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Alarm company's door-to-door sales tactics criticized

June 21, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- A Utah-based security company's door-to-door sales calls have resulted in calls to local police.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said last week that his department had heard from about a half-dozen people alleging "aggressive tactics" by APX Alarm Security Solutions salespeople, although no one had filed an official complaint.

In one case, a sales representative was told to leave a homeowner's property, but refused, resulting in a confrontation, Mullendore said.

Other times, residents were turned off by "very aggressive" actions by salespeople, such as "kind of pushing the door and walking in uninvited," he said.

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"They've not earned the most respect in our community," he said.

Mullendore said he talked to APX and Honeywell, whose security products were being sold.

Told about the problems reported to the police, Alex Dunn, chief operating officer of APX Alarm Security Solutions, said, "The behavior that you've described is not acceptable."

He said he would look into the allegations, which he called "indefensible."

In an e-mail sent Friday, Dunn wrote, "Any inappropriate behavior by our sales representatives anywhere in the United States is not tolerated and addressed immediately."

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said his department got a few calls from people asking about APX salespeople.

"If they come to your house, we'll check who they are and if they have a permit," he said.

Dunn said residents often are leery of door-to-door sales, but the number of complaints is relatively low, since APX representatives probably knocked on thousands of doors in the Hagerstown area.

He said APX, based in Provo, Utah, is serious about its quality control and makes sure each customer is satisfied before installing a security system, which includes asking about the sales representative.

A representative who is the subject of the same complaint twice is put on probation, and is fired if there's a third complaint, he said.

A majority of APX's sales representatives are of college age and earning money for the summer, Dunn said.

Hagerstown City Clerk Donna K. Spickler said her office on June 6 issued 45 peddling permits for door-to-door solicitations to people representing APX Alarm Security Solutions.

The applications said the representatives would be in the area for one month, Spickler said.

APX didn't obtain peddling permits for the rest of Washington County, Circuit Court Clerk Dennis J. Weaver said.

Even without peddling permits, though, APX representatives have gone door-to-door in the county, according to reports The Herald-Mail has heard. Mullendore confirmed that.

Dunn said it's up to salespeople to secure the local permits they need. He said he would investigate what happened in Washington County.

He said, however, that each sales representative has a state license to sell security systems, something ensured at the corporate level.

"Our Reston, Virginia sales team went to sell in Hagerstown," Dunn wrote in the e-mail. "That office obtained the necessary peddlers permits but were unaware there was other Maryland licensing requirements. As soon as our licensing and compliance department realized that the Reston Virginia sales team was selling in Maryland (which is outside of their area boundaries) the office was contacted and told to return to Virginia where they are properly licensed.

"We have other sales teams in Maryland who are properly licensed and assigned to sell in Maryland."

Neal Glessner, president of Glessner Alarm & Communications in Hagerstown, said his office received several calls from people complaining about APX and its sales representatives.

Some people didn't like getting "what they thought were invasive questions" about their home security or facing salespeople who continued their pitches after being told to stop, he said. At least one complaint was about a visit by a salesperson who arrived at 9 p.m.

Glessner said one man who left him a message assumed the representative was from Glessner Alarm & Communications -- which was not the case -- because his company sells Honeywell products.

Asked about nighttime sales calls, Dunn said, "They should not be knocking past 9 o'clock."

APX is one of hundreds of independent companies selling Honeywell products, Honeywell spokeswoman Julie Franklin said.

"Honeywell does not sell door-to-door," she said.

Reports to The Herald-Mail indicated that APX sales representatives wore shirts with Honeywell logos.

Dunn acknowledged that Honeywell likely would be prominently displayed or mentioned during sales calls.

"APX is not as well-known," he said. "They'll remember Honeywell and they won't remember APX."

Representatives of Honeywell's independent dealers are prohibited from portraying themselves as Honeywell employees, Franklin said. She declined to comment on whether APX's tactics violated those standards without knowing more specifics.

"We have hundreds of thousands of very satisfied customers nationwide and thousands of sales representatives, and the unauthorized and inappropriate actions of one sales representative does not accurately represent the quality of our service or our company," Dunn wrote in the Friday e-mail.

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