The Security Week That Was: June 8, 2007

Going Door-to-Door

About a year ago, I wrote about the bad publicity our industry was getting with the summer sales programs where alarm companies hire college students on break to go door-to-door to sell their systems. On the surface, it makes a lot of sense: you have eager, bright young people for your sales force willing to pound the streets. However, there's always a downside in that there is a lot of competitiveness that can, in the wrong sales person, breed somewhat unethical, or at least unsavory, practices. Sales people can get pushy, perhaps don't respect their customers' ability to say "No," and sometimes don't identify themselves properly. Some are known to try to "pirate" away other company's accounts (many times the customer doesn't know that their contract may have a "pay-to-exit" clause.

Case in point: I received an email from an irate gentleman who had to deal with an over-the-top young salesperson on his property. He recounted his story as follows:

At about 3 p.m. today, a man ignored my 'No Trespassing/ Keep Out' sign, opened the gate, and started pounding on the front door. I work at home, and I told him to leave, but he pretended not to hear me and continued pounding on the door. I finally went out the back door and walked around the house to confront him. He claimed to be a representative from [two of the bigger alarm product manufacturers]. I told him he was on private property and ordered him to leave. He stayed where he was and asked my name. I told him it was none of his business, and asked his name; he said it was 'Luke.' I threatened to call the police if he didn't leave, and I walked toward the gate. I asked if he was able to read the large yellow 'Keep Out' sign, but he did not reply or leave. Instead, he asked how long I had lived in this house. Once again, I said it was none of his business and ordered him out.

I have a firm manner, but this one refused to leave -- until I informed him that he had been on our webcam ever since he arrived! I told him it would make a fine ad for his company. He finally left, after writing some notes on his clipboard. Was this person really an employee of [one of these large equipment manufacturers]? Whoever this guy was, he will give your industry a bad name unless somebody reports his behavior to his employer."

The gentleman reported that the sales person didn't identify which alarm company he was with, instead only stating he was with two big equipment companies (which don't have door-to-door sales programs). He expressed his frustration to the equipment manufacturers, not knowing that they weren't involved in this sales process. Ok, so what can we set up as some standards for door-to-door sales? How about these simple parameters:

• Make sure your sales people identify themselves and provide their name.
• Provide shirts with logos clearly identifying them as with your company.
• Include a hand-out that helps verify what they're offering and includes contact information for their superior.
• Teach your summer sales staff to understand how to properly accept a "No" and how to politely accept a refusal.
• Spot check their performance (call on a customer they talked to and assess your sales person's manner).
• Don't allow sales people to pose as reps for equipment manufacturers. Let them tell the prospect what equipment they offer, but don't allow them to try to confuse the prospect as to whom their employer is.

Obviously, these are things you're probably doing if you're an above-board company, and the ones who are not probably also are not reading this column. But if we can set standards on what good door-to-door sales staff do, then our industry's potential customers will be able to quickly identify the honest, above-board sales staff from the bad ones who are dropped off to pirate away a neighborhood.

Making News This Week
NFPA report, background checks for S/Os, EMC buys Verid, more...

Security Dealer's Peter Harlick filed a live report from the NFPA show, looking at some of the product launches/product updates being unveiled there. … After so many months of making big acquisitions in the manned security and secure cash handling space, Garda announced a management reorganization to better integrate those acquisitions. … EMC's RSA division strengthened its authentication portfolio with the acquisition of private knowledge-based authentication firm Verid. … The National Retail Federation (NRF) is hammering out a platform on how data breaches need to be distinguished, asking the question of whether a data theft of name and credit card info should be classified and responded in the same way as a much more dangerous theft of SSN, credit card info, date of birth and name. … AlliedBarton's Bill Whitmore implored our industry to recognize that streamlined access to a national background check service (like the FBI's) is vital to ensuring that contract security companies can provide the right people to the task.

In the Forums
Security camera maintenance and checks

It was tragedy this week in the parking lot of a Kansas big box retailer as a teenager was apparently kidnapped from the store parking lot and later found dead in a nearby lake. One of the issues was video footage from one camera that partially captured what is believed to be her abduction. However, the video was not clear and had to be sent to a crime lab. That got us thinking about how often we perform system checks and maintenance checks on the video surveillance system. Forum members weigh in on policies for checking surveillance camera systems to make sure they are operable. Join today and share your thoughts as well.

Earlier this week, I filed an article about Google's Street View system which gives high-resolution images of actual facilities. The question was whether this was a dangerous tool for would-be criminals to "case" a location. Share your thoughts in our Google Street View forum thread.

Tell Us about Your Growth
2-minute survey from Security Dealer seeks to identify M&A trends

Security Dealer magazine's Greg McConnell is asking security dealer firms to respond to a 2-minute survey about growth and M&As. Research will be published next month in the magazine and on Responses are anonymous; take the Security Dealer Growth Survey today.

Finally, we close as always with a look at stories drawing attention this week: