Thread Number: 37736  /  Tag: Recent Vacuum Cleaners from past 20 years
Strange vacuum cleaner sale story
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Post# 402394   12/11/2018 at 14:46 (195 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds WA)        

One of if not the strangest for me. Until recently, I had a kind of small business that involved reconditioning and selling second hand vacuum cleaners. I did this for about nine years working out of my home. The advertising was free by way of Craig's List. It was very low overhead; it worked for me as a retirement thing.

I won't say that Craig's List customers tend to be bottom feeders; I got all kinds of calls and many were very nice people. There was a time when I had a delivery option. I charged one dollar a mile, one-way. So if the customer was 10 miles away, the charge was $10. Some people are house-bound or disabled and cannot get out to shop, so this was a good option for some of them. However, it was a real time gobbler so I quit after not offering the service for very long. In small business, I found that you have to try different things from time to time to see what works.

As to delivery, I never wanted to go more than about ten miles maximum. One evening, I got a call from a woman who wanted a Hoover Windtunnel self-propelled 6400 series. She lived about 35 miles away. I didn't really want this business, but she lived only a couple of miles from a rifle range where I'm a member. So I agreed to do the delivery and I incorporated it into a trip to the range. I charged her a flat $20 for the delivery.

How could I ever have anticipated the following? When I arrived at the address the customer gave me, she was in the process of moving into the basement apartment of a private home. She said the carpet was infested with fleas and her plan was to sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the carpet to kill them. The vacuum cleaner would be used to vacuum up the powder. I went through the demonstration of how the vacuum cleaner worked, features, etc. She paid and I left.

And now to one of the many reasons I didn't like relatively distant delivery situations. If there is a problem, it takes longer to deal with it because of the distance. This customer called the next evening; her complaint was that the brush roll of the vacuum cleaner would no longer turn. True to my 30 day sale guarantee, I got into my car and drove 35 miles out to her place.

When I got there, it was utter chaos. It was night time and furniture was outside on the lawn. I got to her apartment and saw the Hoover sitting there. It looked like a ghost machine. I picked it up and it felt very heavy. There was white powder everywhere. I opened up the dust compartment of the vacuum and pulled out the bag which was as full as can be of diatomaceous earth. I up-ended the machine removed the bottom plate. Sure enough, the machine had thrown the flat belt (these have two belts, a flat belt from motor to drive mechanism, and a Vee belt from drive mech. to brush roll).

Here's what this customer had done. Instead of dusting her carpet with a small bag of diatomaceous earth, she'd gone out and bought two 50 pound sacks of the material. Then she had proceeded to dump all 100 pounds of it onto the carpet of the two bedroom apartment. You could look down into the nap of the carpet and see dunes of it. There was no way a consumer-grade plasti-vac was going to be able to tackle the job. Diatomaceous earth is very fine, very much like graphite and for this reason, it hadn't taken long to cause the belt to throw off on the vacuum cleaner. Imagine how many Hoover Y bags it would've taken to pick up all that powder?

Anyway, I explained to her what the problem was and that this vacuum cleaner was never designed for such a task. I gladly refunded her purchase price including delivery charge. I suggested that she rent some kind of commercial machine from Home Depot or get a shop vac.

After this episode, I discontinued all deliveries.

Post# 402438 , Reply# 1   12/12/2018 at 01:42 (195 days old) by electromatik (Taylorsville, North Carolina, U.S.A.)        

Just more proof that people today have no idea how to care for anything due to the cheapening of appliances.

Post# 402440 , Reply# 2   12/12/2018 at 03:14 (195 days old) by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

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I would've politely told her the consequences of what she had done, and left.

Post# 402444 , Reply# 3   12/12/2018 at 06:00 (195 days old) by Tseg (World Traveller)        

You can't fix stupid.

Post# 402445 , Reply# 4   12/12/2018 at 06:29 (195 days old) by tolivac (Greenville,NC)        

That woman who dumpted all of the sand in the apartment needed a skid steer loader rather than a vacuum-and a dump truck.

Post# 402447 , Reply# 5   12/12/2018 at 08:57 (195 days old) by kloveland (Tulsa, OK)        

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The woman probably had bedbugs. Diatomaceous earth is recommended to kill them. Just not in that quantity.

Post# 402451 , Reply# 6   12/12/2018 at 13:48 (194 days old) by mark40511 (Lexington, KY)        

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Anyone with common sense (even those who have next to no knowledge of a vacuum cleaner) should get the basic idea and know that this would ruin the machine. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, not only did she ruin a used refurb machine, she called you back to let you know she wanted a refund. Wow!

But that was still a fun story to read.

Post# 402471 , Reply# 7   12/12/2018 at 16:14 (194 days old) by huskyvacs (Northern Indiana)        

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Yeah fleas can be killed with spray-on aerosol and washing everything fabric. Bedbugs are another story. I would leave that vacuum under a small tarp outside all winter and let the cold kill them off, don't bring it inside anytime soon.

What you need to do is put a clause in your business that damage by mishandling and abuse is not covered under your warranty. You will get people that will destroy the vacuum on purpose just to get it for free.

Post# 402474 , Reply# 8   12/12/2018 at 16:44 (194 days old) by gsheen (Cape Town South Africa)        

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I had a lady bring in her then ( about 8 years ago ) 1 year old dyson dc14 complaining that it was not sucking, ( I love the dc14 I have sold hundreds of new and refurbed units They last forever and give very little problems )
I looked and the bin was full to the top, The very top/ I said had she tried emptying it and she looked at me and said "NO its bagless !!!" ................ So the dirt just evaporates does it ??

