Residents wary of woman selling books door-to-door

joverman@fortmilltimes.comAugust 14, 2012 

— A woman had her business license revoked last week after numerous complaints about her were made to the Tega Cay Police Department, police said Friday.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Tega Cay resident told police a woman came to her home and said “that she was trying to get college credits by doing work with Gold Hill Elementary School,” according to a police report. The woman was in her mid 20s, has a foreign accent some described as “British” and carried a black back pack with a hand drawn map of the neighborhood, the report stated.

Fort Mill School District officials said the woman is not affiliated with local schools.

The woman also allegedly asked what time of day that home is vacant and what size shoes the resident wears, according to complaints.

Lt. Buddy Spence of the Tega Cay Police Department said the woman had a business license to sell books door-to-door. That license was revoked by the city, he said, and officers would be patrolling the area to be sure the woman didn’t return.

In a release Saturday, the York County Sheriff’s Office said it received more than two dozen calls about a suspicious woman going door-to-door selling children’s books in various York County neighborhoods. The sheriff’s office said officers have verified that the woman works for Southwestern Advantage, a “legitimate business selling books and other education materials. ”

She is a student from a university in Estonia, one of two young women working in the area as an independent contractor for Southwestern Advantage, according to company officials. She is living with a host family in Rock Hill, they said.

The sheriff’s office says the saleswoman “poses no danger to the public.”

“Several of our deputies spoke with her. If people report her to us we will investigate,” said Public Information Officer Trent Faris in an email to the Fort Mill Times.

Trey Campbell, director of communications for Southwestern Advantage, said the woman has worked with the company for three summers. This is the first complaint the company has received about her, he added.

Southwestern Advantage has more than 2,500 students in their summer program this year, he added, which allows students from around the world to work as independent contractors selling Southwestern Advantage products.

All students are trained by the company, he added.

“Students have been background checked so she has a clean background,” Campbell said. “Sometimes there is a miscommunication between someone and the student. We do live in a paranoid society with good reason sometimes, but there is still something to be said for getting to know someone, especially from a different culture, and this is their experience in America.”

Kelly McKinney, media and communications officer with the Fort Mill School District, said the woman is not affiliated with Gold Hill Elementary School or any of the other schools within the district.

“The Fort Mill School District does not solicit information from the community on a door-to-door basis. Any person purporting to be affiliated with the school district and is soliciting in this manner should be reported to their local police department,” McKinney said.

Reports that the saleswoman represented herself as working for the school district are likely “people taking it the wrong way,” Campbell said.

“It’s in our introduction that they are not with the school district and it’s in bold, big letters on the receipt that is left with the consumer. We do everything we can to make sure our students explain they are not affiliated with the school district.”

“That’s something we may need to work with her on,” he added. “We want to be part of the solution in your community, not the problem.”

If residents see anyone suspicious, Spence said, “pick up the phone and ask us to investigate. If we don’t know what’s going on, if no one calls, we can’t investigate it.”

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