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Thread Number: 34211  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
HORRIBLE Kirby Distributor Experience!
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Post# 370721   4/14/2017 at 17:59 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

So I finally got the opportunity to head out to my local Kirby distributor, which I was stoked about. Upon entering the door, I waited for a woman to get off the phone, and when she did, she asked me what I was doing there. We'll, that didn't sound good. I asked her for some parts, and she said that she could find them, likely... until I mentioned that they were for a Kirby 517. "Let me look in my Kirby book," she says, and she pulls out a catalog of older Kirbys, with general descriptions, grouping them all by category, with 505 and 516 as distinct models, saying 505 lasted thru 1955, and 516 lasted thru 1962. Generally correct, but each are models in their own rights. I was told my 517 was "mislabeled," and that it was a 516, because her literature said so. She, and the manager himself, argued with me that my Kirby didn't exist! I gave the example that the belt lifter changed between the 516 and the 560. He said, "they used whatever parts were available when they built them." You mean to tell me that Kirby itelf is a liar and they just put 517 as my model number for kicks and giggles?! We argued for a bit more, and he then said, "You know what? Get out. I don't want misinformed know it alls in my store. I'll get a police escort for you," and proceeds to whip out his phone. All because my vacuum, as it sits right here next to me, doesn't exist because you misread your paper?! Oh my!!!

Here is my model plate for all the world to see.

Ill regards today,

  View Full Size

Post# 370726 , Reply# 1   4/14/2017 at 18:40 by matt8808 (Teesside - North East - UK)        

I'd report that dealer to the Kirby head office. They'll soon sort them out

Post# 370730 , Reply# 2   4/14/2017 at 19:05 by suckolux (Yuba City, CA)        

suckolux's profile picture
Sorry to hear! I have not been to our local, but a few I know have, has not been good reports. Sketchy comes to mind, one said I think something Illegal and would not ever leave her machine with them! Too bad.

Post# 370731 , Reply# 3   4/14/2017 at 19:19 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

This distributor's office doubles as an auction house. They were cleaning an Avalir on the one side of the desk, behind where the lady was, and on my end were a bunch of chairs set up for the auction they were holding on random household stuff in an hour or so. "Shady" came to mind when I went in there, too.

Oh, and unless anything changes in-between now and Monday, Kirby corporate will be contacted, for sure. It is a shame too, because they have a dumpster inside a garage in the building chock full of old, discontinued parts. Like, one of those utility 30' dumpsters. I'd LOVE to dig into that mess, but with the way the owner was, not likely to happen...


Post# 370734 , Reply# 4   4/14/2017 at 19:40 by fairfax88 (Orlando, FL)        

in Florida do you live? I live in Down Town Orlando.


Post# 370736 , Reply# 5   4/14/2017 at 19:51 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

Summerfield. I'm right near Ocala, which is where this distributor is based.


Post# 370739 , Reply# 6   4/14/2017 at 20:42 by human (Pines of Carolina)        

human's profile picture
This is why i order parts online.

Post# 370742 , Reply# 7   4/14/2017 at 21:00 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
Very sorry to hear!

Sounds like this place is practicing corporate bullying just like united airlines.
Jeez - they sure give the brand a bad name, just not as bad as united did to theirs.
I think someone else around here had the same issue - their 517 'did not exist'. Perhaps because the little picture poster did not list them?
At least you tried and learned. At least you can buy online.
Hearing this really makes my Kirby guy here a shining star. I believe he is an independent guy running a franchise - mostly service and repair but with some sales of vacs.
If there is anything you cannot find online, let me know and I will check with my guy.

Post# 370744 , Reply# 8   4/14/2017 at 21:12 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


Never even got the chance to look in the parts dumpster before things turned sour. I have, until now, only bought my Kirby parts online, and now it looks like that's about the extent of it. *sigh


Yes, I was really hoping my guy would have been a good one, as I have heard horror stories about independent distributors being like this. (YouTube is full of 'em.) Won't deter me from Kirby any, but geez! If there's one thing Kirby should do, is get a better glance at their distributors! And yes, I would love to get a 517 Headlight Bumper and Nozzle Bumper in red, as that is period to my machine. In fact, this is one of the things I was trying to get! Lol!


