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Green Lake resident reports suspicious men going door-to-door looking for “moms with babies” — UPDATED with information from Southwestern

What do you think? (15 Comments) June 30, 2011 at 11:39AM

A local woman says that she is “creeped out” by two men who came to her door, and she wants to warn other Green Lake residents, particularly mothers, to be on the lookout for them.

Randi says that two Asian-American men in their 20s knocked on the door of her Green Lake home yesterday (Wednesday, June 29, 2011). They said they were “from Southwestern University” and that they wanted to talk to moms with babies in the neighborhood.

“The first time they came, I did not open the door,” Randi says. The men returned in the evening and this time Randi did speak with them. “We were very adamant that we wanted them to leave,” she says. However, the men stayed, asking for a map and claiming that they were meeting with moms in the area.

“We finally slammed the door closed,” Randi reports. “They left our yard running quickly to their car and tore out of our neighborhood like bats out of hell.” She describes their car as an older wine-colored Honda Accord.

Randi shared details of the incident with the Green Lake Moms yahoo group yesterday. She says that several other moms reported similar encounters with men matching the description she gave. In some reports, the men said that they were selling children’s magazines and then aggressively tried to talk their way inside the women’s homes. One mom says that the men asked who else in the neighborhood has children.

Randi says that reports have been filed with the Seattle Police Department, and that SPD has asked that they be notified immediately if a similar incident happens again.

The best way to reach police during or immediately following a suspicious incident is to call 911. To report an incident that is not in progress, call (206) 625-5011 and select 8 from the menu.

Update, 5:20 p.m.:

Trey Campbell, Director of Communications for Southwestern publishing company, provided the following statement to us:

To clear up any misunderstanding: There is a student from UC-Berkeley, Yu-Yang Jeff Hsieh, who is participating in a summer internship program through Southwestern, a direct selling and publishing company based in Nashville, TN (

Jeff, who is from Santa Rosa, CA, is living with a host family in Seattle for the summer while running his own business selling Southwestern’s educational products to families to offset his educational expenses.  Jeff is currently in his third summer to participate and does have a valid dealer agreement with Southwestern.

I believe this issue to be a miscommunication, as Jeff has only represented himself as a college student from UC-Berkeley.  It seems someone may have misheard or got confused and thought he said “Southwestern University.”  As an experienced student dealer, Jeff was training another participant in the summer sales program.  He typically works independently generating a customer base through cold calls and referrals.  In selling educational materials, the student dealers, in the interest of not wasting anyone’s time, strive to demonstrate their products to families who may have an interest rather than homeowners who do not have children.  Jeff does not sell magazines subscriptions at all, this information is incorrect and, again… may not have been heard correctly, especially if he was not provided an opportunity to speak or share what he was doing – per the sales presentation Southwestern provides the student dealers.

During the evening hours, students typically make call backs to homes they had been referred to but not caught anyone at during the daytime.  They are very polite and have had many hours of training.  In fact, Jeff has attended over 300 hours of training in his three summers.

The students are issued a double-sided photo ID badge complete with contact information about Southwestern.  Jeff wears this badge with a lanyard that has the Southwestern customer website on it.

Southwestern is the nation’s oldest direct selling company (since 1855) and has had the student program since 1868.  Student from all over the world participate including those from Washington colleges and universities who are welcomed in other states.

Southwestern works with consumers, law makers and organizations around the country to educate about door-to-door safety and consumer protection.  The company is also a charter member of the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee (since 1961) and maintains an A+ rating.  As well, in his three summers, Jeff has never had a complaint issued to our company about him.

It’s important to remember there are legitimate individuals and companies who use the direct selling business model of door-to-door to reach consumers and provide a service.  It is unfortunate this particular method of sales has become scrutinized over the years because of the actions of a few.  Always be aware and protect yourself from being the victim of a scam.

Here are a few tips to make sure you stay safe when someone approaches you at your home:

  • Listen to what they are saying so you understand the situation
  • Ask to see identification
  • Ask to see a solicitation permit (if required)
  • Do not allow in your home if you feel uncomfortable
  • Do not feel pressured into purchasing
  • The sales person should have a sample or literature to fully explain
  • Check the company to make sure they are legitimate
  • Call the police if you feel threatened

More tips and articles can be found at




June 10, 2011 — Terrie Johnston, Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention Coordinator, shared advice about what to do when a solicitor knocks on your door.

