By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
When a major snowstorm hit the east coast two weeks ago, two entrepreneurial teens in New Jersey were ready.
Until they ran directly into a real force of nature: government nannies.
Matt Molinari and Eric Schnepf, both 18-year-olds from Bound Brook, N.J., were going door-to-door in their neighborhood Jan. 27, handing out homemade flyers that offered snow-shoveling services. School had already been canceled for the next day, when a winter storm was expected to bury their portion of the Garden State under several inches of cold white powder.
But their offer of a free exchange of services for cash caught the attention of the local police force.
According to local news reports, the cops told the kids they weren’t allowed to solicit business by going door-to-door without a permit from the local government.
Police Chief Michael Jannone told MyCentralJersey.com the two teens were not arrested or issued a ticket, but were stopped because the town was in a so-called state of emergency in advance of the coming storm.
“We don’t make the laws but we have to uphold them,” he said Tuesday after reading some of the online comments about the incident. “This was a state of emergency. Nobody was supposed to be out on the road.”
Although Molinari told MyCentralNewJersey.com the cops “weren’t jerks” about the incident, the real jerks in this case are the local officials who made the rules.
To get a permit for door-to-door solicitation in Bound Brook, Molinari and Schnepf would have had to pay the borough $450 (and the government-issued permission slip is only good for 180 days at a time, which is fine if you’re trying to run a snow-shoveling business, but not so great if you’re trying to offer services year-round).
At that cost, they’d have little chance of making any profit — unless the fine folks of Bound Brook are willing to pay $100 to have their driveways and front walks cleared.
A similar incident was reported in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion on Jan. 28 as the snow was falling up and down the east coast. Police reportedly told two men they were not allowed to engage in door-to-door solicitation of snow-shoveling services without permission from local officials.
Many local governments have rules that limit how and when individuals can go door-to-door to solicit their services, and perhaps with good reason — NJ.com says the rules in Bound Brook are meant to protect residents from “scams, distraction robberies and the like.” But all rules have to take a back seat to common sense at times.
At least Molinari and Schnepf learned an important lesson they’re unlikely to be taught in school: government nannies are everywhere and if you try to make a buck without asking them for permission first, you’ll be dealing with the police.