Post# 370745 , Reply# 9   4/14/2017 at 21:18 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Tim, I emailed you about the headlight trim. I have an extra red one but no more red nozzle trim. I have a lot of green though - Christmas mixup perhaps?

Post# 370748 , Reply# 10   4/14/2017 at 21:26 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


Got the email and replied. Thanks.


Post# 370754 , Reply# 11   4/14/2017 at 21:59 by kenkart (Mocksville, NC)        
What a shame

In my hometown of Lenoir NC we had for many years the most wonderful couple running our Kirby dealership, Buell and Janet Pearson, two of the finest most honest people you could imagine, I used to go over there as a teenager and hang around and was always welcome, Janet did all the service and taught me all the ins and outs of working on Kirbys....I ran into a Rainbow dealer once who was rude to me, it about got out of hand before I left, but I stayed long enough to tell him what he could do with his Rainbow..LOL

Post# 370767 , Reply# 12   4/15/2017 at 06:36 by hoover119dude (england)        

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They should be reported to the company. They probably don't want people in the store for too long incase they actually have to do some work. They seem like they go to the shop each day and hang around the water cooler to catch up on yesterdays events and go home nice and relaxed and paid for the day after doing sweet. F.A !!! Rudeness like that should not be tolerated. REPORT THEM!!!

Post# 370776 , Reply# 13   4/15/2017 at 09:37 by dysonman1 (Rolla, Missouri)        
There's another way to look at it:

dysonman1's profile picture
We all know the Kirby distributor has his doors open to make money. They make money on sales of new vacuums. The parts that make the store profit, are disposable bags, belts, cords, fan, rear wheels, and brush rolls. These are the common parts carried, along with shampoo and pre-treatment chemicals, by most Kirby distributors.

In general, they probably don't care about the older machines. Older machines are to be traded in (in their minds). Again, they don't make money on older cleaners. Even the Kirby Company themselves don't REALLY care about older machines. They are only forced to keep a minimum of parts due to the lifetime rebuild warranty. I wouldn't ever go to a Kirby distributor to find a correct color nozzle bumper and headlight trim for a 1957 Kirby. I would actually expect to be laughed at. But then again, I understand how these stores work. I owned a vacuum repair shop for more than 20 years.

The secretary had no idea what a 517 was, and had to look in a book that had limited information. Most likely because Kirby combined all those models into a group and only has one set of parts to fit ALL of them (from 516 - 562). The correct color makes no difference to Kirby or their distributors. The distributor would have had to order the nozzle bumper and headlight trim (most likely in black only), meaning he would have to place a SPECIAL order for those parts, as he wouldn't be expected to carry any parts further back than the Sentria.

While they could certainly have been nicer, you have to remember you were an inconvenience to them. You were not buying a new cleaner, you were not buying parts or supplies they had "in stock" and within arms reach, and "to them" you were NOT like a typical customer. No one comes into a Kirby distributor (normally) armed with more knowledge than the distributor about OLD models they care nothing about. The distributor thought you were annoying him, and that's because he thought you were wasting his time on something that made him virtually no profit. Again, the goal is to sell NEW machines, everything else is secondary to that.

Keep ordering on-line and save going to the distributor for anything other than 'common items' or to buy a new machine. You'll have a much happier experience. There's a Kirby distributor not far from my home. I wouldn't expect them to carry anything I would need for an older model. eBay and Amazon are my friend when it comes to older parts.

Post# 370785 , Reply# 14   4/15/2017 at 11:03 by dirtmaster37 (The Mitten..somewhere cold most likely...)        
Kirby Dist. Experience...

dirtmaster37's profile picture
I have to second Tom here.


I wont re-speak all that he wrote, because the nail was hit DIRECTLY on the head. Vacuum shops, and distributors of new product rarely care about something that is now 6 decades old. It's just not even remotely on their radar. It's not personal, it's business.

It's happening faster and faster now that the older guys and gals are dropping out of the business, due retirement or bouncing off the mortal coil. These persons, who were of the thinking to just "fix the old", are dying out. These were the persons, who would take care of you. Sometimes too well, and lulling you into a complacencyto keep the same old cleaner for 30 years. Those days are gone. I am not saying that the new generation SHOULDN'T try to, and we have companies who are committed to longevity, but we/ they are trained to think differently. Old bad. New good.

