TUPELO – European college students peddling educational books door-to-door during the evening hours have left a bad impression on Tupelo residents this summer, enough to prompt city leaders to consider a stricter solicitation ordinance.
Sander Sildver and Taivo Liiva, college students from Estonia working on behalf of Southwestern Advantage, have aggravated residents by aggressively canvassing city neighborhoods for information on residents with children who might buy books and software.
Jackie Newell and the rest of her family were in their pajamas at 9 p.m. Friday when they heard the knock at their door.
The college student trying to sell educational products mentioned neighbors and their children, trying to make a connection.
The Newells didn’t think much more about the uninvited late-night visitors until a neighbor living alone contacted them.
“We didn’t pay it much attention until he tried to get into our neighbor’s house using our name,” Jackie Newell said. “That upset me.”
It turns out, knocking on doors at any hour of the day is not against any local ordinance. Both Estonian college students paid $500 cash for solicitation and transient vendor licenses with the city.
Tupelo’s solicitation ordinance has no limit on what time people can knock on residents’ doors.
Newell, no relation to City Council member Jim Newell, visited with Mayor Jason Shelton on Tuesday about her concerns.
Shelton intends to review the city’s ordinances and make recommendations to the City Council to limit late-night disruptions.
“I think we can place time restrictions to keep from bothering people later at night,” he said.
Social media sites show Southwestern Advantage has received complaints from people in other communities about people attempting to sell the company’s products late at night.
Southwestern Advantage spokesman Trey Campbell said the Tennessee-based company that owns the products sold by the solicitors, said the company considers the students selling its materials independent contractors. Among the 2,200 independent contractors the company used this summer, about 1,000 were from Europe.
“These are not our employees,” Campbell said. “They’re not on our payroll, and we don’t set their work hours.”
According to solicitation license documents Sildver and Liiva filed with at Tupelo City Hall, today will be their last day selling in the city.