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Ask Sid

Door-to-Door Meat Deals

Q. The price is attractive, but how safe is it to buy meat from door-to-door salesmen?

A. Despite being a devout deal hunter, I always pass up such offers. I usually tell mobile meat merchants, who come knocking at least once a month during the summer and fall, that I’m vegetarian. I’m not, but the claim helps short-circuit the hard sell.

The Better Business Bureau has been receiving a growing number of complaints about door-to-door meat salesmen, who often claim (at least to me) to be “making deliveries in the neighborhood” and to have a bargain-priced surplus.

Despite spending an average of $185 per purchase, the BBB says, consumers often complain about low quality, freezer burn, poor taste and other problems. Some say they’ve gotten food poisoning from the purchase or received less product than they paid for. Another common complaint: Promised money-back guarantees were not honored.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t try to get a deal if you want to. Many mobile meat vendors are legit, and yes, their prices can be half off what you see in the supermarket.

So if you choose to do business with them, first ask salesmen for written materials about their company and check their Reliability Report and address at the BBB website.

Never pay with cash; a check or credit card gives you time to stop payment if what you get is substandard.

Ask for a dated receipt and cancellation form­­­—under federal law, you have three business days to cancel any door-to-door purchase.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a web page about door-to-door meat. You can also call the department’s Meat and Poultry Hotline toll-free at 1-888-674-6854.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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