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Police chief is no sucker for salesmen's pitch

Vacuum salesmen arrested for allegedly soliciting without licenses

Staff writer

A crack team of vacuum salesmen knocked on the wrong door Friday while allegedly soliciting demonstrations of their product in Marion.

Police Chief Tyler Mermis was “just kicking it” in front of TV at his house when there came a rap upon his door.

His wife, Melissa, answered it, listened to a brief sales pitch, said, “Yeah,” to the peddler, then shut the door. She called out to her lounging husband, “Hey, you might want to come handle this.”

A saleswoman wanted to enter their house to demonstrate the amazing power of a vacuum.

Mermis stepped outside to spare Melissa the annoyance of any further sales talk.

He noticed a black and silver minivan parked nearby with several other people inside.

Mermis didn’t give the woman a chance to launch into her pitch. He asked her if she and the vacuum squad had a permit to sling their product.

“She said they had a permit but when I asked to see it she told me, ‘well, we don’t have it with us’,” he recalled.

He informed her that her sales squad needed a permit to sell things door-to-door in Marion.

“Then she said something like, ‘Oh blah-blah-blah we don’t need one because we’re just doing demonstrations,’” he recalled.

It was then Mermis revealed his occupational identity.

“No, I know you need one, I work for the city of Marion,” he said. “I’m the chief of police.”

His comment elicited a curious response, he said.

“She just looked at me kind of funny like I was pulling her leg or something,” Mermis said. “It was like, ‘Ehh, he’s not anything,’ at least that’s what her face seemed to say.”

Despite the saleswoman’s disbelief, Mermis informed her it was the vacuum crew’s first warning. He told her he planned to notify an officer of the sales squad’s presence.

Mermis went back inside and called officer Lee Vogel with the description of the vacuum sales squad and their van.

Vogel encountered the sales squad twice in less than two hours, first at the corner of Denver and N. Roosevelt Sts., around 3:30 p.m., and then in front of the police department around 4:30 p.m.

Each time, he spoke to a man who was allegedly in charge of the group.

“The guy said they were trying to finish up before the rain, and claimed they didn’t know they needed a permit,” Vogel said.

Vogel informed the ringleader there would be consequences if his sales team persisted without a permit and told them to get one at the city building.

Later, in front of the police department, Vogel reinforced the need for a permit, and that there would be consequences.

Vogel said the man replied, “That’s fine. We’re just going to finish up before we leave town. You won’t see us again.”

The third time Vogel encountered the sales crew was time in the 500 block of Fink St., and he arrested them.

“Normally we give out citations,” Vogel said. “But they’d been given three chances, and you never know with something like this.”

Mermis said burglars have been known to pose as vacuum salesmen in order to gain access to a house to see what’s inside, but it wasn’t determined if that was the case with this specific vacuum sales crew.

All four salespeople were charged with violating city codes covering solicitors, canvassers, and peddlers.

Violation of the ordinance is an unclassified misdemeanor, and offenders can be fined up to $2,500 and receive up to a one year sentence in county jail.

“It’s hard telling what their angle was, but the guy in charge of the group has been reported by the Better Business Bureau,” Vogel said. “They’re a group out of Topeka. We’ll probably never see them again.”

Last modified Sept. 3, 2015

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