A spokeswoman for the Kirby Company tells WKVI news the company conducts background checks on all of its independent distributors prior to authorizing them to sell the company’s products. However,
“since distributors of Kirby products are independently owned and operated businesses, the background checks run on their salespeople or ‘dealers’ are done by the distributors themselves. Distributors of Kirby products sign contracts, which require them to conduct background checks on all of their dealers entering consumers’ homes for purposes of demonstrating and/or selling Kirby home cleaning systems. Once a year, the distributors sign certifications that they are running background checks on all members of their sales force.”
It’s unclear whether Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Kirby distributor Cezo, Inc. adheres to that policy, as at least one sales representative affiliated with that office was convicted of a felony in Michigan in 2009, according to records from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Joel Paul Collin, 23, was convicted of larceny in a building. He and two other salespeople were in Starke County earlier this year driving around in a white van and attempting to sell vacuum cleaners door-to-door. A Cezo employee confirmed that Collin still works for the company.
Kirby corporate spokeswoman Halle Sminchak also advised that all independent distributors sign a contract that requires them to “abide by and adhere to all federal, state, and local statutes, regulations, and ordinances” and to comport their businesses to the “highest of ethical standards.” As such, distributors may solicit during hours set by local soliciting laws or, if none are established, during hours that the distributor has determined reasonable. A Cezo representative previously told WKVI news that Kirby allows its representatives to call on customers until 9 p.m. Also, none of the Kirby representatives applied for transient merchant permits from the Starke County Auditor’s Office, even though they were told by a sheriff’s deputy that such permits were necessary and sent to the auditor’s office to obtain them.
Additionally, the company’s code of conduct policy states: “At the beginning of sales presentations independent salespeople shall truthfully and clearly identify themselves, their company, the nature of their company’s products or services, and the reason for the solicitation. Contact with the consumer shall be made in a polite manner and during reasonable hours. A demonstration or sales presentation shall stop upon the consumer’s request.” Several Starke County residents who dealt with the salespeople describe them as pushy and aggressive and say they refused repeated requests to leave when asked to do so.
Sminchak adds that Cezo salespeople carry photo identification, which lists the name of the dealer and has the dealer’s signature.The photo identification states that the salesperson is an authorized, independent dealer of Kirby products. She urges anyone with questions or comments about the company’s product or distributors to call the company’s customer relations department at 1-800-494-8586, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., EST.
Sminchak adds that Cezo’s distributors have not returned to Starke County since a run-in earlier this year with Greg Wireman, 38, of North Judson at a property owned by his aunt. The three salespeople claim Wireman told them he was a corrections officer but refused to provide identification. They filed formal complaints against him, and he’s due in court July 22 to face a felony charge of impersonating a public official.