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By Contributed photo
BY BLAIR LOONEY Contributing columnist
Dear Action Line: I am a mother with a family of five including three teenage boys with big appetites. On a weekly basis I am at the grocery store stockpiling food and looking for the best deals.
Last week, I was approached by a door-to-door salesperson at my doorstep selling frozen prepackaged meat and poultry. At first I thought it would be a great idea to buy a bulk order of meat, but then I started to feel uncomfortable buying meat out of the back of a truck.
The salesperson explained to me that his prices were much lower than a grocery store's, and offered to sell me what looked like a very large quantity of meat. As I stood at my doorstep, I thought of all the news stories of recalled and contaminated meat, and I started to fear the safety and quality of the meat, so I politely declined to buy the meat.
When considering buying meat from a door-to-door salesman, what would you recommend for consumers?
Dear Reader: Before you consider buying meat from a door-to-door salesman, do your research and find important information about the sales company. If you do your homework, you may be very pleased with your transaction. Consider the following recommendations below:
* Do your research. Ask the salesmen for written material about the company and let them know you are going to research them first before doing business with them. Look for information on the company online and check the company's business review with your Better Business Bureau. Most states require licenses for salespersons to sell products door-to-door. Ask to see the salesperson's license to sell.
* Read the label before you buy. Products that are inspected by the state or USDA must display information about the product on the label. The USDA warns to avoid any dealer who wants you to purchase bulk quantities of meat and poultry that are not properly labeled.
* Never pay with cash. When paying by check or credit card, you have at least some 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 salesman.
* Know your rights. If you decide to make a purchase, ask for a dated cancellation form and a dated receipt. Note that the Federal Trade Commission Cooling-Off Rule gives you three business days to cancel the purchase. Saturday is considered a business day.
Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Better Business Bureau receive complaints on door-to-door meat sales. Many consumers have very little information about the sales company, making it difficult or impossible to get money back. Consumers with questions about purchasing meat can contact the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline at 888-674-6854. You can also check with BBB at 559-222-8111.
-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or firstname.lastname@example.org.