WATERTOWN Traci R. Robinson just couldnt get rid of solicitors who came to her Broadway Avenue East front door in recent days to try to get her to change electric companies with the promise they could save her money.
During a recent weeklong span, the door-to-door sales representatives from Brooklyn-based Kiwi Heating showed up at her home on four different occasions. They were very persistent, she said. They were aggressive. And they would not take no for an answer, she said.
I was annoyed, she said. I told them I was not interested.
In recent weeks, several other city residents also have complained of overly aggressive solicitors trying to get them to switch from National Grid to Kiwi Heating.
They often demand to see your electric bill, promising they can give large refunds from National Grid, several residents said. Sometimes they even force themselves into homes.
Police said one salesman became involved in a physical altercation with a local man.
According to the companys contract, Kiwi Energy provides rates for electricity and natural gas. It does not include costs for distribution and transmission fees from National Grid or taxes.
People who sign up can receive clean energy and 5 percent cash back on supply costs, up to $500, company literature said. The company promises a $25 reward within the first few months of becoming an Ecogold member and chances to win quarterly giveaways. Members have three days to rescind the contract.
It all sounded familiar to Mrs. Robinson, who was promised a $500 rebate from National Grid. The offer, she said, seemed to be too good to be true.
But Taylor M. Woods took the bite after two other Kiwi Energy solicitors visited her Coffeen Street home. During a 30-minute sales pitch, the third salesman was so insistent she finally relented, she said.
To sign up for the Ecogold program, the salesman, identified only as Azeez, got National Grid on the phone for her and told her to respond yes to a series of questions, she said.
She now regrets the move, hoping it wont end up costing her more money.
When contacted by phone, Azeez, who would not provide his last name, said he was off the clock.
I dont like when people poke into my business, he said before declining further comment and referring all questions to the company.
Last week, a Times reporter attempted several times to talk to Kiwi Energy. Gregory Hasiak, operations manager in the Brooklyn office, said a company media representative would call, but that never happened.
According to the Better Business Bureau, Kiwi Energy has received 22 customer complaints over the past three years. The overwhelming majority had to do with the company not fulfilling its promises. The company carries an A- rating.
Every so often, the city police department also receives resident complaints about door-to-door sales representatives becoming a bit too aggressive with their sales pitches, Lt. Joseph R. Donoghue said.
He warned residents to be careful of any salesperson who is too demanding and wants personal information.
Yet the city of Watertown does not issue permits to door-to-door solicitors, said City Clerk Ann M. Saunders, who had heard a team of Kiwi Energy representatives was soliciting in Watertown in recent weeks. One Kiwi Energy representative told her that they are self-contractors, associated with a Syracuse marketing firm.
However, city police had to get involved in an April 1 incident when a sales pitch apparently went awry and turned into a fight between salesman Henry D. Townsend, 18, of Syracuse, and a High Street resident, Lt. Donoghue said.
In that incident, Mr. Townsend entered an enclosed front porch belonging to Donna M. Smith, 65, of 325 High St., Lt. Donoghue said. Both she and her son, Arthur H. Smith, 34, same address, told Mr. Townsend to leave the property, she said.
When he became belligerent and refused, they both called 911. He then threatened them that he had a gun in his backpack, Mrs. Smith said.
Before police arrived, the two men began fighting in the driveway. The incident occurred in front of her 5-year-old granddaughter.
She was petrified, Mrs. Smith said.
Mr. Townsend subsequently was charged with second-degree criminal trespass. He is to answer the charge Friday in City Court.
On a fourth visit, Mrs. Robinson made sure the salesman quickly got the message. She let her 120-pound Rottweiler-shepherd mix and 80-pound Labrador retriever greet him at the door.
They were in his face, and he left, she said.