June 4, 2011 — We reported on a suspicious man going door-to-door in Green Lake who claimed to work for Comcast.

May 25, 2011 — We reported on a man claiming to need a locksmith who was making the rounds in Green Lake.


15 Responses to “Green Lake resident reports suspicious men going door-to-door looking for “moms with babies” — UPDATED with information from Southwestern”

  1. Jeff says:

    The same basic thing happened to me earlier today in Maple Leaf on 80th St.

    It was just one Asian male in his mid 20′s and he said he was selling children’s educational books and was looking for people in the neighborhood that had kids.  I had a UCLA hat on and he told me he went to Berkeley.  I told him I wasn’t interested and didn’t have kids, so he then asked me if my neighbors to either side had kids.  I lied and told him I didn’t know and then after he got nowhere he left.
    He had a notebook and it looked like he was keeping notes on there about the houses and if they had kids or not.  I called the Police and gave them the story and they were going to send out a unit to look for the guy.  

  2. Rebecca says:

    Or it could be a college guy out selling educational books for Southwestern Company.  They have some pretty good books.  I sold them for two summers when I was in college.

    • ron says:

      yup, same as rebecca….  very legit.   He is registered with the city and has a permit and ID.    Just a program to help the students learn and make some $$ to pay for university.   just trying to save time by not knocking on homes with no need for educational products…

      • Sdgf says:

        My neighbor talked to him for awhile. He even had the books in his car. She felt he was completely legit. I admit I didn’t open the door for him

  3. Darcien says:

    One of these fools hit our place earlier tonight, despite our “no solicitors” sign – he said he thought it meant no smoking. I even said I had a kid in the tub(husband was watching him) and he still kept on trying – so annoying!!! 

  4. mountaingrrrl says:

    They’ve been through the neighborhood before. I remember them from about 5 years ago, and what I didn’t like was the persistence. I thanked the kid, and told him politely, clearly and firmly that I was not going to buy anything or take anything, no matter what. The guy didn’t take that for an answer, which lead to my getting upset. 

    I felt bad for him. Heck, I did phone sales when I was in college. But I wasn’t going to buy anything! I wish they would teach their sales staff when it’s time to take no for an answer. And maybe consider giving up on the door-to-door model for crying out loud.

  5. Greenlaker says:

    This guy was in the Latona/65th area of Greenlake today. Though he was clearly legit, he was also extremely pushy and difficult to deal with I politely told him I wasn’t interested and 5 minutes later after endless stalling techniques and repeated “no thank you’s” on my part, I finally had to close the door in his face. He may be a legitimate salesperson, but he’s highly trained to avoid taking no as an answer and, as a result, just completely unpleasant.

  6. GLM says:

    This particular vendor, Jeff, has visited me and a number of people I know. He visted us after 9 pm, which is illegal here (door-to-door sales people must visit between 8 am and 9 pm). He knocked on our door despite my prominent “no soliciting” sign, which is also illegal. When my husband pointed out the sign immediately, Jeff still refused to leave. My husband had to eventually slam the door in his face while he was still talking because he would not leave even after being told 3 times that we were not interested. Jeff is neither polite nor in compliance with the law. Plus, Southwestern is well aware that it is controversial to for information about children in the neighborhood.

    Know the law. Here is a link to the city code:

    Also, here is some interesting information on Southwestern:

    • GLM says:

      And I see that Southwestern says that Jeff “has never had a complaint issued to our company about him.” I plan to change that right now.

  7. GLM says:

    I filed a complaint with Southwestern, using their web site. Here is the text of my complaint:

