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I just rang the police. Not the emergency number but the 'any other business' one that we were told about in a leaflet a while back.

Because I'd just had a ring on the bell followed by a forceful knocking on the door and found a youngish chap in a high-visibility coat outside. About my electricity, apparently, he needed to do a tariff check on our meter.

ID? No, that's not my electricity supplier. Ah but, he has two ID and this one's from the generating company and they supply my electricity regardless of the company name on my bill. Sorry pal, you are not from my supplier. You are not coming in. More flannel... I'll spare you the rest. After explaining three times that I do not deal with anyone who cannot show me valid ID from my particular utility company, I closed the door on him, while he was still talking and asking questions.

And then I rang the police. Because this must be the third or fourth time in the last year I've had someone try to get inside claiming to need to read my meter when they're not from our supplier. They clearly just want to get a foot in the door and pitch a different service, perhaps even bamboozle me into something they can claim is an agreement to switch. It happens, as we all know.

I consider myself fairly clued-up and while I am never rude, I have no problem taking a hard line in these circumstances. There must be more vulnerable people around. The police agree. They've taken a description and sent a car to see if he's still knocking on doors hereabouts.

On one level, I feel bad for the chap. Sure, he's only doing his job - which cannot be a fun one - and I don't imagine getting a stern talking-to from the boys in blue will improve his day. But that's not the point. Whichever company sent him out with this 'sales pitch' needs telling this is unacceptable.

If the chap stays in this line of work, maybe he'll think twice about knocking at a house with a polite sticker on the letterbox saying 'WE DO NOT BUY GOODS OR SERVICES AT THE DOOR'. If this address gets on some list of 'housewives not to mess with' that'll be an added bonus.

Now back to work!


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 7th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
Good on you for reporting him! That's definitely not cool at all and you know what? If some company is sending him out to do this, then somebody needs to give them a good talking to.

If I were you, I might report that to the company he claims to be from, just to see if he actually is from that company and if you can lodge a complaint about their tactics, as well as complaining to whatever business oversight type places might be around.

With my paranoid brain, I'd be afraid he was somebody who was casing houses for robberies or other types of crimes rather than just an annoying sales person.

Whichever company sent him out with this 'sales pitch' needs telling this is unacceptable.

I've actually be on the receiving end of this. The company I worked for did a lot of sketchy things and honestly? I felt bad for the customers and I wished somebody would complain to my bosses so that they would stop making me do that kind of stuff. I was always on the edge of saying, "Here's my supervisor's number and email address. Please tell her that this is making you never want to do business with us!"
May. 7th, 2009 02:29 pm (UTC)
Yeah. In Aussyland there is a sign you can get from the post office that says "no door to door salesmen". It's illegal to sell to them. Silly bloke.

Did he say where he was from? That's the first thing they're meant to say. They're also not supposed to come in. How many rules did he break during his pitch?

May. 7th, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
They ask to "read the meter" and in the UK pretty much all electricity & gas meters are inside the house (unlike in .au).
(Deleted comment)
May. 7th, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
Good grief!

We changed the locks not long after we moved in - you never know where old keys might end up. But the costs of moving meters outside was and remains prohibitive, alas.
May. 7th, 2009 03:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, he did say which company he represented, which is a legit supplier. And in common with an awful lot of UK houses, our meter is inside, unfortunately.

Beyond that, I'm guessing he was on the ragged edge of legality, trying to wangle what he could argue was a legit invitation into the house.

A bit like a vampire, it occurs to me...
May. 7th, 2009 02:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah, there is a distinct possibility his intentions were a bit more sinister than that. This one hopes not.
May. 7th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)
I was thinking that too. It's a classic ploy to have one person distract the householder while another slips in and steals stuff.

It was a very good idea to inform the police.
May. 7th, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
I did something very similar about 6 weeks ago -- two men canvassing the street but then claiming 'wrong house' when doors were answered. The police took it fairly seriously -- I don't know what the outcome was, but the men haven't been back.
I want to trust people, but this sort of thing is becoming more common, and I have elderly neighbours who worry a great deal.
May. 7th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think he was a distraction-burglar; he did have ID from two recognisable companies which didn't look fake - though they still could have been I guess. And he really did seem keen to convince me I was paying too much for my electricity.

But the possibility is certainly there, no question.

And if there had been two of them, with a much vaguer story as per La Marquise? Crooks would have been my first guess - and I'd have been ringing the police emergency number, not the general queries one.
May. 7th, 2009 04:19 pm (UTC)
I had something very similar today. Sent him packing.

These people are apparently from a legit supplier. In my case it was Scottish Power. What they are trying to do is get some idea of your level of usage so that they can give you a quote. But it is a particularly stupid tactic because it scares people, especially those like you who have internal meters.

