'Aggressive' door-to-door tactics examined

For more than two years homeowners across Northern Indiana have complained of pushy vacuum salesmen going door-to-door.

In February 2012 several Elkhart County residents called police after seeing two men in a van going to various homes offering free samples of Dawn soap.

The manufacturer of Dawn, Proctor and Gamble, said the company doesn't do that type of sales with their product and advised homeowners not to open their doors to these salesmen.

Offering free samples is the first part of a tactic used by Kirby door-to-door salesmen.

Thursday night, Feb. 27, residents living on Gordon Rd. in Elkhart said men wearing suits approached their doors with samples of Glade. Most turned the salesmen away but said they were persistent about gaining entry into the homes.

One Gordon Rd. resident said a man rang his doorbell sometime after 8:30 p.m. When he refused the free sample of an "American made" product he claimed the salesman yelled at him, called him un-American and left.

The situation escalated when the homeowner followed the salesmen two houses down and asked the group to leave his neighborhood. The man claimed the salesmen threatened him and his family, while the salesmen claim it was the homeowner who did the threatening.

It's the latest in a string of complaints against one vacuum distributor in particular: Kissella Distributing.

Kissella Distributing is an authorized distributor of Kirby products. In May 2013 The Kirby Company responded to NewsCenter 16's questions after several elderly homeowners complained overly-aggressive salesmen entered their homes and stayed for an undesired length of time.

"It is recommended that one dealer is in a home at a time, unless the consumer givers permission for more than one dealer to be present, e.g. a new dealer may be shadowing a more experienced dealer," wrote Halle Sminchak, director of customer and public relations for The Kirby Company.

A former employee of Kissella Distributing said he was told to hire individuals to make these in person sales. Oftentimes the salesmen were instructed to do whatever it took to enter the home and perform a product demonstration.

According to The Kirby Company, Kissella Distributing performs more than 1,200 product demonstrations each year. The demonstrations are completely legal, however, its the tactics salesmen use to enter and stay inside the homes that has homeowners uncomfortable.

Kissella's former director of personnel said the ways employees are told to make the sale led to high turnover rates with personnel. He alleged that many the employees have no sales experience and would feel uncomfortable with the pressures they were told to put on customers.

The owner of Kissella Distributing, Julie Kissella, denied any complaints filed against her business.

However, in a statement released to NewsCenter 16 Tuesday, March 4, The Kirby Company said: "Since becoming an independent, authorized distributor of Kirby products, four (4) consumers have contacted the Company's Customer Relations Department about Kissella Distributing."

The Company went on to write, "Before signing an agreement with the owner of Kissella Distributing, Julie Kissella ("Ms. Kissella"), which granted her an independent authorized distributorship, the Company conducted a background check on her. The background check on Ms. Kissella did not identify any issues."

As to whether or not the Company "periodically" checks in on distributors like Kissella, a Kirby spokesperson said it does.

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