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Brooklyn Park looks to tighten rules for door-to-door sales

August 6, 2018

The knock on his rambler’s front door last November didn’t alarm Brooklyn Park resident Ryan Jancik. It’s what came after, when Jancik left the salesman’s knock unanswered and then heard the stranger try to turn his doorknob.

The unsettling incident spurred Jancik to call the police and contact City Hall. It also made him realize, he said, that the city’s process for licensing and regulating door-to-door sales needed work.

Brooklyn Park city officials and police agree.

Pushy or aggressive sales tactics and “questionable applicants” being granted a peddler or solicitor license have galvanized new efforts to review and update Brooklyn Park’s code.

“It’s one of these ordinances that hadn’t been looked at for a long time, and it was outdated,” said Keith Jullie, Brooklyn Park’s rental and business licensing manager. “[Jancik] was the one who brought it to our attention and got the ball rolling.”

Now city officials are working to streamline how licenses are issued and regulated. That includes updating the penalties for violations, requiring background checks for all door-to-door salespeople, fee hikes for licenses to deter “fly-by-night” applicants and issuing identification cards for those with doorstep pitches. City Council members approved a first reading of the changes late last month and are expected to make their final vote Aug. 27.

“It’s probably long overdue,” said Mayor Jeff Lunde. “Someone should be able to see at a glance if they are legitimate.”

If approved, Brooklyn Park would join a growing number of cities issuing door-to-door identification for doorstep salespeople, including St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.

Many cities are increasingly requiring licenses for such sales, said Dan Hendrickson, communications manager at the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota.

“It’s tightening up,” Hendrickson said. “More cities are looking at this or have already put things in place.”

Currently, Brooklyn Park requires a background check and a license for peddlers — defined in the city’s code as carrying the sales product or goods with them — but not for solicitors, who currently only pay a $50 registration fee.

The rule change would require all door-to-door salespeople get a $200 background check and a license. City staff are proposing a $100 fee for a 30-day license and $300 for a six-month license.

“We just want to make sure that we are covering our costs,” Jullie said.

At the July 23 first reading, Council Member Susan Pha voiced concern that the fees would be too high. Council members also raised questions about whether to require city-issued IDs for fundraising groups, nonprofits and those who may be otherwise exempted from getting a license.

City staff say tightening the license period and boosting the fees will provide more control over door-to-door sales. Jullie said the city revoked a solicitor permit from a Kirby vacuum salesman last year after he damaged some yard ornaments and “made a ruckus” when a homeowner asked him to leave. Other cities have had similar trouble with pushy vacuum sales tactics.

Jancik, a crime watch captain, did some digging into the roofing and siding salesman who came knocking last November and said he discovered that the man should have been prohibited from getting a license under the city’s code based on his criminal history.

In the months since, Jancik has worked with city officials to identify problems with Brooklyn Park’s current ordinance.

“It was just a really good process and refreshing to see how the city staff responded,” he said. “It went from a negative experience to a very positive experience.”

Hannah Covington • 612-673-4751

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