A door-to-door windshield salesman? … On the 4th floor?

Unpleasant workplace encounter with 'windshield stalker' apparently not uncommon

no soliciting sign
Guy carrying a clipboard and looking lost ducks his head into my fourth-floor office yesterday afternoon. This isn't all that uncommon, as we're relatively new to this six-story office building and our area doesn't have a reception desk, so even co-workers from other floors can have a hard time finding people.

But our space does have a locked security door that requires a swipe-card to open, so if you're inside walking around you belong inside, at least in theory. There's also a clear-as-day "no soliciting" sign.

Mr. Windshield Man -- well-groomed, 30ish and polite -- clearly didn't give a hoot about the theory or the sign. Here's how our encounter went (and don't miss the enlightening update at the bottom).

Me: "Can I help you find someone?"

Windshield Man: "Yours was the first open office; I'm with a windshield replacement company ..."

Me: "You can't sell stuff in here."

Windshield Man: "I'm not doing that. It just happens that we're going to be in the neighborhood ..."

Not doing that? I cut him off after the word neighborhood. Any time anyone selling anything -- be it driveway sealer, roofing services, freezer meat or automobile parts -- says you should buy from them because they're "in the neighborhood," that's code for "we're essentially fly-by-night crooks and we're in the neighborhood to rob you blind."

Me: "You have to leave."

Windshield Man: "OK, is there an HR person I can talk to?"

Me: (curt, yet calm): "No, you have to leave."

Windshield Man (dripping with sarcasm): "Happy Thanksgiving."

Me (wanting to kick him in the ass): "Happy Thanksgiving to you, too."

So I watch the guy walk the 30 paces back toward the locked security door that he snuck through to get in and he stops at our soda machine, which isn't an actual vending machine but rather one of those novelty ones that dispense cans without you having to pay. Windshield Man is pressing all the buttons in an ultimately futile attempt to swipe a can of soda (you have to open the door, which was apparently beyond his deductive powers if not his brazenness). ... I'm surprised he didn't steal the donation jar atop the machine.

Moral to the story: Reception desks do help keep out the riff-raff ... and remember this chump the next time some salesman tells you they just happen to be in the neighborhood.

(UPDATE: Well, I'll be dipped in Windex, it seems that my brush with Windshield Man was anything but aberrational; in fact, the type of encounter "is a big problem with our glass industry," according to Larry Diesbach, owner of Bachman Auto Glass, which operates in Missouri, Illinois, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, and Arizona.

By the time Diesbach's Google alert had kicked up this post, he had already written his own warning about the apparently common practice -- "Beware of ruthless door-to-door salespeople" -- and read yet another that echoed mine: "Windshield stalkers banging down the TeleGlass door!" Here's an excerpt from the latter:

Our building displays the name of our parent company TGSC Services Group on the awning in the front of our building in Burlington, MA. So a not so savvy creepy windshield stalker might not have known right away that we process auto glass orders and auto glass claims in this facility. He also might not know that their auto glass company is on our Fraud Squad's radar for questionable sales practices and for attempting to file fraudulent auto glass claims. I will call him John Doe for the purposes of this blog, but here is what happened.

One of my accountants who was sitting out in our reception area stated a man walked into our office saying, "Hi I am John Doe from XXX Auto Glass, just checking to see if anyone here needs a windshield repair or windshield replacement." Honestly, the nerve of this man! Does he not know that people and companies like him are causing rates to go up from coast to coast? My accountant told him to hit the trails and go back to where he came from and that if we need auto glass we will use someone who has a good reputation, not someone who ends up on our fraud list.

Not sure which is richer, the phrase "windshield stalkers" or the spectacle of one clueless practitioner targeting an auto-glass office.

And it looks as though I got off relatively easy having wasted only a few minutes of my life dealing with my own stalker, Windshield Man. Others of his ilk have resorted to drumming up business more directly by actually damaging windshields.

Finally, Diesbach pointed me to a press release from a company, Go To, Inc., that preaches the door-to-door sales approach for auto glass. While I have no idea whether a Go To client visited my office -- and I'm not suggesting that Go To would condone any of the abuses described here -- there is no mistaking the general method of operation. From the Nov. 24 release:

Go To, Inc. follows a marketing model unlike most traditional auto glass companies. The company does not use conventional advertising; instead its marketing efforts consist of face-to-face meetings generated from visiting businesses in an area where a windshield replacement or repair has been scheduled. "Traditionally, those who promote auto glass rely very heavily on television, radio and newspaper advertising," said (Dave) Keenan, who said that his two decades' experience in marketing has taught him that face-to-face marketing is a more effective means of connecting with a customer.

I don't need to make the call to know that Keenan emphasizes the need to always get permission yada-yada-yada.

Anyone have any tales to tell?)

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