CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– Tuesday evening, Charleston City Council voted to ban samples in parts of Downtown Charleston.
According to the ordinance that is now in effect, offering samples of food, drink, and non-consumable products on the public right-of -way is prohibited in The Central Business District.
The area includes King Street between Line and Broad Streets, on streets crossing King Street for one block between and including Line and Broad Streets, and North Market Street between King Street and East Bay.
Councilman Harry Griffin voted against the ordinance after voicing concerns that bans like this one could hurt business owners already struggling in the pandemic.
Council member Ross Appel countered, saying the ordinance was developed out of the Central Business District Improvement Commission, which includes business owners in the area.
“This came from the merchant stake holders on King street. This is something they have spoken about. This is an issue they deal with everyday, where people get unfortunately harassed on the street; where people actually have to literally cross the street and avoid business on certain stretches of the street to do it,” said Apell.
The 12-1 vote comes after complaints that employees at certain beauty shops aggressively peddle soap samples to lure customers into the store.
The Count on 2 Investigators interviewed three women who said they felt pressured to spend hundreds and in some cases even thousands of dollars on skin care products after accepting a soap sample.
According to the City of Charleston’s Livability Department, 81 complaints have been filed since 2018 against Adore Cosmetics, Resveralife, Soap Stories Inc., and Tresor Rare which is now closed.
Collectively, they have been cited in Livability Court 25 times since 2018.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists 12 complaints against Resveralife, 19 complaints against Soap Stories Tampa Bay Inc, 5 complaints against Adore Cosmetics, and 5 complaints against Tresor Rare, which has closed.
All of the four businesses on King Street were given an “F” rating by the BBB.
After News 2’s report aired, The Investigators received 15 emails from men and women who said they had similar negative experiences at the stores and said they no longer enjoy walking on King Street because of the nuisance.
Area businesses have also reported complaints against the stores. Croghan’s Jewel Box President, Mariana Hay, said shoppers often cross the street to avoid salespeople on the sidewalk, which directs foot traffic away from her store.
“We have never been a street that people have to cross the street because they don’t want to be accosted,” said Hay. “That is what I find happens on our block. They don’t want to be solicited by people standing outside the door,” she said.
City Council also considered a more intricate permitting process. Those who voted in favor of the all-out ban said the permitting option would be hard to enforce and would require more resources.
Violators of the ordinance are subject to a Livability Court summons.