DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from "Better Safe Than Sorry," a woman who was reluctant to open her door to solicitors. Her husband insisted that if she didn't open the door and respond face-to-face, she was being rude. You advised that no rule of etiquette demands a person open the door to a stranger, and the way to avoid "buying" anything is to not listen to the pitch in the first place.
I'd like to share what a police officer told us at our community watch meeting. He said that burglars often knock on doors to see if anyone is home. The way to handle a stranger at the door is to say loudly, "Honey, I'll get it," then ask through the door, "Who is it?" Even if no one is with you, it gives the impression that you're not alone and vulnerable. -- HELPFUL ADVICE FROM PLANO, TEXAS
DEAR HELPFUL: Thank you. I heard from many readers who also pointed out that a stranger at the door could be a criminal "casing the joint," or a prelude to a home invasion and assault.
DEAR ABBY: While attending school at the University of California in San Diego in the late '80s, I was working on a report at the home of a classmate. One of his roommates answered the door to a couple of solicitors for so-called cheap magazine subscriptions. Once the door was opened, the "salesmen" pulled out weapons, tied us up, and robbed us of money and valuables. Dangerous? I'll say. I had a shotgun pointed at the back of my head. -- JOHN M., NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.
DEAR JOHN M.: It could have been worse. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: When I was 12, a neighbor who lived only two doors down was severely beaten and raped after she "politely" opened her door to a stranger. She was lucky the man didn't kill her.
I used to have a "No Soliciting" sign on my door, but I continued to be bothered so I changed it. Now I have one that reads, "Don't sell me anything, give me anything, leave me anything or offer me anything. If you don't know me or my family, don't knock on my door and bother us!" -- ANNA IN BAKERSFIELD
DEAR ANNA: I'd say you've covered all your bases.
DEAR ABBY: It's a different world today. Caution is needed even with children. One week after I moved into my new house, the doorbell rang. Two boys who appeared to be about 8 and 10 were on my porch asking to use our bathroom. Something about them hit me wrong so I told them no, they should go home.
A week later, I read in the newspaper that a woman let two boys in to use her bathroom. They came out with a gun drawn and robbed her. Thankfully, they didn't shoot, but to my knowledge they were never caught. Adults aren't always the danger. -- EYES WIDE OPEN IN MISSOURI
DEAR EYES WIDE OPEN: I'm sad to say that's true.
DEAR ABBY: I do crime prevention as a volunteer with the Las Vegas Metro Police. What I tell people to do when I help them set up neighborhood watch programs is to post a sign by their doorbell that reads, "We shoot every third salesman -- and the second one just left!" -- TOM IN LAS VEGAS
DEAR TOM: Now that's a powerful message. It would even discourage the winner's committee from Publishers Clearinghouse.