Whether it’s the phone company, the electric company, or a repair person, there are any number of contractors that may need access to your house to maintain your utilities or set up services. Having a stranger in your house can put you in an extremely vulnerable situation, even if they have legitimate business with you. The best thing you can do is be prepared in case things go wrong.
When an Unexpected Visitor Rings the Doorbell
The door-to-door salesperson is a job of the past, and very few companies still have people walking neighborhoods to set up services or sell goods. There are a few exceptions, including political canvassers and certain religious groups. Sometimes real estate agents or charitable organizations may send someone knocking on doors throughout the neighborhood.
Even these rare types of solicitations are becoming less frequent thanks to the internet (not to mention anti-solicitation or trespassing laws), but if someone does come to your door, they’ll probably have a brochure or pamphlet to leave behind. It’s rarely the case that they have to speak to you in person. Delivery people can leave packages at the door, and if you need to sign for something, they can leave a door tag for you to get your package later. There’s really no reason you have to open your door to a stranger, if you don’t want to.
Here are a few tips to help keep you safe if someone you don’t know is at your doorstep:
- Don’t let anyone in your home if you don’t have an appointment with them.
- Always ask for identification. Check for a badge, a uniform, or a marked vehicle that has a company’s logo on it.
- Call the company to verify a person’s identity if you aren’t sure.
- You don’t have to answer the door! This is especially true if you’re alone in the house.
- If you do answer the door, you can let the visitor know you’re busy or that now is not a good time.
- Do not be afraid to call the police if you feel uncomfortable.
There have been reports of criminals and burglars using a door-to-door sales scheme to canvas neighborhoods and determine which houses would be best to rob. If a person’s reason for being at your door feels “fishy”, call the police and let them know. You don’t need to call 911 unless the visitor actually tries to break in, but making reports of suspicious activity can help police narrow down criminal activity and notify neighborhoods to help prevent crimes from happening.
It’s also a good idea to get to know your neighbors and talk about suspicious activity. Social media sites like NextDoor or neighborhood groups on Facebook allow neighbors to communicate with each other and keep each other in-the-know about what’s happening in the neighborhood.
Tips for Staying Safe with a Contractor or Repair Person in Your Home
Most contractors are professionals who know their reputations and jobs are on the line if they make you uncomfortable, but there are some bad eggs (like this story my friend told me about a dishwasher delivery man who stepped over the line).
If you do have an appointment or are expecting a contractor, there are still steps you can take as safety precautions.
- Schedule the visit for a time when a friend can be with you (especially if you live alone).
- Secure your valuables and medications beforehand so that you’ll have peace of mind.
- Ask for identification when they arrive, even if you’re expecting the contractor.
- Have a plan (“If this happens, I’ll do this, then this…”), including how you can get out if you need to.
- Let the contractor in your door ahead of you instead of behind you so you can keep a visual on them.
- Avoid walking through the kitchen, if possible, because there are a variety of utensils and appliances that can be used as weapons against you.
- Communicate with them so you both understand expectations of the visit.
Contractors should never touch you unless they have to for an urgent situation, such as pushing you out of the way of a live wire. They should also be able to tell you exactly where in your house they need to be, so you don’t have to allow them into your bedroom or bathroom unexpectedly, for instance. You don’t have to stay in the room with them at all times, but if you feel safer doing so, you absolutely can.
Many cable techs and repair people have difficult jobs, and showing them kindness can do them a world of good. However, they should never overstep boundaries. While it can be nice of you to offer to give them a glass of water or to allow them to use the restroom, they should never expect this, and you are allowed to tell them “no” if they ask for something.
If a contractor does anything to make you uncomfortable, be vocal with them. If you don’t feel safe telling them, you should report them to the company you hired them through or to your local licensing board. You might consider making a complaint with the local Better Business Bureau, or writing a negative review on Angie’s List or Google. You may think an incident wasn’t a big deal or that you misunderstood the contractor’s intentions, but there is no reason for anyone to make you feel unsafe, especially in your own home. Also, if they were unaware that their behavior was inappropriate, it’s important to call attention to them and establish a firm boundary.
Overall, you should always feel comfortable in your own home, even if you’re having someone rip out the bathroom or kitchen. If you’re interested in more tips on how to be proactive with your safety or you’re unsure of how to deal with a specific situation, shoot me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Personal safety begins with situational awareness and my mission is to help women understand the importance of that and take their power back.