UPDATE: A Long Con Doesn’t Go Very Far

We may have an answer to what the strange man was doing in Philip’s wife’s office trying to pressure her into signing up for natural gas.

He’s probably not a conman, just one your garden variety, wears a size D so his shoe can stuff more in the door, sleazy salesman.

Even still, you should throw him off your porch, after the jump…

Stephanie writes:

    “Hi there,

    The gas salesman wasn’t running a scam, per se, and what he’s doing is perfectly legal – evil and manipulative, yes, but illegal, no.

    A lot of areas allow competition in the natural gas market, and small companies like this go door to door, trying to get people to sign long term contracts for gas delivery. They often misrepresent themselves as city officials, or as being from the utility that actually sells the gas, when in fact they are a middle man – or a potential middle man. If you sign with them, they will buy the gas from the utility and sell it to you.

    I learned all this when 2 days after buying my first home a similar schmuck showed up on my doorstep and told me my gas would be turned off if I didn’t sign right away, etc etc, and like Phillip’s wife, I was ready to just do it until he asked to use the phone. For some reason they need to have you agree to the contract over the phone to finalize it. I have no idea why. That’s when I freaked and threw the guy out of my house (additionally upset that I’d been so foolish as to let a stranger inside my home – what was I thinking?) I’ve had a few friends report similar experiences in the first few weeks in a new home – it’s an easy time to prey on people because they’re stressed and constantly being asked to sign stupid things. I called the gas utility and reported the incident, since he claimed to be working for them. I never heard a thing about it after that – but I pretty much chase people off my porch with a broom if they mention natural gas.

    Oooh, Google yielded an article about it here:



Previously: A Long Con Doesn’t Go Very Far


Edit Your Comment

  1. Phil here. WOW! Thank you! My wife says thank you too! Luckily, she wised up at the same time that you did (when he asked to use the phone). So everything should be ok. Thanks Stephanie and thank you Consumerist!

  2. Update, after speaking with Nicor, my wife learned that indeed this individual was some sort of middleman. Nicor also put a “No Solicit” block on their account so that it can’t happen in the future.

  3. Drinker Nisti says:

    Very interesting– I was looking over my gas bill last weekend, and noticed some phrasing to the effect of “The Gas Company is obligated to provide gas I purchas through second parties” (or some such thing). I was wondering what it was about, and now I see how it can be abused…

  4. Gari N. Corp says:

    The use of alternative gas and power providers has been common in the Uk for at least eight years. I was living in Oxford, and a guy from London Electricity (owned by the French electricity producer) offered to sell me gas. Needless to say , I did not have the faintest idea whether switching supplier was a good idea. I still did it , though.

    What’s also worth noting is that offering multi-year energy supply contracts was a pet idea of Enron’s. They were in the habit of signing ten-year deals to provide gas and power to (mostly) companies, and recognising the profits in their accounts before they even fulfilled them. There were quite a few other ridiculous businesses coming out of Enron, but this was up there with the silliest