Is the time right for tigher restrictions on door-to-door solicitors?


There aren’t many rules a solicitor has to abide by when knocking on doors in Southborough — our bylaws on solicitation are pretty weak. A few years ago town meeting voters were asked to approve a stronger bylaw, but the article failed by just a few votes. Now the Southborough Police Department hopes the time is right to put the issue before voters once again.

At the their meeting last week, Interim Chief Jane Moran asked selectmen to place an article on the warrant for the special town meeting in September that would “offer a layer of protection” against solicitors.

Moran told me recently that surrounding towns like Westborough, Marlborough, and Hopkinton have tightened their bylaws in recent years. “Towns with strong bylaws are not getting bothered anymore,” she said. “We get targeted and there’s nothing we can do.”

Under the current bylaw, solicitors are “asked to register” with police, but aren’t required to do so. There are no provisions for background checks or registration cards.

The new bylaw would require solicitors to register with police at least seven days in advance. They’d have to pay $25 for each member of their crew to cover a background check. And they’d be required to carry and prominently display a registration card.

The restrictions would not apply to non-profits like scouts and church groups.

“It’s one thing when it’s the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts selling cookies, but a few years ago professional soliciting companies started popping up,” Moran said.

“This is to control who comes to Southborough,” Rick Mattioli, administrative assistant to the chief, said. Mattioli crafted the language in the proposed bylaw.

Assuming town counsel approves the wording of the new bylaw, chances are good you’ll get to vote on it at town meeting next month. So, what do you think? Does the town need to crack down on door-to-door solicitors? Sound off in the comments and take the latest My Southborough poll (in the sidebar to the right).

(Photo by adamsofen)

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14 years ago

I think so. I can’t stand being bothered by the window replacement solicitors, etc…esp when I’m out in my yard trying to work.

14 years ago

Tougher bylaws regarding door to door solicitors are long overdue. Many of these folks are sketchy, questionable….name it. With new bylaws the police will actually be able to do something about this growing annoyance.

14 years ago

It’s time! Some of them are very pushy even when you have told them your not interested.

14 years ago

I agree. It’s a level of public safety that we would all benefit from.

14 years ago

These people are a useless cog in society. One of them came by last year and told me how many of my neighbors purchased from him and that I should too. After inisiting at least Three times I have no interest in sourcing books from him he left in a huff. Interesting to note that some people paid in Cash and others made checks out directly to him. Wonder if those periodicals actually showed up.

In any event they add nothing to the community and never leave after One rejection, it takes at least Three.

Papa Rosa
14 years ago

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s time.

14 years ago


I had purchased magazines one year and no problem. Another year I renewed one for my husband, it never showed. The check was made out to the company and cashed. We contacted the company numerous times with no response. We contacted the magazine and were told there was nothing they could do. We reported the company to the BBB and they didn’t get a response either. When they came around the next year, I told the young gentleman that I was sorry, but I refused to purchase any more because I still have yet to receive the last ones I ordered. Some can be extremely persistant/pushy, even asking for a snack or a drink. I have called the PD on one occasion because the young man was so over the top pushy and was told there were a couple others who complained as well.

As for the Anderson Windows guy who has been by FOUR TIMES this year, who also noticed and pointed out to me that we have new windows….he too can go away!

14 years ago

I totally agree. The people that bother me the most are the magazine people who give you the song and dance that I can help them improve their life. Well – they can improve their own lives by not working for the people that are exploiting them and taking advantage of them. Those magazine sales companies stuff their vans full of naive people and make them think they are working for themselves. It’s like the old elixor salesmen of yesteryear. Not to mention that they revisit neighborhoods over and over. My elderly mother takes forever to get to the door if we aren’t home and then she can’t figure out what they want. I dread leaving her alone (wish I could turn my doorbell off like my phone). Please – Southborough – place some restrictions on this – but make sure we don’t scare off the scouts.

Matthew Brownell
14 years ago

Of course it’s time for tighter restrictions on solicitors!!

Last Sunday night, a young man came knocking on our door at 8:55pm. Total darkness. He wanted a donation for a MA-based energy-related public interest group.

8:55 pm on a Sunday evening? Just how many lobotomized hillbillies are out there, who think it’s appropriate to make an unannounced sales call on a family doorstep at 8:55 pm on a Sunday evening?? Pardon my Old English . . but WTF ???

