"I read your column every day," writes Carolyn M. Herold of Springfield, "and I thought you might be able to offer some insight into a problem I seem to be running into with increasing frequency. Let me set the stage.
"I'm a temporary secretary, currently working in the Farragut Square area. The building I'm in has lots of other companies located in it. I'm working away and the door to the office opens. Who should walk in but a woman/man/little kid trying to sell something.
"I've only been at this office three or four weeks and already four different people have walked in, three from the same organization. I've been turning down everyone.
"Now, down in the lobby is a sign that says, 'No Soliciting.' Granted, it's not four feet by four feet in fire engine red, but I've seen it. Why don't these people obey policy? I don't know.
"Bigger question: what can I do to stop it? Not only is it annoying, but it interrupts work. . . . I don't mean salesmen who are work-related, either. They seem to have a more businesslike understanding of when to come and not to come.
For one thing, the law protects you. A salesman or solicitor must have a license, anywhere in the Washington area. Regardless of the product. Regardless of the charity. Regardless of whether the funds are being sought in an office or a home.
You might try asking to see a license the next time someone offers you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to help underprivileged kids in Manitoba. You might also try threatening to call the cops -- or actually doing so -- the next time the person refuses to produce a license, or disputes whether one is necessary.
For another thing, you might mention the matter to one of the heavyweights in your office. It costs a pretty penny to rent space in most of the offices around Farragut Square. I'd want a doorman, a buzzer-entry system or both if it were my penny. Either a guy in a uniform or a locked door would help greatly in ridding your landscape of unwanted salesmen.
Finally, I'd suggest a sign on your desk top, reading, "No Soliciting." Sure, there'd be lots of jokes. But the next time a salesman was standing there, you wouldn't have to refer to some sign in the lobby. You'd be able to point at your very own and say sweetly, "You see this, pal?"