Post# 402478 , Reply# 9   12/12/2018 at 17:57 (194 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds WA)        

I gave a 30 day guarantee on reconditioned machines that I sold. I didn't get many bounce-backs but when a customer called with a problem I made a serious effort to make them happy. I would guess that at least 75% of the bounce-backs I got were due to some foul-up on the customer's part. I could write a long post citing a number of classic examples but that's for a later time.

This particular customer called not for a refund but to see if I could cause the machine to work again. What she really wanted was another machine. The refund was my idea. My assessment of the situation was that any further involvement with this customer was potentially time-wasting and non-productive. So giving her money back was a way for me to not lose any more money or time in the future. Call it cutting my losses.

Re. the erroneous perception of some consumers as to the nature of bagless vacuum cleaners. At one time, I traded in both bagged and bagless machines. The last few years of my business, I phased out of nearly all bagless machines. The only model I kept in the line-up was the Hoover Dual Chamber Windtunnel, the 5700 series. I think there's a UH series number now but I don't remember it. For people who just had to have a bagless and nothing else would do. In other words, I kinda carved out a niche of selling bagged machines to people who still preferred that design rather than adopt what industry wanted to steer them to.

That's one thing I've never figured out. The ascendancy of bagless machines over bagged. Was this a result of consumer preference or a turn that was controlled by industry?

Big YES to the idea that some consumers equate "bagless" with "maintenance free."

Diatomaceous earth has long been one way to kill fleas in carpet. The idea is that the sharp edges on the tiny particles of earth will slash open the bodies of fleas and they will dehydrate and die. This is likely the same result for bed bugs. However, the material isn't meant to be used in large quantities but conservatively sprinkled.

Post# 402481 , Reply# 10   12/12/2018 at 20:40 (194 days old) by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
Not just bagless vacs...

...but all vacs are considered by some as magical dust-phasing machines.

My local Kirby repair guy told me a story of a lady who brought in a Kirby G-series that 'would not pick up dirt'. She brought it in and the guy noticed it weighed about 10lbs more than usual. He asked her when she last changed the bag, but she displayed a very puzzled look. "Bags" She asked? The guy asked her where the dirt went when it was picked up and she said "It just goes away!" No they are not magic...

The bag was stuffed. He removed the emtor and the dirt was solid into the fan case. It took a chisel and about an hour to clean it all out. He did this while she waited so she could see how she messed up. She left with a working (and much lighter) vac, as well as a pack of bags and a demo of how to replace them.

Very interesting story indeed. I know how fine DE is as I had used it in pool filters. Yes, a little bit can control bugs but 100lbs of the stuff is down-right crazy. They should have replaced the carpet (but prolly no money for that)...
You did what I would do. Refund her, learn from it, and never go back that route.

Post# 402491 , Reply# 11   12/13/2018 at 01:32 (194 days old) by electromatik (Taylorsville, North Carolina, U.S.A.)        

That's so sad but it happens more often than people think. I don't think it used to. Back in the olden days when vacuums were expensive pieces of equipment that would last 20 or 30 years people tended to take better care of things. Many things have become so commoditized and throw-away that people have no clue that some care is needed.

Younger people today seem to come out of the womb knowing how to punch buttons and do any number of things on a smart phone or tablet or any number of things when my parents' generation struggled with VCR clocks. However they can't understand a vacuum needs it's bag changed.

It truly makes one wonder at times if technology is making our lives better or just making us dumber.

Post# 402493 , Reply# 12   12/13/2018 at 02:02 (194 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds WA)        

One thing I know for sure. People don't all have the same values. This you can tell from visiting their homes. I think some of it is reflected in what values they were raised with as to order and cleanliness. Some people think nothing of living in complete filth. Yes, some people who grow up in poverty don't learn certain values. But some people of ordinary means just grew up lazy or became lazy and they also find it acceptable to live in disorder.

In making sales deliveries of vacuum cleaners, I've seen some real pig stys; you have to resist shaking your head, you just have to get on with business and ignore the disorder. You leave wondering, "Should a vacuum cleaner really be the first order of priority? Or would a book of matches be a better solution?" You wonder if they are going to pick up all the gravel, popsicle sticks, cigarette butts, candy bar wrappers, coins, drywall screws, nails, etc., before they even attempt to use the vacuum cleaner. Or a place where there is no nap remaining on the carpet, only jute backing shows. Or a place where the wood underlayment in the floor is soggy from exterior water leaks.

About 40 years ago, I was on vacation. I was visiting a friend who owned a TV and electronics repair business. That was still in the day when it was economical to repair such things. He later had to give up that business; the cost of his repairs couldn't compete with new production by workers in Taiwan and China. Anyway, while visiting, I went to work with him a few days and helped out. He did his own pickup and delivery of TV's to be worked on. When we went out to "the Projects" nearby, some of those scenes were indescribable. For example, I would've never guessed that cockroaches would live inside a television.

Yes, the throw-away society. One (of several) reasons that I ended my business of reconditioning vacuum cleaners. All the big box stores now regularly sell new but crappy bagless vacuum cleaners for $47.95. Most consumers are so conditioned to the throw-away concept that they cannot see the issue of quality involved. They see nothing wrong with buying a cheaply-made, throw-away machine every year or two. Because when it breaks or quits because of an intended very short life, it bothers them not one iota to go back to the store and buy another one for $47.95.

Right there I may have answered my own question about how did bagless vacuum cleaners become so dominant in the market. Because the manufacturers never meant them to last long enough to require a filter cleaning in the homes of most consumers. So in that sense, they truly are maintenance free.

Yes, there are still a minority of consumers who have some concept of quality and I've met quite a few in the course of my selling reconditioned machines. Some who are willing to pay out the money are those who will buy a new Sebo or Miele.

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