Sammamish City Councilwoman Nancy Whitten heard a knock on her door one night and opened it to find a high-school-age boy asking for a donation...
Sammamish City Councilwoman Nancy Whitten heard a knock on her door one night and opened it to find a high-school-age boy asking for a donation so his soccer team could go to a national tournament.
Distracted by a work phone call and her barking dog, Whitten handed him $10 and returned to her computer. She read an e-mail seconds later from another council member warning of a door-to-door peddler with a similar — and untrue — story.
“I could have just kicked myself,” Whitten said. While the $10 “wasn’t a great sum of money … it’s terribly disappointing when people trying to do good are taken for a ride.”
The incident — coupled with other residents’ complaints of door-to-door scammers — fueled the City Council to pass an ordinance last week requiring neighborhood vendors to show a city-issued business license when they contact residents. The new ordinance beefs up an existing, but apparently little-known, city code requiring peddlers to register at City Hall before selling their wares.
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Starting next month, peddlers who ring doorbells to push everything from magazine subscriptions to vacuum cleaners must pay a fee for a license and carry a card to prove their legitimacy, said Mike Sauerwein, administrative-services director. The cost hasn’t been finalized, but it would be under $50, he said. Nonprofits and other fund-raising groups wouldn’t have to pay the fee but would still need to register with the city.
This may mean more paperwork for solicitors used to hopping from one house to the next, but city officials say the ID will provide an extra measure of security to those who may fall prey to thieves.
“This doesn’t guarantee that somebody couldn’t steal the card or forge it, but at least it provides some layer of cross check,” said Councilman Lee Fellinge.
Council members grappled with making the new ordinance hassle-free for groups like the Girl Scouts, whose door-to-door cookie sales are a familiar sight, he said. In such cases, one license would be issued to cover all sellers associated with the group, Fellinge said.
Solicitors who don’t comply with the ordinance are to be cited with a civil infraction the first time, said Sammamish Police Chief Richard Baranzini. If they’re caught again, violators could face criminal misdemeanor charges, he said.
“People get fearful when [strangers] start showing up at their door,” Baranzini said. Carrying the identification gives residents “an opportunity to peer out their peephole and see who they’re dealing with.”
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org