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Can you trust someone selling meat door-to-door?

By Staff | Jul 22, 2010

HONOLULU — In the summer, door-to-door salespeople start making their rounds selling any number of different products and services.

While many door-to-door sales reps are honest, every summer, Better Business Bureau receives troubling complaints from consumers who purchased meat sold door-to-door and were dissatisfied with the quality — or even claim to have gotten food poisoning.

“Many people might be a little put off by the idea of buying steaks or seafood from the back of a truck, but the low price can often be tempting enough to override any fears about safety or quality,” said Dwight Kealoha, chief executive officer of Hawaii’s BBB.

“It’s not uncommon for a customer to waste hundreds of dollars on inferior meat, and it is extremely important for your financial health — in addition to your physical health — that you do your research before you buy.”

Hawaii’s BBB has received several complaints this year regarding door-to-door meat sales. According to complaints, customers spend an average of $200 on different kinds of meat, poultry and/or fish. Consumers have reported the products “tasted bad” and were “poor quality.”

Some consumers have also cited sales practices that misrepresent the company or products, including claims that it was Omaha Steak brand meat being sold.

When considering buying meat from a door-to-door sales rep, BBB recommends that consumers:

Do research — Ask the salesperson for written material about the company and let them know you are going to research the company first. In Hawaii, businesses selling meat door-to-door or from a vehicle must have a permit issued by the Sanitation Branch of the state Department of Health. Before buying meat sold from a vehicle or someone at your door, verify that the company has a permit and check its BBB Reliability Report.

Don’t fall for empty promises — The seller might claim to offer a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, but not provide company contact information for you to report any dissatisfaction with the product. Additionally, the seller might say that the meat is a higher grade than it really is.

Never pay with cash — When paying by check or credit card, you have a way to protect your money, such as canceling the check or reporting it as fraud to your credit card company. If you pay with cash and are dissatisfied, you’re at the mercy of the seller.

Know your rights — If you decide to make a purchase, ask for a dated cancellation form and a dated receipt. The Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel the purchase. Saturday is considered a business day.

Report the bad guys — Report any unlicensed sales activities and file a complaint with Hawaii’s BBB if you feel that you were ripped off in a door-to-door sales deal.

Consumers with questions about buying meat can contact the U.S. Department  of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854.

For more advice to help you make smart purchasing decisions, visit www.bbb.org.