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College student's request to waive peddlers fee denied

June 02, 2010
The Board of Selectmen denied an out-of-state college student's request to waive, or greatly reduce, the town's $2,500 peddlers permit fee.

Matthew Schuster, a college student from the University of Missouri, is currently working with Southwestern Company out of Nashville, Tenn., as a door-to-door textbook sales representative.

Last Wednesday night, Schuster informed the board that he had already obtained authorization through the state of New Hampshire for a hawkers and peddlers license to sell merchandise. He must still go from town to town to obtain his vendor permit if he wishes to sell books geared toward younger children's education.

He was ready to comply with whatever laws and regulations the state may hold before him, although he said he could not afford Gilford's $2,500 fee, compared to Barnstead and Pittsfield's $10 and $100 fees, respectively.

"I respect the town regulation to protect the people from fly-by-fly salesmen, however, I am only a young college student trying to make some money this summer to afford my college tuition next year," wrote Schuster in a letter to the selectmen. "I can't afford the fee necessary to get the permit here in town. Is there any way we can reduce greatly/remove the fee, or requirement of the permit?"

Selectmen John O'Brien said by principle, he felt he could not waive the $2,500 fee for Schuster, and in a unanimous vote, the selectmen denied the request.

Schuster is originally from Missouri, and will only be in New Hampshire for the remainder of the summer. He would have been in Gilford for two months if his request for the waiver had been approved.

Although Schuster said he would be willing to pay a reduced permit fee, board of Chairman John Hayes said the board could only assume the fee is high for a reason.

"We are not sure what exactly that reason is yet, but I think the town wanted to avoid the door-to-door salesmen thing," said Hayes.

Although he found the final decision to be somewhat unfortunate, he added that the board was not completely comfortable with waiving a fee or regulations they had not fully digested yet.

"We may talk about this again in the future. I have no doubt this (type of occurrence) will come up again," said Hayes, who also plans to discuss this matter with the board and the Town Administrator, when he returns.

Town Planner John Ayer of the Planning Department said this particular outdoor vendors and transient sales permit, which his department oversees, has changed dramatically over the years.

"Door-to-door sales were included in with the vendor permit a year and a half ago. It's a pretty significant fee. It got overhauled and there are whole new vendor regulations," said Ayer. "It's the amount the selectmen set, and I'm not sure why these are the exact numbers. We've had different numbers before, and they generally used to be lower."

Ayer explained that the regulations have evolved over the last decade, and that fees used to be minimal and site specific, until door-to-door sales in particular were taken into account.

He also said the decision was an unfortunate one, but since no other regulations stand and the town has not discussed the matter any further, college students such as Schuster will be expected to pay these fees.

The fact that door-to-door sales are no longer a common practice may be another reason the fees are so high, or why no exceptions have been set in the ordinance for similar situations, he said.

Ayer said a while ago, one man had been granted permission to go door-to-door for an insurance pitch with no fee, since he strictly spoke of insurance and did not plan to make any sales.

"This student (Schuster) is the first guy who has come to me who wanted to go door-to-door in eight and a half years," said Ayer, who said this is the first time he has been made aware of the Southwestern Company program. "Perhaps this will be a new practice. We haven't dealt with this much before."

He added that $400 a week is an unfortunate cost for a student, and if the fee were knocked down $100-$200 in price a week perhaps Schuster could have afforded it.

As of January 2009, permits under this ordinance go for $65 per day, $400 per week, $1,500 per month, and $2,500 per year.

In the prior ordinance, a single event permit cost $50 per day, and 40 or more events per year cost $200. During Soulfest or Bike Week, a permit cost $75 per day and $200 for more than one day.

Martin Lord & Osman
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