Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dear Kirby Vacuum Salesman (Epistolary Wednesday)

On Wednesdays, I'm writing letters.

The deal was that you would shampoo my living room carpet and my stairs. In exchange, I would listen to your vacuum sales pitch for a product that truly does sell itself. Of course, you won’t tell me the price ‘til the very end, after you’ve done the pitch, after you’ve followed the act devised by Corporate in Cleveland. First, you vacuum with my $25 Dirt Devil. Then you vacuum with your Kirby. Ten times. Over the exact same 10-foot-square area. And each time, you must present to me the vacuum’s excavations from my living room carpet: Lint and sand. More lint and sand. You do other tricks. I oooh and aaah. Yes, your machine is amazing, as evidenced by piles of excavated sand. Yes, it can do all the things I’d like a vacuum to do. Yes, we really do need something better than this $25 Dirt Devil.

But your shampoo and demo is supposed to last 1.5 hours, tops.  At that point, you still have not shampooed my carpets. Instead, you pull out your price sheet.  For everything (the vacuum, shampooer, attachments, warranty), the suggested retail price is $2500, but it’s negotiable, you are sure to mention multiple times. 

“So, would you go down to $1800?”

“Yes, yes! Would you be interested in purchasing it today if I could sell it to you for $1800?”

I have to text my husband about the vacuum and the finance plan. You have to shampoo my carpet. I say I’ll think about it. You say again that the price is negotiable, so I ask, “Would you sell it for $1200?”

Maybe you could. You’d have to call Corporate in Cleveland to get their permission. You’re not even allowed to sell more than three per month at that price, and you never make any commission on vacuums sold for $1200.

“Well that seems awfully silly,” I tell you.

It’s true, though, you say and sigh resignedly. The vacuum is just so amazing that the company really wants it in people’s homes (even if they make no money) so that the presence of the Kirby will self-evangelize neighbors, relatives, and children who will grow up to buy Kirbys.

“By all means, please, call Corporate in Cleveland. Feel free to go outside so you have some privacy,” I say, amused by the charade. Before you can finish chatting with Corporate out on my front porch, you return to sit on my sofa and, in my presence, summarize our whole conversation to Corporate Guy. Corporate Guy wants to know: If they were agree to this purchase price, what could I put down on the vacuum today?

I say I’ll text with my husband and I ask you to please go ahead and shampoo my carpet—I have to pick my kids up from school. I’ll let you know our decision when you’re done. But now you tell me you won’t shampoo my stairs (“Is that okay?”)—it would be a lot of work and take a lot of time and somehow mess up your equipment for your next demonstration.


“We really like to have ‘the husband’ here too,” you say for like the twelfth time. “There’s a much better chance that they would agree to the purchase if they see the demonstration.”

Oh, but you don’t know my husband. Better for you he’s not here, because he’d be sighing and eye-rolling in the midst of all the suction melodrama.

When you’re done shampooing, I let you know it’s no dice. The husband is not going for this killer deal, which he and I have discussed via text message. I’m sure we’ll buy a vacuum down the road, just not today.

And it’s like I’ve pierced you in the side with a spear with this news, and you must now move in slo-mo as you pack up the brand-new vacuum you used for the demo. Grief that you cannot leave it in my home slows you down, makes your movements labored. “We really like to leave them when we can. It means I can’t use a brand new vacuum at my next demonstration.”

I feel mildly guilty until my father shows up at the house for a random visit. He’s 70 and has purchased a vacuum or two in his day. “So how much do these things sell for?” he asks candidly. “Four, five hundred dollars?”

“25, but I could get it for 12,” I tell him drily.

“Twenty five hundred dollars!” he chortles in your presence. “Are you kidding me??!” You hang your head in a sort of shame-faced defeat.

I have to leave to get my kids because now you’ve been at my house for 2 hours and fifteen minutes. I leave you in my father’s stead, with the understanding that I can stop by the Kirby vacuum repair store anytime we decide to purchase and mention our agreed-upon sales price.

The next day a friend tells me she bought her Kirby for $900.

A week later I call the store—the fix-it shop you told me to call—to see if you would match her deal. The store owner says they don’t sell new ones because, by company policy, those can only be sold by salespeople in homes. I mention making a deal with you, and, like its some kind of classified information, the store owner tells me he’ll pass on my information to a regional sales rep because selling a Kirby vacuum over the phone is ILLEGAL! I feel as small as a four-year-old.

You leave me a voice mail message an hour later that you’d like to make a “great deal” today. I haven’t called you back.

All this hoopla adds up to one big deterrent to buying a vacuum. I actually LIKE your vacuum. But the fact that you didn’t shampoo my stairs, the fact that you spent 2.5 hours at my house vacuuming the same patch of carpet over and over again, the fact that you’re playing the “Corporate in Cleveland” card when you want to negotiate like some kind of underhanded-snake-oil-salesman does not a win for you make. If your vacuum’s so great, you could just be straight up, man. I like you, I truly do. I see the glory of the Creator in you, and so I like you. But, listen up, this is what I tell my girls from time to time when that glory gets all clouded with anxiety and deceit and pouting.

You’re better than that. So do better.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hate everything about what you have described. It's so ridiculous and sadly true. We had a window salesman close the sample window on my hand. Did purchase because they did sell themselves. In spite of the salesman...