Because it is a legit sales call the police probably won't do anything about it, but you could try these people:
http://www.consumerdirect.gov.uk/. If they get enough complaints they will lean on the companies in question.
May. 7th, 2009 04:33 pm (UTC)
This was also Scottish Power. After some googling I found a main switchboard number for them and rang - only to be told the agent-complaints dept weren't picking up their extension, so were probably closed for the day. Granted it had just gone 5 pm. Not sure if I can be bothered to try ringing again tomorrow.

The local plod here did seem nicely inclined to weigh in, I'm happy to say. Though as you say, assuming he's legit, I don't imagine they can do more than give him a talking-to.

I shall certainly contact the consumer direct people - ta for that.

And I happen to be having coffee with a local journo tomorrow morning...

No way am I letting anyone get any info on my current usage. Back in the way back when, when the whole energy market was being liberalised (?), I signed a piece of paper from a British Gas rep allowing them to check our usage with a view to getting a quote. That's all the paper said, you may rest assured I read it with care. I asked for and got verbal confirmation that this comitted me to nothing, that nothing would be done to change my supplier without my further written agreement.

Next thing? A letter informing us of the date our supply would be changed, here's the copy of the binding agreement with your signature...

One phone call and a registered letter quickly put paid to that - the harrassed and apologetic chap at customer services had been dealing with identical complaints all that day apparently.
May. 7th, 2009 04:48 pm (UTC)
Am about to write about it on my company blog. Would you mind being linked to?
May. 7th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
sure, feel free.
May. 7th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
Pepper spray inside the door?

Not quite so immediately personal, but I had YET ANOTHER phone call inviting me to declare myself bankrupt under recent legislation, yet again from someone with an impenetrable subcontinental accent. I pointed out that my number was barred under the sceme (can't remember the title) only to be told that the UK legislation doesn't apply to Indian call centres even if they are calling on behalf of UK companies. Picture my gob, smacked. Not that I think it is true, but I am making enquiries.

May. 7th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
I've had that excuse from cold-callers, despite also being registered with the Telephone Preference Service.

And another lot claimed registration only lasts for six months and then you have to renew it. Er no, that's a big fat lie.

So I ask for their full name, the company's details... and they hang up.
(Deleted comment)
May. 7th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
I did a short stint working for a company which repackaged household utilities, but this was IT so I am no expert.

1) Meter Reading is usually done by a subcontracting company in a region - not by your supplier.
2) Almost all companies nowadays let you enter your own meter reading online.
3) You are entirely within your rights to tell this person to go away.
May. 11th, 2009 10:03 am (UTC)
We had a similar caller a while back - "Just need to check your meter love" - "Feel free, it is outside on the side of the house" And if you are genuine you'll have the key that opens the meter cupboard won't you....

The new "smart meters" the Government is keen for us all to have should put paid to this line of patter. But you are right to report it, I did the same.

We are also registered with the TPS (and are ex-directory) and for us it works well - the only calls we got post registration were those irritating "You have won a cruise holiday" pre-recorded American ones. Even these have stopped since I adopted the tactic of leaving them to run their course each and every time they rang - it is not costing me and it is costing them - plus der ubergeek says that these are usuallly automated dail systems and the system will record what is happening and assume that the line is a telephone line used as a modem or fax if the pattern is that the call stays connected in this way - if you hang up they know they got a human and will keep trying.

Post TPS registration the only persistent caller UK caller we got was British Gas - they have our number because in addition to being our gas supplier we also have them to service our boiler. Eventually I got so frustrated by them not taking "no" for an answer (I DON'T want to switch my electrictiy supply to you and I DON'T want to pay you to look after my plumbing) I looked on the web and found a site where others were venting their frustration about British Gas and their tactics. This usefully had the name and address of the Board level Service Director - so I wrote to him pointing out that the constant telephone contact was so intrusive I was considering chaging supplier and cancelling our service contract simply to avoid the phone calls - I got a letter back the following week, apologising and we've not had a call since.

Other unknown cold callers tend to be deterred by my other tactic, which I can only adopt if in the right mood. I interupt their sales pitch with a stern and repeated question "This number is unlisted, How did you get this number" Anyone who persists after my repeating this three times, gets "Your call is being traced, further action will be taken unless you clear the line". I've not had anyone persist beyond my saying that - and they don't call back. But I can only carry this off in certain moods as giggling down the line tends to spoil the deterrent effect :)
Jun. 19th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Scottish Power
For aggressive Scottish Power salesmen call their boss:

Stephanie Tobyn
Regulation and Commercial Manager
Scottish Power

Telephone (Direct Line): 0141 568 3207
email: stephanie.tobyn@scottishpower.com

The following is a link to an open letter she wrote which includes reference to the subject of doorstep selling.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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