A change to when door-to-door sales can take place in Gallatin has gotten initial approval from city leaders after an area pest control company challenged the city’s current regulations as being unconstitutional.
An ordinance that would change the curfew for solicitors from 7 p.m. until dusk was passed on first reading by the Gallatin City Council on Tuesday. A final vote is expected Aug. 6.
The proposed change was prompted by a letter the city received from Dallas, Texas-based law firm Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst on behalf of Preventive Pest Control of Tennessee last month, which cited several cases where “curfews which abridge any amount of daylight solicitation activity” have been “consistently” struck down in federal courts.
“Based on my research, I agree that (a 7 p.m. curfew is unconstitutional) under the First and Fourteenth amendments,” City Attorney Susan High-McAuley told city leaders July 9. “Therefore, in the summer it will be a longer curfew and in the winter it will be a shorter curfew.”
According to the letter, a “substantial” amount of Preventive’s sales take place during daylight hours between 5:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. when residents are home from obligations like work and school and are “available to receive commercial speech.”
If Gallatin chooses not to change the curfew and make changes to its do-not-solicit registry to verify that those signing up are the actual owner or tenant of the address, the law firm states that Preventive will be “forced to litigate this matter” and will seek recovery of the “full extent of its damages” including lost profits and attorneys’ fees.
“In 2019, Preventive expects more than $2 million in door-to-door sales in Middle Tennessee, with nearly all its initial sales occurring through door-to-door interactions,” according to the letter. “Preventive is thus losing thousands of dollars in sales every day it is prohibited by the Curfew and Unverified Do-Not-Solicit List from soliciting during daylight hours in Gallatin.”
High-McAuley said last week the city is working to implement a verification process for the do-not-solicit registry, which would prevent homeowners’ associations from adding entire neighborhoods to the list.
She added that any resident can also post a sign on their property to keep solicitors from visiting their homes.
“That would trump our registry anyway if you have that,” High-McAuley said. “If a citizen has that on their property a solicitor is supposed to leave immediately.”
Any organization that goes door-to-door at private residences to sell a good or service or solicit donations of any kind inside the city limits is required to obtain a peddling/solicitation permit form from the Gallatin City Recorder’s Office. Identification badges issued by the city must be worn at all times by solicitors.
Any resident who feels a solicitor is not legitimate or who feels intimated should contact the Gallatin Police Department at 615-452-1313.
Solicitation Safety Tips
The Gallatin Police Department offers these tips to help you decide if you should answer the door if a solicitor comes to your home:
*If you do not feel comfortable or do not want to answer the door, don't. Tell the solicitor you are not interested through the door.
*If you are unsure if a solicitor is legitimate, ask for identification verifying they are employed by the company they claim to work for. If they do not have any identification, do not give them any money and tell them to leave.
*If a solicitor refuses to leave or becomes irate, shut the door. If they still do not leave, call 911.
*Do not let someone "guilt" you into giving them money or buying their product.
*Do not believe stories such as "I live in your neighborhood" or "my car is broken down just around the corner."
*Never let anyone into your home.