Today, vacuum places,and assumption aside, a Kirby distributor; are becoming the most competitive ever because without selling new, they loose money, and they die. Plain and simple, we are up against the big box stores and the internet. Pressure from all sides cause even someone even like oneself, to turn away from fixing the old stuff anymore. Parts of unobtainum are part of it. But still...

All that said, they did NOT, in any way shape or form, have to be rude or insulting. That isn't okay. That will kill you faster than repairing a 65 year old Kirby.

Most distributors of the Big K machines are that way. Look it up, it's nothing new. Their business practices are for the most part deplorable.

Just wanted to add my thought in. I'd report them. But truthfully it probably wont do any good. as long as they are kicking out the 28 lb monster at 55 easy payments of $ 29 dollars, and 95 cents (read it like Ron Popeil), the company does nothing about it. Kirby manufactures a product, and then sells to the distributor, which pretty much takes away any responsibility from the company to really care!

Best of luck..


Post# 370794 , Reply# 15   4/15/2017 at 15:29 by crazykirbydude (Lexington, KY)        
I Kinda Disagree...

My local Aerus Electrolux dealer cares immensely about older machines, and does not care if you buy a used Super J or a brand new Guardian Platinum. He has parts for all Electrolux models, even the XXX. He is also very respectful to all customers, and will happily fetch you anything for your Electrolux, old or new. I find that Electroluxes depreciate less than Kirbys do. A Kirby Sentria can be found on Craigslist for under $300. A Renaissance on Craigslist will run you about $600. I don't know why, just what I have observed. My old Kirby dealer in my area was very polite, and did not press a new machine onto you. He was more than happy to fix someone's DS50 when they brought it in. Unfortunately, he isn't as available as he used to be, and he might be shutting down. My new Kirby dealer in my area has his "shop" in a strip mall, and it's a dump. He was very rude when I needed a switch for my Heritage II. Will not be going back.

Just my two cents minus tax

Post# 370796 , Reply# 16   4/15/2017 at 15:42 by kenkart (Mocksville, NC)        
Maybe our old Kirby

Office was rare, but Buell and Janet Pearson NEVER tried to push a new machine on a customer and they carried every kind of old part and bag you could imagine.

Post# 370800 , Reply# 17   4/15/2017 at 16:30 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


Your old Kirby dealer is the type we still need around. I understand that to make money, the new must sell, but to be as rude to a customer as to kick them out of the store because the customer knows about his vacuum that they probably used to sell (granted, with different employment that long ago) better than they know it, isn't a great business practice. He didn't even want to hear me out. Said that I was argumentative, and that his book is correct, and he doesn't need a know-it-all in his store. All I told him was that the model plate on the bottom of my vacuum says 517, and they had the nerve to say it was a misprint.*sigh...

Oh well, you guys are a good community, and I'm more than happy to help and be helped by ya'll. This won't deter me from Kirby any. Still my favorite vacuum, and probably always will be. Anybody know of an Avalir for sale under $100? Lol!

Best regards,

Post# 370801 , Reply# 18   4/15/2017 at 16:35 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

I am very sorry to hear about your experience with your local Kirby dealer. I am sure there are others out there near you that won't tip you off that much and might have some of those discontinued parts you desperately need...

I wish you good luck obtaining the correct red bumper trim for your 517 (1957-58)!


Post# 370806 , Reply# 19   4/15/2017 at 19:20 by pr-21 (Middletown, OH)        

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When the G4 first came out, I had a problem with mine. It ran fine at first and then after running it for 20 minutes or so, when I shut it off, it would make a high pitched noice when winding down after using the attachments. I dealt with a very large distributor in the Cincinnati, Oh. I took it in and they would turn it on and off. I told them it had to run for at least 20 minutes with the attachment hose on to make the noise. They kept the machine for a day or two and called to say it was fixed. Long story short, they obviously didn't do anything to it as it did the same thing, so I wrote the Kirby Company and complained, explaining what the machine was doing. I received a call from a man at Kirby asking me to send just the power unit directly to him and he would check it out and get back to me.

