/ Home & Energy

Phone, door, street: I just don’t want company reps to talk to me

Stop sign

British Gas is going to suspend doorstep sales. Add them to SSE and that’s two companies down… only the rest to go. It looks like good news, but will our intrepid salespeople just pick up the phone instead?

People sell to us all the time – by using ads on the side of buses, radio or TV messages, or even accosting us in shopping centres. We’re so used to being “consumers” that often we don’t even realise that we’re being sold to constantly.

But some types of sales are more intrusive than others. I personally dislike any kind of selling that means I have to talk to a stranger who is giving me unsolicited advice about where to spend my money. That includes doorstep sales, chuggers, telesales and even people coming up to me in a mobile phone shop asking if they can “recommend” a new handset.

Reviewing the situation

So, British Gas has announced a three month suspension of doorstep sales – good news. It might only be a suspension, but I hope it’ll last longer than a few months. If they can find better ways of selling that aren’t intrusive then I’m all for it.

But will they put their efforts into other cold sales instead? Guaranteeing that they won’t knock on my door is great, but not if it means I get even more phone calls from chirpy salespeople who ask me if I know how much I’m paying for my energy.

In a previous Conversation lots of commenters suggested their tricks for avoiding telesales calls – most were registered with the Telephone Preference Service, and some used answer phones to avoid them. But why should we need to have tricks to avoid companies who, let’s face it, are supposed to want our good will?

Who will buy…?

Perhaps I’m just a bit aloof, but I prefer my advertising to be subtle. I can be intrigued, entertained, or bored by a TV or newspaper advert but ultimately it’s my choice whether I engage with that company.

When it comes to cold sales, my ingrained desire to be polite means it’s hard to ignore someone who is talking directly to me, so it feels less like a choice and more like being forced to sit through a compulsory lecture.

But then these types of sales must have an effect, mustn’t they? Companies wouldn’t use them if they didn’t. So instead of asking you to rant about how they annoy you (although you can do that too, of course – I just did!) I’m going to ask if you’ve ever bought anything off the back of a cold sale. Have you switched your energy over the phone? Donated to a street charity collector? What was it that made you buy?


I refuse to buy anything, service or goods, via doorstep callers, telephone, etc., out of principal.
My home, my phone, does not give companies any right to use them as a medium for making sales/profits.
The same also applies to companies posting endless flows of leaflets and cards through my door, using my home as a part of their “We can get your company advertised to xxx thousands of homes in the area” marketing schemes.

My home, my space, respect my wishes (via a clear sign) and leave my family and I alone.

Cold calling in our area sems to have died down a bit lately. It was bad earlier and I kept a log showing an average of two or three a week over a three-month period. I tried to get Norfolk County Council trading standards to set up a “No Cold Calling Zone” for our estate as they have in some other places but they wanted so much preliminary work done by the residents in building up and documenting a case for it that we could not get it off the ground – most people were not that bothered because they were out so much of the time. It seems to work where there is a cohesive community of mainly elderly people. So I put a bright yellow notice at the side of our front door saying “No Trade or Selling Here – No goods or services bought at this door . . . please do not ring or knock”. Had no effect whatsoever! The worst and most persistent callers say they are acting on behalf of TalkTalk Broadband – they try to get inside your house on the pretext of checking your phone line speed. They usually start by saying they are from the local telecom exchange where a new system has just been installed to give higher speeds. It hasn’t, of course, and their actual speed is no better than is already available, so it’s just a con [but potentially coupled with criminal opportunism]. I have no experience of energy company cold calling – but E.On keep pestering on the phone and seem surprised that I do not have my electricty consumption figures at the forefront of my mind. When I tell them I probably spend more each year on toilet paper they seem to realise it’s time to give up. Using “Switch with Which?” I have changed energy supplier twice in the last six months and will not use any company that annoys me or behaves irresponsibly however attractive their latest tariff appears.

I would add unsolicited email to the list of antisocial activities, plus companies like Groupon whose adverts seem to appear on so many of the Web pages I look at.

With the exception of Tesco, which I use because there is no convenient alternative, I try to avoid using companies that annoy me.

I suppose we are all collectively partly to blame for the constant unsolicited sales pressure we get.
If none of us bought at the door.
If none of us bought on cold phone calls.
If we didn’t respond to the sales person in the street or at the supermarket.
They wouldn’t be doing it.
Companies selling their products must think “cold soliciting” worth doing or they wouldn’t go to the expense of setting up the sales networks to do this.

If we collectively “close the door in their face” and make their efforts fruitless we might see fewer “cold calls”.

