An errand to buy vacuum bags reminded me of the story of our Kirby vacuum cleaner. I thought you might like to hear how a tightwad like me ended up with such an expensive vacuum cleaner.
Our first vacuum was a thrift store find, $20 if I remember correctly. It lasted through 3 apartments and one house. By the time we moved into our second brand-new house, it was belching more dust than it slurched. Only our preoccupation with getting moved in saved it from going in the dumpster.
Back then we only had three kids and I got away with vacuuming only every week or so. Between times I kept forgetting how awful the thing was. Then I’d use it, find myself in a cloud of dust again, and put it away saying we HAD to replace it. If only we weren’t so new-house broke.
Sensing the dust in the air, along came Mr. Kirby salesman. My first mistake was letting him in. Due to the trauma of this experience(AND the unfortunate meat-salesman incident, which I will spare you) we have since instituted a firm no-saleman-inside rule at our house.
But back then we did not fully understand the power of a saleman in your living room, especially the power of salesman selling something you desperately NEED. And so we let him in.
All I was thinking at the time was that the living room desperately needed a vacuum, and if I could get it for free, all the better. (Ah the innocence of youth!)
Mr. Salesman, accompanied by Mr. Trainee, came in and proceeded to give us a demonstration involving a coffee filter showing just how much awful dirt lurked in my lovely new (expensive!) carpet. I’d get years more use out of this rug if I just took care of it, he claimed. I stared at that coffee filter, appalled, imagining the ravages of having half a sandbox lurking in my carpet at any given moment. He had me in the palm of his hand.
And then he told me this vacuum had a shampooer. I felt myself salivating. Just think how much money we could save by never having to rent a shampooer! Then he shared with my husband the finer points of the automatic transmission. (Yes, this puppy is so heavy it needs a transmission.) Now my husband was drooling too. Sensing his moment, Mr. Salesman lowered the boom. For only $1600.00 we could have this wonderful tool. And –they took credit cards.
We. were. shocked. $1600– for a vacuum? No way. We were ready to show him out right there. But then he said he could maybe go down a little on the price. How about $1400? No? Well, then, $1300, and he would throw in some extra vacuum bags. By this point we were feeling his eagerness, and we did need that vacuum. How about $1200, we said. He was more than happy to take our offer. With some trepidation, we signed
all disposable income for the next year $1200 away.
The carpet would last much better, we told ourselves as we waved him off. The kids would be healthier. And we’d gotten such a good price. But soon after he left, guilt began to nibble at us. It just didn’t feel right.
That night we both tossed and turned, unable to feel peace about our purchase. The next morning we reluctantly called him and told him we’d changed our minds and that he needed to come get the vacuum. He sounded downright cranky. But our resolve was firm. We had to get the thing out.
By the time he got to our house, still trailed by Mr. Trainee, his voice was chipper again. We realized as soon as he opened his mouth that he was still trying to sell the thing to us. “No,” we said, “it’s just too expensive.”
Oh, he wanted to sell it. He offered to sell it to us for $1100, but we were unswayed. He seemed very eager to impress Mr. Trainee with his stellar sales techniques. Finally, looking nervous, he asked Mr. Trainee to go wait for him in the car. Then, voice lowered, eyes darting nervously, he said, “$700. I can sell it to you for $700. But you can’t tell anyone.”
John and I looked at each other. We went into the other room to talk. What had seemed way too expensive at $1200 suddenly looked much more appealing at $700. And there was the shampooer. And the attachments. And the micron filter. And the transmission. By the time we came out of our room we had sold the thing to ourself again.
For the second time in 24 hours, we signed on the dotted line. Mr. Salesman went and triumphantly let Mr. Trainee out of the car. “It was just a little payment plan issue,” he told him. No way was he going to admit to the guy he’d just sold us a vacuum at cost.
We have gotten 13 years of hard use out of that vacuum cleaner. Daily use for most of those years. We’ve sucked up a million rocks, scrubbed away the evidence of dozens of puke-fests. I heart my Kirby. I don’t think we would buy one again, even for ‘only’ $700. But it has stood the test of time. We have rode that baby hard. And it’s still going strong.
Every once in a while I think about Mr. Salesman and wonder if the same can be said for him.