The North Platte police have received complaints of at least two women from Estonia soliciting door to door for Global Education Concepts and/or Southwestern Advantage from Nashville, Tenn., trying to sell kids' books. On July 5, one of them was cited for not having an Itinerant Sales Permit that is required by municipal ordinance, but otherwise police believe they are reputable. North Platte Police Information Officer Rodney Brown said these door-to-door sales reps have been recently targeted by Facebook posts in North Platte and throughout the Midwest, expressing concerns of them being involved in a “sex trafficking ring” of young girls.
Brown said the NPPD cannot confirm that suspicion, and has no information at this time to lead them to believe that it is true.
The Southwestern company has sold educational books door-to-door for more than a century. In 1868, the company began employing young men for the job, and the operation has grown and adjusted over the decades. Many of the salespeople are European college students. Students from more than 300 colleges and universities participate, according to the company.
Over the years, well-known figures like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions have gone through the program, according to a television news report from Broken Arrow, Okla., where the Facebook warning was first posted.
Oklahoma is a hub for human trafficking, so when a stranger asks about kids, it immediately sends up red flags, the television news report said.
"It's a shame that Internet rumors or something of this nature puts a damper on that, because these college students are someone who work hard," said Trey Campbell, a spokesman with Southwestern Advantage.
Campbell said asking about children is an important part of the sales strategy.
"They try to save time and skip over people who don't have children, won't be prospects for the product," he told Channel 6.
Currently, sales reps are selling a series of educational reference books to help families with school work. Southwestern Advantage is an accredited member of the Better Business Bureau and maintains an A+ rating, the company told the Bulletin via a post to the Bulletin's facebook.
Southwestern's ad reps can be verified at the company's website, HERE.
Brown said if residents don’t feel comfortable about a door-to-door sales person, they should remember that they don’t have to do business with them.
Police encourage residents to call law enforcement immediately if a sales person becomes too aggressive, refuses to leave, threatens them or pushes their way into a home.
North Platte municipal code requires itinerant sales people to pay a fee each day during the time they intend to solicit business or sell products in the city. Residents have the right to ask to see their North Platte Itinerant Sales Permit to make sure that they are legitimate.
Brown said in hot weather, the police often see an increase in itinerant sales permits throughout the city for door-to-door sales. Even though there are a lot of honest, hard-working door-to-door salespeople, some cross the line.
Brown said the police department asks residents to work together to report problems that may arise and to make North Platte a safer place to live and work.