As if the “how much worse can it get?” discussion weren’t already depressing enough, now comes news that two thugs dressed as Mormon missionaries have been going door-to-door in Las Vegas robbing the folks who open up. It’s a reprehensible ruse. Who would imagine that Mormon missionaries in short sleeves and ties are more interested in your flat-screen TV than spreading the good word? Thankfully, police now have one suspect in custody (another is still at large), and Mormon church spokeswoman Kristen Howey assured us in a two-sentence statement that the church feels the victims’ pain: “We are saddened by this senseless crime. Thankfully, impersonating missionaries is very rare.” But maybe the really shocking element here is that people opened their doors at all.
It doesn’t surprise Jose Hernandez, public information officer with Las Vegas Metro. Hernandez says it’s just human nature. Our first impulse is to be polite and open the door for the UPS driver, the mailman, utility guy, door-to-door salesman ... or missionary. Still, what needs to change, Hernandez says, is our level of alertness. “That’s your private property. If someone says, ‘I’m from so and so,’ you ask them to wait a minute while you make some phone calls. Do not feel obligated to open that door until you have all your answers. If you’re not satisfied, politely tell them to leave.”
Of course, door-to-door activity isn’t as prevalent as it once was. Even the Mormon church is taking feet off the street, announcing recently that many of its missionaries will begin connecting with potential converts over social media. Still, don’t expect the shoe-leather parade to stop anytime soon. Amy Robinson, a spokeswoman for the Direct Selling Association, told NBC News that door-to-door sales accounted for $28.7 billion in sales in 2011. Clearly, there are still profits to be made through the knock and talk approach—if you can get people to open up.
I’m not far removed from a generation that left its doors unlocked, a concept that belongs in the same insane time capsule as DDT and asbestos. A few weeks ago, I was awakened from a nap by an insistent knocking on my door. I cautiously approached the peephole and looked out, unable to make out the person because the sun was at his or her back. Finally, after 10 seconds that felt like 10 minutes, I heard a voice: “Ken, it’s your neighbor. I got your mail by mistake!” A bit embarrassing? Sure. Will I do the exact same thing next time? Absolutely.