Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Tales of consumer dishonesty from an honest vacuum cleaner salesman December 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:13 AM
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My new Bissell PowerForce Turbo vacuum cleaner replaces the General Electric vacuum I bought 8 1/2 years ago. The switch wore out on that 2002 vacuum just days before I was going to give the cleaner to my daughter for her new apartment.

YOU WOULD THINK that buying a vacuum cleaner should be easy, right? Not.

Faced with more than a dozen choices lining two sides of a big box store display aisle, I was overwhelmed by the selection—Eureka, Bissell, Dirt Devil, Hoover…

Not only did I have numerous brands from which to choose, but each company also offered high-end, low-end and in-between models.

And then the powerful force of name branding—tornado, wind tunnel, PowerForce—sucked me into the vortex of consumer confusion.

How would I ever decide which vacuum cleaner would pull the most dirt from my carpet?

I would need to focus, focus, focus.

OK, what did I want in a vacuum cleaner? Powerful suction. Adjustable height. Accessory tools. A bagless system. Filters that don’t cost a fortune. Sturdiness. Affordability.

As my husband and I began perusing the choices, I/we became more confused.

Then…, thankfully, an associate came to our rescue, told us the cheapest models were “crap” and wouldn’t last a month, that some consumers buy the $400 models (“but why?”) and that the bestsellers are Bissells, the vacuum he owns.

With that advice and his directive to consider the $69.94 (why can’t they just say $70?) Bissell PowerForce Turbo bagless vacuum stacked on the end cap, I felt like the swirling winds of too many choices were finally subsiding.

He gave us some additional money-saving advice. Rather than replace the foam filter, simply blow out the dirt and dust with an air compressor. Been there, done that, but still a solid tip for a shopper who may not have considered this option.

This associate was certainly impressing me with his knowledge and his honesty.

Then, he clinched the sale by telling us to keep the receipt and the box, and “if you’re not happy, you can return the vacuum,” honoring the store’s 100 percent customer satisfaction policy. “You wouldn’t believe the dirty vacuum cleaners that come back.”

I don’t know if it was the look of surprise on my face or what, but he then shared several more stories about returned merchandise that, to me, qualify as theft and I told him so. He didn’t disagree with my judgement.

A customer once returned motor oil that was clearly old oil drained from a vehicle, he said.

Consumers routinely return specially-mixed paint because the color isn’t right (didn’t know you could do that, I thought).

But the worst abuse of the retailer’s return policy this associate has seen occurred when a man returned a dirty, worn-out power sander that was a decade old.

“You took it back?” I asked, incredulous.

“He had the box and the receipt. What could we do?” he responded.

The company, he says, loses millions nationwide annually due to such merchandise returns.

And who pays for that? Consumers who purchase $400 vacuum cleaners? Or those of us who buy $69.94 vacuums?

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


12 Responses to “Tales of consumer dishonesty from an honest vacuum cleaner salesman”

  1. Amy Says:

    Never underestimate what people will do. Years ago I had the dreary job of working in the gift wrap department of a large store. We gave free wrapping to purchases made in the store. I had someone show up with one of our boxes, but no receipt, and when I opened the box, it was private-label merchandise from a competitor. I pointed that out, and the customer flew into a rage. I ended up wrapping the gift, but couldn’t help giving her the evil eye. 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You were right to give this dishonest customer the evil eye. I would have given her to evil eyes.

      Anyone else have stories of consumer dishonesty to share? I bet we would be shocked at what people will do.

  2. Amy Says:

    Or check out what Shefzilla has to say about why some restaurants require all members of a party to be present before seating: http://shefzilla.com/?p=10670

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I checked out the Shefzilla link. I’ve never thought about this restaurant seating policy, but then I generally don’t eat at restaurants that require reservations. The policy makes sense.

      Are people becoming more rude, less patient and understanding and more demanding? Probably so. What do you think?

  3. Sank Says:

    yea.. my beloved bride who rarely says yes to anything, especially if it involves me, someway, somehow, said yes to the Kirby salesman a few years. $694. which I would round up to “ARE YOU KIDDING ME” or $700 which ever is lower.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      OK, then, so does that Kirby suction every particle of dirt, every speck of dust, every piece of lint from your carpet? Just wondering given that hefty price tag. I know sometimes you “get what you pay for.”

  4. Dawn Tietz Says:

    Thank you for doing some initial vacuum cleaner shopping for me. I also need a new vacuum as mine is being held together with duct tape on the hose and several parts of the cord wrapped with electric tape to cover exposed wires. Sounds really “safe” doesn’t it? Oh well, one of these days when there is extra time I guess we’ll also look for a new one. You will have to keep us readers updated on how your “almost 70 dollar model” works. Happy vacuuming! You should have a spotless house now!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      So far I’m happy with my new Bissell. One change I noticed in today’s vacuums is all the filters. Another change: the attachment has little spinning brushes. How cool is that?

      My house is cleaner and my son even vacuumed his room because he wanted to try out my new toy. We’ll see how long that interest lasts. I haven’t talked him in to vacuuming the sand from the stairs yet.

      My old vacuum cleaner also had exposed twine and wires and was probably not safe. So, are you getting a new vacuum for Christmas then?

      • Dawn Tietz Says:

        I have put a new vacuum on my list, but I’m not sure who has seen or wants to see my list. I am sure I will be buying it for myself.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I hear you. Are you going to then wrap it, tag it with your name and put it under the Christmas tree?

  5. The Family Says:

    I saw someone ahead of me in the customer service line once that had a big pile of grass seed bags. He said the seed didn’t sprout and they gave him his money back. How can you even enjoy your lawn if you pull something like that?

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Were all the bags opened? If the grass seed had been lying around for a long time in the store, it’s possible that it wouldn’t sprout. Unlikely, though. More likely, the individual didn’t properly water it.

      Any more returned merchandise stories out there?

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