LAURINBURG — The vacuum cleaner maker Kirby’s business model has put some Scotland residents on edge in recent weeks.
Several have lodged questions on social media about people claiming to be Kirby salespeople. Posters on the Facebook yard sale group — One Man’s Junk — have asked if others in the area had been approached by people claiming to be salesmen. They say the Kirby salespeople were in vehicles that had no identifiable markings for a company.
“Did anybody have a white van filled with people and a guy got out to show you what a Kirby vacuum could do this afternoon?” Timmie Locklear posted on April 19.
In a post on April 20, Season Norton posted: “There was a 20-something male being driven around in a blue SUV by a female in the early evening. The male has a pamphlet and what appears to be a regular bottle of Clorox bleach when he gets out with his sales pitch. Not sure what the pitch is since the homeowner did not engage in the discussion. I am just trying to verify if this is a legit door-to-door sales pitch or something to be leery of.”
A call to Kirby vacuum cleaner’s main office in Ohio confirms that the company continues to use the outside sales model despite the fact that it has largely fallen out of use in the recent years.
“It is still a vendor/ vendee model,” said Halle Sminchak chief compliance officer for the company. “We manufacture in Cleveland, Ohio and market to independent distributors, and the distributors, through sales people, sell Kirby systems door-to-door.”
Sales staff should wear an ID badge or have a business card, if not consumers should be wary, according to Sminchak.
“There should be a way for customers to verify that salespersons are legitimate. If they have questions they can call the distributor and say, ‘Were you selling on Main Street around 10 a.m.,” she said.
There are two other ways residents can verify whether people presenting themselves as vacuum cleaner salesmen are working for the Kirby Company. Anyone with concerns can call 1-800-494-8586 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST or visit kirby.com and put in a zip code to find the nearest distributor and contact that distributor.
According to Locklear’s post, the sales people were aggressive despite the fact that she told them several times that she was not interested.
Evelyn McKoy responded on the post that she too had been on the receiving end of aggressive tactics.
“A lady got out and I told her I didn’t have no carpet and she went back to the van and two guys came back with her. They were very persistent to get in my house but when I said I had cameras they left.”
High pressure sales tactics are something that Kirby representatives are not supposed to engage in, according to Sminchak.
She issued the following guidelines for handling door to door salesmen:
“They should have ID; there needs to be an explicit reason they’re there – to do a demonstration and complete cleaning,” she said. “If they seem aggressive or pushy, that is not acceptable. You should never feel pressured, and if you want the demo to end, it should end. If they are very aggressive, call us because maybe they’re not an authorized representative.”
There is a new Kirby vendor, EP Marketing in Laurinburg who confirmed to Sminchak that he had been selling in the Robeson County area last week but had not been in Scotland County for a couple of weeks.
Another dealer from Raleigh, Mack Marketing, confirmed to The Exchange that they had been selling in the area. A call to Kirby verified that they are legitimate distributors for the company.
Sminchak said that dealers are expected to abide by all local ordinances concerning door-to-door sales.
In the Laurinburg city limits that means no door-to-door sales whatsoever, according to Mac McInnis code enforcement officer.
The city ordinance states that it is “unlawful for any peddler, hawker, itinerant merchant, transient vendor or solicitor for the sale of merchandise or periodicals whether for present of future delivery to go in or upon private residences, offices or places of business not having been invited to do so by the owner or occupant…”
The city’s law does not apply to sales and orders for dairy, produce, eggs or poultry.
The county does not have any statues regarding door-to-door sales, according to Lynn Poe, permit technician.
Scotland County Sheriff’s Office has not received any complaints regarding vacuum sales in recent weeks, according to Capt. Earl Haywood, chief detective.
Like Sminchak, Haywood advised getting a business card and calling to verify the person’s position with the company for which they claim to work before allowing them in your home.
“Get the company’s contact info and say, ‘If I’m not busy, I’ll call you back.’ If it seems legitimate, you can call them back the next day,” Haywood said. “Salesmen shouldn’t be offended by the questions someone has. If someone truly wants your business they’re going to do exactly as you ask.”
He advised residents to pay attention to the solicitor’s manner of dress and how they present themselves – do they speak and act professionally – and ask for details.
“Ask questions like who is your supervisor, how long have you been selling this. They should be able to give specifics,” Haywood said. “They should also know the details about the product. Ask questions only they can answer. What’s the speed of the motor? Have them do a little demonstration outside before you allow them to enter. They should be able to give details about the product that they should know as a salesman.”
Pay attention to where their vehicle is or whether they appear to be on foot.
Haywood also warned that demonstrations should take place inside whatever area they are designed for, not throughout the house. Kitchen products should be in the kitchen, a vacuum cleaner where there’s carpet. If salesmen are asking to go all over the home, the owner should be wary.
“Some people will take something that’s legal to own or do and turn it into a scam or a criminal activity,” he said. “They might come inside the residence and once they’re in, they get an inventory of what’s in the house.
Haywood advises residents who have suspicions to call 911, the police or the sheriff’s office.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169