The Livingston Parish Council may soon ban salespeople from making house calls outside of business hours, after a former councilman said an alarm company salesman came knocking at his home at 9:30 one night.
“This is Livingston Parish. You don’t knock on somebody’s door that late unless you want to get shot,” said Chance Parent, former councilman for the Livingston-area District 1 and author of a proposal to regulate door-to-door solicitation in the unincorporated areas of the parish.
Parent said the salesman was pushy and deceitful, alleging that someone else in the home had given permission for the late visit. He said residents had approached him with similar complaints during his last year on the council, but the council was reluctant to ban the practice outright.
“I told the guy, ‘You knocked on the wrong door, buddy,’” he said of the recent incident.
Parent emailed the current council members, asking them to sponsor an ordinance he drafted that would require anyone engaging in door-to-door sales to obtain a parish permit, limit the hours they could make house calls and prohibit soliciting at any residence where the homeowner posted a “no solicitation” sign.
“I think this is a win for all sides and limits pushback from detractors as it’s not completely banning solicitors but it also allows the homeowners to have a voice as to whether or not they want to be disturbed at home,” Parent said in the email.
Municipalities in the parish, including Denham Springs and Walker, have banned door-to-door sales altogether, but the parish neither prohibits nor regulates it in unincorporated areas.
The Sheriff’s Office receives complaints about solicitors spanning both day and nighttime, with most calls coming from subdivisions located close to Interstate 12, spokeswoman Lori Steele said.
Councilman R.C. “Bubba” Harris, of south Denham Springs-area District 5, said he remembered receiving a lot of calls about door-to-door sales when he served on the parish’s police jury in the 1980s, and he has heard of similar problems since he joined the council in January.
“I think it’s kind of ridiculous for salespeople to go knocking on people’s doors after a certain time, especially families with children,” Harris said. “So we’re going to look at something that limits the hours and also addresses some other issues related to that.”
The ordinance Parent drafted – which the council deferred at its June 23 meeting – would limit door-to-door sales to the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and prohibit more than two salespeople from calling on a residence at the same time.
The proposal would ban salespeople from visiting homes that posted “no commercial solicitation” signs and would prohibit all door-to-door solicitation – commercial, charitable, religious, political or otherwise – at homes where the sign says simply “no solicitation.”
Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse, a former Walker city councilman who now represents District 7, said he would support regulations on solicitors as long as there are exclusions for nonprofits, like students raising money for school or Girl Scouts selling cookies, and possibly for political campaigns, which he said rely on meeting residents to learn about their concerns.
Girlinghouse said he also would support banning sales calls after 6 p.m.
“Kids shouldn’t be out raising money after dark, and people you don’t know shouldn’t be coming up to your house after dark,” Girlinghouse said. “The time it gets dark changes, whether it’s January or July, so you have to set hard times or people will argue it was almost dark.”
Not everyone is on board with the proposal.
Councilman Maurice “Scooter” Keen, of Denham Springs-area District 3, said he didn’t see the need because many residents are covered by the municipalities’ bans and rural areas are too remote for door-to-door sales to be practicable.
“I agree if someone came knocking at 9:30 at night, that’s ridiculous, but how often is that going to happen?” Keen said. “I really think it’s just another ordinance on the books that will be a waste. In a growing parish, we need to make it less burdensome and concentrate on things that really matter instead of frivolous things that are only small facets of life.”
Keen said if Livingston Parish is going to adopt regulations, the council should look first at what other parishes and municipalities have done and which regulations work best.
“Somebody else has already done this homework, so it’s better to go with what those areas have done than to go it alone and reinvent the wheel,” he said.