Dulusions Duluth's Weekly Reality Check


CTRL: Solicitor Shooting Gallery

Each month, I write a column for Transistor (http://www.transistormag.com) called CTRL+ALT+DULUTH. (Yes, it plays on the "duh-LOOT" pronunciation.) Below is the text from April's entry:

I’ve never been much of a gun nut, but with the early onset of the door-to-door season here in Duluth, I might just come around.

Yes, there is a price for everything in life – including the first snow-free March in these parts in almost 140 years. Last week, the bill arrived in the form of a Charter cable salesperson knocking on our door and freaking out our dog just after we had sat down to dinner.

(Unfortunately, the dog is a Boston terrier and not a pit bull. We kick it East Hillside-style – not Central. Life: It’s about the trade-offs, no?)

Now, we have not lacked for contact with Charter since moving to Duluth. We lived in an apartment complex, so it was the only choice available to us for cable. Thanks to this simple yet fateful circumstance, I had the privilege of paying almost the same money I had paid in Chicago for one third – ONE THIRD – of the HD channels and absolutely putrid digital picture quality.

Indeed, if I had to pick my favorite memory from this period of captivity, it would probably be sitting through the avalanche of ads for Charter trumpeting its exceptional value for the money. However, reading each day about Charter’s battle with the Big Ten Network over which one would get to bilk me out of more money for the right to watch my mediocre football team would rate a close second. Ah, good times…

Even after we bought a house and switched to a satellite provider, Charter did its best to, er, keep the lines of communication open. It seems like once a month, I get an e-mail and a conventional letter in the mail reminding me of the services I left behind.

So, needless to say, we are aware of the cable company and its wares. Yet there was the salesperson, knocking on our door.

This brings me to a larger point about all door-to-door soliciting. In this age of the Internet and hyper media, where more information about more products is available to consumers than in any point in history, is there ANY shred of value left for the consumer in door-to-door sales?

Or, have we finally stripped this odious and intrusive practice of the disingenuous premise – that people would not otherwise know about a product, cause, charity or church – at its black heart?

I’m leaning toward the latter – if you couldn’t guess. Whether they are peddling home security systems or salvation, the person at your door has come to use the immediacy of a face-to-face encounter to compel you to make a decision that they KNOW you would not make under different circumstances.

To me, that’s a harmful intent. And that’s where “stand your ground” laws passed by various states (but not yet Minnesota) come into play. If you’re not familiar, these statutes provide enormous latitude to people for the use of deadly force against someone they believe is about to commit a crime against them.

Previously, I thought of these laws as doing little more than deputizing would-be vigilantes and, in the worst cases, aiding the very criminals and wack-jobs they’re meant to deter. After all, is there a better way to help a lone gunman run up his body count than setting up a crossfire?

Now, however, I am beginning to see the wisdom. Personally, I cannot imagine many crimes more heinous than talking someone into signing up for Charter cable. What jury would convict me? Certainly not one comprising Charter customers.

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