Door-to-door scarier now than ever

Latvian worker for Southwestern Advantage creeps out South Bay stay-at-homes

From American Honey, 2016 movie about rip-off team who sell door to door.
  • From American Honey, 2016 movie about rip-off team who sell door to door.

"European people on bikes" going door-to-door have raised concerns among locals in Chula Vista.

"Anyone have two European people on bikes come to their house?" said Kim Castle-Silva this week on social media about the travelling salespeople that she found "creepy."

"I told him 3 times I had a sleeping baby on the couch. He tried to tell me how important his books were when I told him I wasn't interested because my BABY was SLEEPING on the COUCH," Castle-Silva said. "They sat in my driveway for a few minutes writing stuff down in their binder. Anyone know what they're doing?"

Another local speculated that the mystery Europeans might be the same salespeople that came to his house from Southwestern Advantage, a company that sells educational materials door-to-door, adding that they are reputable.

"Yeah the dude came our door too," said Sam Jones. "We have a 'No Soliciting' sign that was clearly ignored. I chalked that up to cultural differences...I do have an acquaintance that bought books from one of these guys. It's legit but that doesn't make it any less annoying."

The salesman left a Southwest Advantage calling card, identifying the salesman as Latvian, in Jones's mailbox. The salesman could not be reached for comment.

Southwestern Advantage's director of media relations, Trey Campbell, said the company does sometime receive complaints.

"Usually it's things like they're too persistent, or it's too late in the day," said Campbell, adding that "we receive compliments too" about the salespeople.

According to Capt. Fritz Reber of the Chula Vista Police Department, there has been no increase in complaints about travelling salespeople recently, though there is a connection between other kinds of door-ringers and crime.

"We know they are often suspects in burglaries," said Reber. "They confirm that no one is home and then they go back and burgle."

The most common complaints that police receive are these kind of potential burglars knocking on doors to learn whether anyone is home, Reber said, who then make some kind of excuse if the resident answers the door.

"They'll say something like, 'Oh I lost my dog, have you seen my poodle,'" Reber said.

One local said a salesman went into her backyard.

"When they left the front door, I thought either they went away or they would come to the back," Claire Deguzman said. "They went to the back. He knocked on the sliding door and I pulled the blinds open, I was scared he would break the glass." Deguzman added that she called the police "but they took off before the police came...This was at maybe 2pm on Saturday [June 10th]."

The salespeople in this incident were not necessarily connected to the other complaints, however.

Campbell stressed that Southwestern Advantage is entirely reputable.

"We're members of the BBB [Better Business Bureau]," Campbell said. "The company started in 1865."

The company has had to clear up unfounded social-media rumors in the past concerning human trafficking and kidnapping in places like Oklahoma, Oregon and Missouri.

The BBB has also defended the company against these allegations, and even the well-known fact-checking organization Snopes has had to debunk the concerns as urban legends.

Their salespeople are students recruited in universities to work as independent contractors in order to "offset their educational finances," Campbell said. The company sends the students to different parts of the country where they typically stay with host families. "They all relocate somewhere," he said. "They like to see different parts of the country."

But urban legends die hard and speculation was rife in Chula Vista.

"They just came by my house," said Jessica Collinsworth on June 13th, "I just let my dog bark at him while he yelled hello 1000 times. I've seen stories on Facebook about people selling children's books to find houses that have children and then they attempt to kidnap them. I don't know if they're real or not, but those people always freak me out. I never answer my door."

"I was going to say they are probably Jehovah's Witness people," said Elaine Saunders, "but they normally wear white shirts."

"Are they missionaries?", asked local Robin Reyes Krall.

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My understanding is that these salespeople are usually recent zombies in training. They're fresh enough not to smell too bad and their minds work well enough for the work they do. They don't fuss about inadequate commissions and they are immune to prosecution. All good reasons for Southwestern Advantage to hire them and shuffle them around the country.

The ones in that movie pic look questionable. I wouldn't trust the door-to-door types to borrow my ballpoint pen!

"We know they are often suspects in burglaries," said Reber. "They confirm that no one is home and then they go back and burgle." BUT if you call CVPD about these people, they won't come and check them out.

Vince, identifying an ethnic group is now "racism"? Find something less silly to be offended by.

The automatic association between Roma and crime is what I was referring to. Why else even mention it. The Roma have suffered from extremes of racism and discrimination for centuries, including in the Holocaust, so no, it's not "silly." Replace any other ethnic group into the comment and try it on for size.

your automatic association maybe? not mine.

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