Advantage offers assistance in the event of permit issues. Students are encouraged to leave their cellphones at home to focus on the task at hand, but it is not required.
Look what it says right here as I believe this says it all - Students are taught to indirectly ask if there are other families in the neighborhood who may have small children. Such questions have sometimes been regarded as suspicious, resulting in complaints to local police, close police scrutiny and even an arrest for disorderly conduct. By traveling door to door, students sometimes draw the attention of local law enforcement.
That is exactly what happened here in Wallingford and from the looks of it we “jumped” no more and no less than any of the other communities that have encountered the students.
I would say based on this review of the company (and some others that were much more colorful I might add) the residents here acted accordingly and within their best interests.
I do appreciate that you took the time to reach out to me concerning the news story and I hope you have a good evening.