Papa Rosa
14 years ago

Matthew raises a good point I’ve wondered about (Susan, maybe you can ask the powers that be for clarification on this): will all nonprofits, including “public interest groups” and churches, be exempt from solicitation laws?

None of us (well, very few of us) mind when a neighborhood kid comes around raising money for school or Pop Warner. However, the Kool-Aid Kollege Kids sent around by front groups like MassPIRG are another matter. They, too, can be obnoxious and pushy.

What groups are typically exempt from anti-solicitation regs?

14 years ago

A friend of mine with a no solicitation sign at her front door explained to me that provisions to tighten up solicitation rules did not pass before because people did not want to exclude the locally based groups like scouts. The comments above seem to echo the desire to limit the inappropriate firms while helping legitimate members of our community. Surely we can manage to word any restrictions to address outsider firms while allowing me to get my wreaths and cookies.

14 years ago

Yes, yes, yes! I want to enjoy my yard without fear of having someone come by to sell me something in a harassing manner. A number of years ago a woman in my home town was murdered by a magazine solicitor. I realize this is an extreme case, and I’m not sure what transpired between this woman and the solicitor, but the point is we shouldn’t have to be worried about who is coming to our door.

14 years ago

Well that language seems to clearly allow those non-profit groups like the scouts and church groups access. I think we just need to make sure that some sort of (i.e.) notation gets put on the question/ballot so that people really understand which people it exempts.

Kelly Roney
14 years ago

A couple of points, not necessarily against:
– You can post your property no trespassing now.
– Anything related to free speech cannot be restricted by a town bylaw. (That includes me bringing candidates to your door. Don’t worry, though. We’ll leave you in peace immediately if you ask for that.)
– When did it happen that we couldn’t deal with pushy salespeople without the help of the law?

I’m not sure I see the need for this.

Matthew Brownell
14 years ago

1) “Free Speech” is not a protected liberty involving trespass on private property
2) Those Southborough single-family homes at the ends of driveways? . . yes, those are private properties.
3) I would be happy to deal with pushy salespeople without the help of the law. What do you suggest? Browning? Beretta? I’m kind of partial to the distinct “Ka-ChukK!!!” sound of a pump-action Mossberg.
4) Political candidates, cub scouts, girl scouts, etc.: all fine, they are welcome and we are happy to support. This pretty much falls under the rubric of “Common Sense”, and I am sure there is **plenty** of current ordinance from neighboring towns that we can cut & paste, without re-inventing the wheel.

Kelly Roney
14 years ago

Matthew, it’s exactly that kind of over-the-top rhetoric that makes me wonder if this is an overreaction. Post your property and call the police if someone trespasses. It is, after all, your yard. But practically speaking, we live in an extremely low-crime area. You’re in more danger every time you get into a motor vehicle.

14 years ago

I hope this proposal also limits the times solicitors can work. Currently, they can go door-to-door from 7am until 30 minutes AFTER sunset. I’d like to see that changed to 9 am until 30 minutes BEFORE sunset.

Hats off to Rick Mattioli who drafted this proposal. He does a terrific job fo the Southborough Police Department.

Matthew Brownell
14 years ago


Suggesting that residents need to post their property with “No Trespass” signs is ridiculous. Why should Southborough residents need to festoon the landscape with hundreds of gratuitous and ugly signs? Good God – the last thing this town needs is additional signage.

I agree with you that SBRO is a low-crime. And I also agree that we’re very much in more danger when we get into a motor vehicles – The roadside litter I picked up during our last “Earth Day” confirms this:

46 1/5 liter bottles of vodka (” Mr. Boston” seem to be the most popular)
3 1/5 liter bottles of Peppermint Schnapps
177 cans of light beer ( Busch & Bud lite)
22 bottles of Mike’s Hard Lemonade
14 cans of assorted malt liquor
35 Heineken bottles
1 bottle of Bloody Mary mix

Sad that this is the roadside debris accumulated from the same road stretch we cleaned not 6 months before . But I can assure you, DUI is alive and well in MA, and considerably more so than in other states.

And YES, thank you . . . I have already called SBRO police in several instances of “Solicitors Who Go Berserk”. As I think we have all come to realize, the hands of our police are tied, since our current SBRO ordinance dealing with “solicitors” anemic and useless.

I especially like the idea of solicitors being required to fund their own background checks – since we really have **NO** idea who they are whether they have criminal records, or worse – if they pose a known risk to children.

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