Perhaps the answer is with us.

You can be sure I’m doing my bit.
Cold caller at the door – set the dog on them.
Never answer the phone if the screen comes up – “witheld” or “unavailable”.
Never ever complete a survey in the street – this invites cold calls.
Never give details if you’re tempted to enter any competition.
Don’t feel guilty when you tell them to B*****r off.

Good news, EDF Energy has become the third of the major energy suppliers to announce a suspension of all doorstep sales. How long until the rest follow?


Craig says:
7 September 2011

Thats terrible news it means people will not switch because not everybody has a computer so the elderly will end up paying more and so will the less fortunate on pp meters so how can this be good it also means people are going to loose their jobs.

I worked for an energy company i totally agree it should be totally banned been doing door to door sales for many years now. Its one big ripped off can’t wait un till the other 3 big energy company’s to end this. Can’t wait you can’t make any savings it’s all lies.

There is massive savings you obviously work for a expensive company I could save people between 50 and 250 pounds based on actual consumtion for the year so you dont know what your talking about.Its a very competative market but to me theres 1 company that generally tends to be cheaper all the time and i have worked for 3 out the big six .That company is French and its the best value in most cases

mate I’ve worked for all the big energy company’s people don’t save money WHAT DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND is a totally ripped off. If you can make saving’s between £50 to £250 your energy sure badge should be taking away because your lying. Your nut’s any way all door to door sales will be stopped soon. Can’t wait

No im not lying you dont know what you talking about i bet u worked for the company that got recently fin.ed for starters edf havent put up there prices yet compare a edf fix saver 2 tarrif to a bg standard tarrif on any consumption and the savings will be 2 to 3 hundred a year .I dont even think youve worked the doors or you was not a very good salesperson and you obviously cant do maths.People like youself are better of out the industry go and do a more simpletons job.

Hi Craig and M, it’s great to have some former salespeople joining this Conversation and giving an insight into the profession, but can I remind you to stick to the site’s commenting guidelines. We’re keen for people to have their say, but please respect one another’s viewpoint and avoid such personal and offensive comments. Thanks, Hannah

M, I have just removed your latest comment as it goes against my warning above and included potentially libellous comments.

Okay I Understand But it’s true thanks any way…………..

Coming back to the issue that was remarked about customers being aware of the online tariff from my experience the online ones are generally cheaper but in most cases you have to read your own meters.I believe that the sales persons should have been able to offer the cheapest tariff but to be honest cheaper doesnt always mean better.For the last 3yrs I have always sold fix price tarrifs and in some cases they can be cheaper than standard prices and you have some peace of mind.In my experience most of the internet tarrifs are vairable and can be withdrawn.

Planner says:
9 January 2012

I think I have noticed a trend in doorstep and telephone sales – the sales person does not state the company they represent – they just state their name and what it is they are offering. I don’t know if this is a deliberate ploy by the companies in order to conceal their identity against any bad publicity that may result from this type of selling. Anyone else noticed this?

I have registered with telephone & mailing preference services and also with Royal Mail. However I usually get unaddressed mail delivered with my post (that’s after having renewed my registration with RM about 3 months ago). I guess this type of mail keeps them in business so it is not in their interest to stop distributing. As for me it just means more paper into the recycling bin! The quantity of sales phone calls received is less than prior to registration with the TPS but still a reasonable number.

My view is that all doorstep and telephone selling should be banned. I cannot see a need for this type of selling and I speak as a recent (state pensioner) albeit internet savvy. Even if I wasn’t internet savvy I still would not want to buy anything from someone who appears on my doorstep or rings me up out of the blue!

OK Which – can you do something about this?

PattiPen says:
3 July 2012

Just come across this while searching for info on a company has it ringing my work number at least every week, sometimes two or three times each week asking about switching our energy contract. This is despite being told each time that our contracts are in place until March/April next year and we will not be doing anything about switching or otherwise until nearer that time.

Fortunately at home since I registered with both TPS and MPS I get very few unsolicited calls and junk mail. Those calls that sneak through are told I am not interested – my number is ex-directory and they should not have it. I NEVER give my home phone out to strangers – that includes the sales people in the electrical stores who want all my details -as well as trying to sell 5 year insurance cover – when I buy a cheap kettle from them. If they insist on the details then I will buy elsewhere. The same applies to VIRGIN MEDIA who removed my name from their mailing list when requested but continued to send weekly junk mail to my address – I’m sure they are happy with their compromise as it isn’t addressed to me personally but to “The Occupier”. So they are on my blacklist – I will not buy from them – I would go without TV service first.