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Protecting the public from entrepreneurial snow-shovelers

Posted by Richard on February 14, 2015

The northeastern US is being pounded with yet another snowstorm this weekend, so it seems appropriate to call out the latest “Nanny of the Week” story at Watchdog.org as a cautionary tale for any ambitious young entrepreneurs in that part of the country.

Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf, both 18-year-olds from Bound Brook, N.J., were going door-to-door in their neighborhood Jan. 27, handing out homemade flyers that offered snow-shoveling services. School had already been canceled for the next day, when a winter storm was expected to bury their portion of the Garden State under several inches of cold white powder.

But their offer of a free exchange of services for cash caught the attention of the local police force.

According to local news reports, the cops told the kids they weren’t allowed to solicit business by going door-to-door without a permit from the local government.

To get a permit for door-to-door solicitation in Bound Brook, Molinari and Schnepf would have had to pay the borough $450 (and the government-issued permission slip is only good for 180 days at a time, which is fine if you’re trying to run a snow-shoveling business, but not so great if you’re trying to offer services year-round).

At that cost, they’d have little chance of making any profit — unless the fine folks of Bound Brook are willing to pay $100 to have their driveways and front walks cleared.

A similar incident was reported in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion on Jan. 28 as the snow was falling up and down the east coast. Police reportedly told two men they were not allowed to engage in door-to-door solicitation of snow-shoveling services without permission from local officials.

Supposedly, such door-to-door solicitation rules protect people from scams, “distraction robberies,” and the like. But if that were true, then why not prohibit all door-to-door distribution of flyers (not just charge a permit fee) in order to protect people from dishonest roofers, driveway sealers, lawn aerators, assorted handymen, and fraudulent charities? I’m pretty sure a $450 fee won’t prevent roofing or home repair scams that bilk scores of people out of thousands of dollars each, but it sure puts the kibbosh on teens offering to shovel snow, rake leaves, or mow lawns.

For that matter, why don’t we just prohibit people from walking through their own neighborhoods between 9 AM and 3 PM, when most home burglaries occur? Think of how much safer we’d all be!

SMDH (shaking my damn head).

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One Response to “Protecting the public from entrepreneurial snow-shovelers”

  1. Richard Shultz said

    Scofflaw that I am, had I been there I would have advised the kids to wait for the cops to leave and keep right passing out flyers. I mean what are the cops gonna do, shoot the kids for illegal snow shoveling? Besides it’s their first amendment right to pass out flyers anyway.

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