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Insight from WFPD: Transient merchants have right to business, but must follow protocol

You may have noticed people going door to door within your neighborhood since the weather has changed. Frequently, the people you have seen are attempting to sell different types of products, such as books, magazines, cleaning products or even home security systems. Individuals who sell door to door are called transient merchants.

Transient merchants can be defined as 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.

So what does this mean to the citizens of West Fargo? Well, in order for a person to go door-to-door and attempt to sell their products, they must apply for, and be granted, a license by the State of North Dakota through the Attorney General's office. The seller must be in possession of the license at all times. The seller also must have available photo identification, and must provide the license and ID upon request by you. For further information on this, you can go to

These companies do have a legitimate right to conduct their business here in West Fargo. A problem often develops with this form of sales when the sellers become aggressive or refuse to identify themselves. You have the right to demand the seller produce their license and ID. You have the right to refuse their offer, and to order them to leave your property. In most cases, you have three days to cancel the order without any cost to you. Ask the seller about cancellation and return policies before buying.

Sometimes the tactics the salesperson used while trying to sell the products is what gets the West Fargo Police Department involved. We ask that if a person comes to your home and tries to sell you a product that you first ask to see their transient merchant license. If they fail to provide this, do not purchase the product. Instead, contact the West Fargo Police Department and an officer will be sent to your location to conduct an investigation.

If they provide you with the proper identification, then it is your choice if you want to listen to their sales pitch and purchase the product, or if you would like them to leave your property. Many times, these individuals are getting paid based upon how many items they sell, so they try very hard to move the product. With this type of salesmanship, we often respond to areas within the city to speak with both the homeowner and the salesman.

There are, however, a few exceptions to the transient merchant license. If the company is selling livestock or agricultural products, they are not required to get the license and are able to sell their items at will. You may have noticed the meat salesmen that go door-to-door. These companies are able to conduct their business without the license as long as they have their meat inspected by the USDA.

Here are some safety tips:

• If you feel uncomfortable with the salesperson, say "no thank you," and close the door.

• Do not leave the person alone anywhere in your house. They may use it as an opportunity to steal. Grabbing a valuable item, your wallet or cash only takes a second.

• Do not allow them to use your bathroom or other area of the house to make a phone call. Again, this can provide an opportunity for theft.

• Do not pay with cash. Always pay by check or credit card so that you may cancel the transaction, if desired.

• Do not buy something to get rid of them. Their aggressive behavior is geared with that purpose in mind.

• If the claim is too hard to believe - don't. Exaggerated claims are the norm.

• Many claim to be working their way through college by selling door to door. This is a gimmick to entice you to buy something to help them out.

• If you would not consider buying the product in the local store, do not buy it door-to-door.

If you should have any questions regarding this type of business, feel free to contact the West Fargo Police Department at 701-433-5500. The West Fargo Police Department usually has a list of vendors who are in our neighborhoods, along with phone numbers.

To further educate yourself on this, feel free to look up the North Dakota Century Code chapter 51-04.