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Grand Forks residents complain of door-to-door tactics by cable sellers

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The city of Grand Forks revoked a company’s transient merchant license Thursday after its employees were found violating city code by making misleading statements in door-to-door sales pitches, according to the city.

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Dish One Satellite’s license was revoked after city police received several complaints from residents feeling confused or deceived by the salespeople offering satellite TV services, according to Grand Forks police.

The company violated city code when salespeople claimed to be affiliated with local cable provider Midcontinent Communications, said police Sgt. Derik Zimmel.

“They were consistently misrepresenting the business affiliations they had and the purpose for their visit,” he said.

Zimmel stressed that Dish One Satellite is a legitimate company, based in Provo, Utah, and that the salespeople were working for that company, contrary to rumors spreading on social media that the salespeople were scam artists. According to Dish One’s license application, its salespeople in Grand Forks were based out of Fargo.

A manager of Dish One Satellite, reached by a phone, declined to comment on the record.

Zimmel said he suspected the salespeople were using the Midcontinent name as a tactic to get into people’s homes and make their sales pitch.

“It’s a sales approach,” he said.

This is the first time the city has revoked a transient merchant license since 2012, said Sherie Lundmark, of the city’s finance department.

Police told the two Dish One managers in the Grand Forks area to cease sales immediately according to a press release. Dish One may continue with installations of legally sold services, police said.

East Grand Forks

Dish One employees also caught the attention of police in East Grand Forks, where they were going door to door without a license, said Sgt. Chris Olson of the East Grand Forks Police Department. The previously valid Grand Forks license did not also authorize sales in East Grand Forks, Olson said.

East Grand Forks officers gave Dish One a warning, Olson said, but they will cite the company for operating without a license if it continues.

Dish One’s tactics were a first for East Grand Forks police, Olson said. “It has never happened like this before where they saturate the whole area, asking people to buy their product.”

Grand Forks police conducted a background check of Dish One prior to the city granting its license June 13. Police checked that Dish One was a legitimate company, looked up the company track record through the Better Business Bureau and examined records on the individual salespeople listed with Dish One.

The background check resulted in some concerns, but nothing that would disqualify the company from obtaining a license, Zimmel said.

There were 45 complaints about Dish One filed with the BBB the past three years, according to the BBB’s website. Many of the complaints are about “invalid or false contract(s)” and “dishonest sales practices.”

Dish One was originally making door-to-door sales in Grand Forks in May with a state license but without a city license, Zimmel said. He said that the company likely did not know it needed a city license seeing as some municipalities do not require one.

Police advised the public to exercise caution and use common sense when dealing with any solicitor-prompted sales.

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