Electricity sellers are re-evaluating how to sell power face-to-face as some have already stopped door-to-door sales as the coronavirus pandemic grows and state and local governments impose stay-at-home policies to slow its spread.
About one-quarter of electricity plans in Texas is sold door-to-door by power company representatives, said Robbie Wright, co-founder of the retail electric provider Bounce Energy and now CEO of Houston public relations firm Integrate Agency. The physical interaction is typically close, as with other door-to-door sales of kitchen gear, magazines and vacuum cleaners.
"They come in and shake hands,” said Wright. “They’re talking to hundreds of homes in a month.”
Electricity also is sold face-to-face at tables set up in parking lots of grocery stores. Other sellers have permanent storefronts at general merchandise stores to attract shoppers who come in for school supplies and automotive parts but who can be persuaded by roving sales agents to stop and talk about electricity plans.
Direct Energy, the British-owned company that is the third largest electricity seller in Texas, said this month it would suspend door-to-door sales. The company made the decision to protect the health and safety of customers and the communities the company serves, spokesman Jesse Dickerman said.
NRG Energy, an electricity generator and seller based in Houston and Princeton, N.J., also has discontinued door-to-door sales.
The company continues to staff some locations, such as inside banks, where shelter-in-place orders are not in effect, NRG spokeswoman Pat Hammond said. NRG brands include Reliant Energy, Green Mountain Energy, Cirro Energy and Discount Power. NRG is encouraging customers to contact the company by phone, online chat or through an app.
Sunnova Energy, the seller of residential solar systems, relies on a network of dealers, including many who go door to door, to sell solar power plans. The Houston-based company said its dealers have shifted to phone sales in some markets and are using online tools to support the sales.
In-person visits are only scheduled if customers approve and if they’re permitted under public health guidelines, Sunnova Chief of Staff Kelsey Hultberg said.