Proposed City of Charleston ordinance addresses aggressive sales tactics exposed in Count on 2 Investigation

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – City of Charleston council members are considering a new ordinance to address aggressive sales tactics reported on parts of King Street.

According to the city’s Livability and Tourism Department, there have been 81 complaints filed since 2018 against Adore Cosmetics, Resveralife, Soap Stories Tampa Bay Inc., and Tresor Rare (which has closed).

“The complaints range from rudeness to stopping [people] on the sidewalk and obstructing the sidewalk,” said Dan Riccio, the director of the Livability and Tourism Department.

“People want to avoid the interaction so they will walk into the street, which is dangerous,” he added.

A recent Count on 2 Investigation featured two women who said they felt pressured to spend thousands of dollars in one of the stores after accepting a soap sample from a sales person on the street.

After the story aired, the Count on 2 Investigators received 15 emails from people who said they had negative experiences at the store.

“The girl would not let my husband and I leave the store without purchasing this undereye serum, and tried to pressure us into buying this $5,000 wand that is supposed to take away wrinkles on the neck,” wrote Deborah DeSanto. She described it as a “terrible experience.”

Another woman wrote, “They do no take ‘No thank you’ as a response. They keep calling to you as you walk away and insisting you try their sample. Hopefully the city can alleviate this type of behavior as it does not speak well for our city.”

The salespeople are not only targeting women. Tom Vernon sent us an email reading in part

“I also feel that I was a victim of overly-aggressive sales techniques. I was flattered by a beautiful young woman. She put that stuff under my eyes, and I soon ended up in the back room of Reservelife. I ended up there for well over an hour and spending over $3000. I tried to get a refund the next morning on my way back home. The people at the store said they could do nothing.”

The four stores have received 25 court summonses since 2018. Riccio said the businesses pay the fine and continue operating as usual.

“We have had an outpouring of concern and complains from citizens” about the “tactics used to lure them into the store,” and the city’s role in curtailing the issue. “We needed a better tool,” said Riccio.

The drafted ordinance allows all businesses to pass out samples but has a threshold.

If a business receives two citations within a year, the business will be required to apply for a permit to continue to pass out samples. In order to obtain the permit the business must provide information including the names of all employees passing out samples.

The business would also be required to install security cameras. The video would be subject to review by Livability and Tourism officers.

“Once that permit is issued, then obviously there is even more oversight, because if there is a violation of that permit, then their right to hand out products in the future can be suspected or revoked,” said Riccio.

Riccio said he believes the ordinance provides more protection for shoppers.

“Its an extra layer and added security within the city to make sure these businesses are behaving in a manner they need to be,” he said.