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Transient merchants can be a problem, know how to react when they knock

Each year the Police Department hears complaints or responds to questions relating to individuals selling items or services door to door. Complaints include aggressive or rude salespersons or inferior products. Questions include whether or not the product or service offered is legitimate or where a customer can file a complaint.

First, remember you are the one in control and can terminate the interaction at any time by saying no. The salesperson should at that point end the conversation. Second, you can ask to see the person's transient merchant's license and photo identification. If they cannot provide the materials requested you should end the conversation by saying no. There are times you may wish to also contact the police.

The police department would like to know about a person attempting to make a sale and does not produce a copy of their license when asked. The department would also like to know when a salesperson is rude and attempts to use high pressure tactics to make their sale. Contact the police department if you feel you have been swindled or a theft has occurred. Depending on the circumstance, there may have been a criminal act or you may be referred to the consumer fraud division of the North Dakota Attorney General's Office.

The best location to interact with a transient merchant is at the threshold of your door. If you keep the salesperson outside your home it is much easier to end the exchange by simply closing the door. If you do invite the salesperson inside do not allow them to be alone anywhere in your home. Their trip to use your bathroom or you going into another room even briefly allows them the opportunity to commit a theft.

Be cautious of items that seem to be drastically discounted and closely inspect the items offered for sale. Do not fall victim to a sales pitch that requires you to act immediately to take advantage of a special offer. Make sure any product you received is the same item and of the same quality as what the salesperson showed you.

But what is a transient merchant and who needs a license? Listed are sections of the North Dakota Century Code relating to transient merchants.

51-04-01. Definitions.

In this chapter, unless the context or subject matter otherwise requires:

1. "Merchandise" does not include any livestock or agricultural product.

2. "Transient merchant" includes any person, individual, co-partnership, corporation, or limited liability company, either as principal or agent, who engages in, does, or transacts any temporary or transient business in this state, either in one locality, or in traveling from place to place in this state, selling, or soliciting orders for future delivery of, goods, wares, merchandise, personal property, and personal services including spraying, trimming, or pruning of trees and shrubs of all species, painting or repairing buildings or structures, pest or rodent control, and taking photographs for present or future delivery, who does not intend to become and does not become a permanent merchant of such place.

51-04-03.1. License to be carried by licensee and exhibited on demand.

Every transient merchant licensed under this chapter shall have the license in immediate possession at all times when engaging in or transacting any business regulated by this chapter.

The licensee shall display the license when requested to do so by any court, law enforcement official, peace officer, or consumer. However, a person charged with violating this requirement may not be convicted, fined, or assessed the administration fee if the license is produced in court or to the arresting officer and if the license was valid at the time of the arrest.

51-04-08. Certain excepted sales.

The provisions of this chapter do not apply to the following:

1. Sales made to dealers by commercial travelers or selling agents in the usual course of business.

2. Sales made by persons soliciting orders of goods, wares, merchandise, or personal property for future delivery, and not from a stock or supply carried by the solicitor or otherwise available for immediate delivery to the purchaser, in which the solicitor does not demand or accept payment of any money or deposit in advance or on delivery without first providing the purchaser with the privilege of examination of the goods, wares, merchandise, or personal property.

3. Sales made by a person who has a sales or use tax permit in accordance with chapter 57-39.2 or 57-40.2, pays contributions to job service North Dakota for unemployment compensation in accordance with chapter 52-04, and who has reported to workforce safety and insurance in accordance with chapter 65-04.

4. Sales made by a seller at residential premises pursuant to an invitation issued by the owner or legal occupant of such premises.

Sales to a commercial business are not covered by this law. Nor are sales orders where you make payment for the goods or service only after you have had the opportunity to inspect and accept the item or service. If the business has obtained a tax permit and filed with workforce safety and insurance the sales are not covered. If the person appears at your residence based on an invitation previously extended by you the sale is excluded from the provisions of this chapter.

Certain locations are also exempt from portions of this chapter.

51-04-08.1. Exceptions to requirement of a transient merchant's license.

A transient merchant selling merchandise only in flea markets, craft fairs, fairs, carnivals, circuses, or similar activities regulated by city or county governments, fair associations, convention bureaus, other political subdivisions, or local trade organizations is exempt from the requirements of sections 51-04-02 and 51-04-03.

51-04-10. Penalty.

Any person violating any of the provisions of this chapter, for which another penalty is not specifically provided, is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

Maintain control of the situation when a salesperson appears at your door. If you are not interested in the service or product sold say no. Do not be pressured into committing to any agreement. Keep good records if you do make a purchase and remember to discuss return policies. If you would not buy the item or service at a local store think twice before purchasing from someone who appears at your door.