“Hello, Ma’am, we’re going door-to-door selling chocolate bars. Our organization was founded to give kids like me summer jobs so we can stay off the streets and avoid gangs and drugs. Can you help us by buying candy for $5?”
Sound familiar? Every summer crews of children travel across the country peddling magazines, chocolate bars or other goodies. They show up on your doorstep with stories about how you can help them avoid inner city troubles or support a “church” trip by buying their product. The cause sounds admirable, they appear to be hard-working, so why not help out?
The National Consumers League estimates that 50,000 children nationwide are involved in selling candy and other consumer items door-to-door and on city street corners. The most prevalent age range is 12 to 16 years old, but some are as young as eight. The children are transported hundreds of miles from their homes, often across state lines.
The organizers of these crews may falsely present themselves as charitable and civic-minded groups. In fact, many are for-profit operations that take advantage of their young and vulnerable “workers.” The young people basically live out of vans and are taught to use high-pressure appeals. The promoter, who may be driving an uninsured van with an out-of-state license plate, is likely to keep your “donation.” Your money is not passed along to any charity or community group to benefit young people and the children and teens in the sales crews make little to no money in wages.
Employing young children plays on your sympathy; it may also violate state wage and employment laws. Various news media have reported abusive treatment of young sales crews. Some are left stranded with no means of transportation to get back home. In addition, the young people are typically expected to work long hours with little rest and it is not uncommon for them to be exposed to illegal drugs and crime. The parents of these children discover too late the dangers to which their children were exposed.
The next time a youth sales crew appears on your doorstep, it may not be wise to assume that it represents a local school or youth group. Ask for the name of the organization. If possible, record the license plate of the van or car transporting the children or teenagers. Then contact local law enforcement to report that a crew of young people is canvassing in your community and ask if they are familiar with the organization. If the sales crew purports to be operating on behalf of a charity or nonprofit group, check with the BBB to determine if the charity is registered to solicit in your state.
The BBB recommends legitimate charitable organizations report their fundraisers to the BBB. Letting the BBB know about your fundraiser will help the BBB and the organization when inquiries are received regarding how donors should spend their money.
(c) Council of Better Business Bureaus