    I wish to file a complaint about “Jeff,” one of your vendors. He came to our house in Seattle, WA at 9:15 pm on June 28th, 2011.
    First, he violated Seattle Municipal Code for residential sellers. Residential sellers may only knock on doors between 8 am and 9 pm. Residential sellers may not knock on doors if there is a “no solicitors” sign. Our sign is prominent, but even when my husband pointed out the sign immediately, Jeff said “No, no, I’m here to check on you. You’re homeschoolers, right?” The lawful thing for Jeff to do would be to leave as soon as the sign was pointed out, but he did not. Your sellers should know the laws in the areas where they operate. Here is a link to a list of unlawful acts for residential sellers in Seattle:, Jeff was rudely persistent. My husband told him 3 times, “We’re not interested.” Jeff ignored him and went right on talking. Finally, my husband said, “I don’t know how much clearer I can be. We are NOT interested,” and then closed the door in Jeff’s face while Jeff continued to talk. You should train your sellers that when a person says “no” quite clearly and repeatedly, it is polite to listen and leave.
    Second, Jeff was rudely persistent. My husband told him 3 times, “We’re not interested.” Jeff ignored him and went right on talking. Finally, my husband said, “I don’t know how much clearer I can be. We are NOT interested,” and then closed the door in Jeff’s face while Jeff continued to talk. You should train your sellers that when a person says “no” quite clearly and repeatedly, it is polite to listen and leave.
    Tomorrow, I will be filing a report with the local police about Jeff’s unlawful acts.
    Thank you,Shannon

    • Carl says:

      Hey all, just wanted to chip my 2 cents in.  I’ve done business with this company before, the college students they work with are all hard working and highly motivated people.  I mean, you’d have to be to sell educational supplements door to door, right?  While it sounds like this dealer was a little bit overly persistent and probably infracted some city ordinance, I don’t think he is a criminal.  The students who I have bought from and met in the past all had goals of using the money made selling the books to pay for college.  So lets all take a deep breath and give these college students a break.  Clearly, he is persistent and more than a little bit annoying to some peopple, but give the kid a chance, our family loves the books we purchased years ago from the same company.

      Here are some of the things we purchased years ago.

  8. JKR says:

    “So lets all take a deep breath and give these college students a break. ” Sorry, nope. He came to my house yesterday (we’re in Maple Leaf) as I was *clearly* getting my daughter into her car seat and trying to leave the house. I was clear in both language and demeanor that I was not available to speak with him and yet he continued to try to talk to me about his product. I said I really can’t talk to you right now and he asked when he could come back. I said that I have a policy of not buying anything from solicitors, so its not worth it to return. I felt throughout the exchange like he was trying to stare me down. Then he again asked when he could come back. And then he asked my name. No way, kid. I don’t care what he’s selling, or how reputable the company, it is not ok to essentially bully (yes, it felt like bullying) me when I’ve been clear I’m not interested. I’m not prone to fits of paranoia, but as a woman at home alone with my child, I don’t appreciate it when a male salesperson is unable to take no for an answer and walk away. I was unsure if he would return and if so, for what purpose. I was so creeped out.

    • Tclarkie7450 says:

      same here, I was watering flowers in my private back yard and some guy is coming around to the back calling my name. apparently my husband told him to come back and talk with me the night before. I had just got home from working a 14 hour night shift and he starts selling his product. I politely tell him I am not interested in talking about this now, and he kept on talking and being overly polite. he was a nice looking man who appeared harmless, but yet I still felt creeped out. I do not feel safe this day and age with door to door salesman, even if they are trying to make money towards their education.

  9. Barbflatt says:

    “I believe this issue to be a miscommunication, as Jeff has only represented himself as a college student from UC-Berkeley. It seems someone may have misheard or got confused and thought he said Southwestern University.”   Well, Mr. Trey Campbell, Director of Communications, since you were not present during the said ‘miscommunication,’ you actually have no idea what Jeff has been saying to people.  There have been several reports of this guy representing himself as being from Southwestern University – including my own experience. 

    And no, I’m not willing to give these college students a break when they ignore repeated requests and demands for them to leave the premises and, as I have SEEN tried door handles of homes in which there was no response. 

    Sorry, but this spokesperson’s response just burns me up.  And yes, I did file a complaint about my experience, as I know several of my neighbors did as well.

    • Informed Customer says:

      Is everyone on this list sure that they dealt with Jeff,  before filing reports did you ever think to ask his name?  Or did you just deal with some asian guy and assume it was Jeff?  Jeff is not the only Southwestern Salesperson in Seattle.  It could be a possibility that there was a mix up and “some asian guy” is actually not Jeff.  Jeff is a reputable person and not pushy at all.  I know from dealing with him.  There are other less experienced Southwestern dealers in the area who you could be mixing up with Jeff.  Just because they are all asian college students in their 20′s doesn’t mean it is the same person