Long story short, he did just that. What had happened was whoever was on the assembly line putting on the fan did not follow procedures and did not put some grease of some sort behind the fan where the rubber gasket was, therefore the noise. He also looked at who did that job on the day mine was made and found my machine was not the only one like that, however he did say that only someone using the attachments, like I did would ever get that noise...He sent my machine back to me and sure enough it was fixed, but I was running it and then it would just shut off until you jiggled it, obviously a loose wire.

Ok so where is this going, just when the last thing happened I got a call from the distributor I bought my machine from and said Kirby World Headquarters called about my letter complaining about my machine making a noise and was instructed to let me bring it back for a brand new machine. I did take it back and I even got to go to the stock room and the cocky guy that would not fix my machine to start with, let me actually pick one out of a sealed box of (I believe they were shipped in boxes of 4...) which I did. This was a huge distributor, he must have had 25 cases of 4 to a box brand new Kirby vacuums. NO MORE PROBLEMS, thank goodness.

Now to the last of my story. Not all distributors of Kirby are like that. A new distributor got a franchise about 20 minutes from my house and I used to stop in and get bags and belts. They even wanted me to sell for them. I couldn't due it as I had my full time job and I also did not want to knock on doors to get referrals. I did however tell my aunt and cousins about my kirby. In the end, both of my cousins and my aunt bought new G4's from the new Kirby Distributor, unfortunately, they had to close eventually due to not meeting Kirby's sales quota's for dealerships. Those Kirby's are still running today. My one cousin actually had me send hers in for a rebuild and it came back looking brand new. Cost at the time was around $250 or so, plus shipping, since she was the original owner.

There are good Kirby Distributors out there. When I decided to get the new Kirby Avalir, I bought one from another great Kirby Distributor and have been very pleased with it and the follow up after the sale.


Bud Mattingly

Post# 370928 , Reply# 20   4/18/2017 at 06:33 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

Wow! That's quite a privilege to be able to pick a brand new machine from the box after the hassle like that! Indeed, there have to be good distributors left around, as there probably wouldn't be enough new models selling to make a real profit without changing the business model from the door-to-door method to some other. I personally will not let this infraction on the distributor's part disrupt my loyalty to the vacuum as a whole. I enjoy the Kirby brand thoroughly, and still will purchase Kirbys and Kirby parts for, likely, the rest of my life, so long as there is availability.

I do intend to call Kirby about my experience Friday, and let them know of their distributor's incompetence. Do I desire compensation? Not really. Just knowledge that the company cares, really. I really don't even care if they only call them, so long as they do 'something,' which I'm sure they will.

Not to mention, thanks to the advent of Internet sales, I can even acquire an Avalir, if I so desired, plus all accessories. (Granted, I won't have warranty, but I can work on them myself, so that's a plus.) Plus, parts for any other model, if you're patient and know when (and where) to look, are available too.

All that simply to say, I'm not upset with the company; just that particular distributor. Which, who knows, my phone call could "correct" that problem.


Post# 370936 , Reply# 21   4/18/2017 at 09:21 by Kirbysthebest (Wichita, KS)        
I would also say to write Kirby World Headquarters

They will forward the complaint to the distributor, even though you will get a more or less form letter stating they are independent businesses; the distributor will be advised of the proper way to treat returning customers.

Our local distributor used to have a sign "After the sale, it's the service that counts." Yea, that sign is gone--so is the distributor. Very nasty woman at the front desk, very condescending, now out of business.

Some vac shops incorrectly feel that collectors are not buyers. Others are smart enough to realize that we not only buy, but we buy repair parts in abundance as well.

As for Kirby parts, I have been very happy with the ebay seller Kirbyfans. Just about everything you need he has, if he doesn't have it, email him to see if he can get it.

Post# 371179 , Reply# 22   4/21/2017 at 03:17 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


I would definitely second you on Kirbyfans. He has never failed me before, plus he's very courteous. Always has a hand-written "Thank you" on the receipt, and usually has a business card with the order. Good guy.

Post# 371182 , Reply# 23   4/21/2017 at 04:13 by pr-21 (Middletown, OH)        

pr-21's profile picture
Great Guy to deal with for Kirby Supplies. He has parts that you would normally have to get directly from Kirby. When a new Kirby is released, he will start stocking supplies as soon as Kirby releases them to him. He also refurbishes a few machines for sale.


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