Spooked by Scary Solicitors

San Mateo Eichlerites debate how to handle strangers who come a-knocking at the door
Fridays on the Homefront
It all started with a single message: "Anyone else have a man knock on their doors today, asking for money…" Then the San Mateo Highlands NextDoor forum began to light up—with curiosity, suspicion, opinion—and fear. "We're all living in such fear," one poster wrote. "We have so much wealth…and so little personal security!"
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Just a simple knock on the door. Photo: Dave Weinstein

There was a time when our leader told us the only thing we had to fear was fear itself. In today's climate of cable TV news hysteria? Might be easier to count what not to fear.

Immigrants. Superbugs. Cybercrime. The threats are myriad and varied.

Now add to that a simple knock on the door or ring of the doorbell.

"Hi Neighbors!" cheerily begins a late October post on the NextDoor website by San Mateo Highlands resident Emily E. "Anyone else have a man knock on their doors today, asking for money for a magazine or book subscriptions? When I said I couldn't, he was not nice."

Seven neighbors in this community of 650 Eichlers quickly signed onto the string with similarly stern summaries of the same salesman, whom Oliver F. said, "was acting strange, loud, and obnoxious as I backed in my driveway. I pretended I was deaf."

On the other end of the spectrum from Mr. F.'s approach is that of Jorg A., who went to the same forum to warn Highlands residents of a subsequent solicitor.

"It turned out to be a short, fat, and somewhat strange-looking character with a phony story about coming from one of our neighbors that looked like me!" Mr. A. posted. With that message, an even longer chatroom string was ignited, with two-dozen neighbors debating both the level of threat…and the resident's reaction.

"He was collecting money, so I asked for some kind of ID, which he reluctantly produced and, becoming [sic] very disturbed when I grabbed it out of his hand, and I said I would just make a copy and return it to him!" Mr. A. related, posting the man's name, height, weight, and birthdate. "I locked the door, which he kept banging on while I made a copy. When I returned it, he said it was illegal to copy it and that he would report me to the police."