About a week ago, I received a call at home that began with a recorded message, asking if I would be interested in a home security system to protect my home and family. This naturally piqued my interest in hearing which company was doing the telemarketing and what their sales approach was. So I pressed “1,” not knowing what to expect but hoping it would be a pleasant experience. I admit that it was deceitful of me to do that because I clearly did not need another security system, but I believe it is a good exercise to put oneself in the consumers’ shoes sometimes, in order to observe the industry’s behavior.

Our conversation went something like this:

Security salesperson: “Hello, are you interested in a home security system to protect your home and family?”

Me: “Yes, what is the name of your company?”

Security salesperson: “Are you a homeowner?”

Me: “What is the name of your company?”

Security salesperson: “You know… you’re wasting our time. Are you a homeowner?”

Me: “Yes, I am.”

Security salesperson: “Have you ever had a security system before?”

Me: “Yes, I have. What is the name of your company?”

Security salesperson: “Mark.”

Me: “What?”

Security salesperson: “Mark Inc.”

Me: “Are you an authorized dealer for a company, such as ADT or another security dealer?”

Security salesperson: “What?”

I repeated the question and he finally said “no,” but in a very vague manner. Because he wasn’t forthcoming in answering my questions, I proceeded to do some name-dropping.

Me: “Do you read SDM magazine?”

Security salesperson: “What magazine?”

Me: “Which security trade magazines do you read?”

Security salesperson: “I read People magazine.”

Me: “I’m the editor of SDM, which covers the security industry and I would appreciate it if you’d remove my name from your…”

Click. That was the end of my conversation with Mark Inc.

I did a bit of checking but could not find Mark Inc. anywhere online, including the Better Business Bureau and Yelp. 

Totally coincidental: Listening to the police scanner in my district today, a call to the Chicago Police Department from an anonymous caller was dispatched for “a suspicious person going door-to-door trying to sell alarm systems. He has no IDs,” the dispatcher relayed to the responding officers.

At first glance, it seems that neither of these salespeople did anything wrong. But in reality, they broke rules in the Electronic Security Association’s “Code of Ethics and Standards of Conduct,” which is binding on all members of ESA and, I believe, should be adhered to by all companies regardless of their membership. In part, the code states:

Members shall require their representatives to:

Carry an accurate photo identification card with company affiliation when meeting customers or potential customers in person, and show it to any person who asks to see identification;

Truthfully and clearly identify themselves by name, their company by name, and the purpose of their solicitation to the potential customer at the initiation of a sales presentation, without request from the consumer and before entering the consumer’s premises.

I do abide by the wisdom that every time you point a finger, there are three pointing back at you. So instead of accusing competitors of wrongdoing, let’s start by examining our own behavior or business practices. When was the last time you read the code in full, or asked your employees to read it? Do you check to make sure they are adhering to it? I suggest familiarizing yourself with the code, which may be found at: http://bit.ly/1GzL6Cb.  

At the recent ESX show in Baltimore, a press conference was held to raise awareness among professionals about deceptive practices in the industry. ADT’s general counsel, David Bleisch, said at the conference that reported incidents are on the rise, and it creates a black eye on the business and the industry as a whole. 

 I believe we all need to step up our game. As an industry that I’ve always been proud to be a part of, after my caller hung up on me without listening to my request to be removed from his call list — I’m sorry to say I felt a blip in that pride.