Starke Commissioners Discuss Transient Merchant License, Door-to-Door Salespeople

Starke County Sheriff Oscar Cowen
Starke County Sheriff Oscar Cowen
While no reports have been received of pushy door-to-door merchants in Starke County, the commissioners this week discussed the matter and tossed around the idea of enacting an ordinance to further protect residents from aggressive sales tactics commonly employed by traveling merchants.

County Auditor Kay Chaffins explained that a transient merchant license is required for any person, firm, limited liability company or corporation that conducts business in the state in one location or by traveling place to place offering for sale goods, wares, or merchandise. She explained the license is valid for six months at a cost of $100, and after the license expires, the merchant must file with the county auditor a list of items sold to county residents and their cost. That information would then be forwarded to the state department of revenue. Those who hold registered retail merchant’s certificates are exempt from requiring this license.

If a traveling merchant conducts business without a transient merchant license, they face a Class B infraction, though no associated fine is laid out in Indiana Code. Chaffins said that since she took office on Jan. 1, 2011, only three transient merchant licenses have been purchased.

Sheriff Oscar Cowen approached the commissioners and explained that the sheriff’s department, over the course of several weeks, received a number of reports concerning harassment by traveling vendors. While there is confusion over whether the merchant was selling vacuums or chemical products, Cowen said they are often aggressive with homeowners, refusing to leave and even in some cases putting their foot in the door to prevent the homeowner from closing the door.

The merchants reportedly visited the auditor’s office after being confronted by police, but after learning of the fee and process involved, elected not to proceed with obtaining a transient merchant license. Since then, the sheriff’s department has not received any reports of aggressive merchants, but residents are still concerned.

The commissioners discussed the idea of placing a time limit as to when merchants can travel door-to-door offering goods, preventing anyone from soliciting after 8 p.m., but Commissioner Kathy Norem said she feels that these incidents are caused by one group and it would not be worth modifying an ordinance. She did, however, explain that if residents were to post “No Solicitation” signs, merchants would be prohibited from soliciting at that home and could face a misdemeanor charge if they ignored the notice.