How To Get A ‘Cheap’ Kirby

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.

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  1. Oh, that's great. I have a similar story about a minivan. 🙂

  2. I have always wanted a Kirby. But I just can't see spending that kind of money one a vacuum cleaner.

  3. Oh Boy. We have a plaque just above our doorbell that reads 'NO SOLICITATION'. After having a dozen boys offering lawn service or spitting out monotone schpiel about 'saving youth from the hazards of being latch-key kids'ignore the sign and ring the doorbell in the middle of naps anyway, I created an additional sign from a neon index card that reads: 'Baby Sleeping – Please DO NOT DISTURB' . It is under a magnet on my steel front door, and it still only keeps a few solicitors away. Maybe I should stop sweeping the spiders down from my front porch and stop clearing off the leaves that gather under our front patio. Then, Salesmen would just be too freaked out to even ring the bell!

  4. That is SO cute! Yes…we got one of our first vacuums out of the dumpster when we were first married, and my hubby, Mr. Fixit, got it running. And I remember, all too well, the power years later of letting Mr. Salesman into the livingroom!
    Funny post! 🙂
    Blessings…
    ~Tammy

  5. We actually have hardwood floors in all of our rooms, and only carpet in the dining room (yeah a little backwards I know) but we let every sales guy who comes in, and let him vacuum the 10 foot carpet, he knows once he is inside and sees this is all the carpet we have he is lost, we get the super duper vacuum and we crack jokes at his expense the entire time (all while telling him, no, we've never seen a sales guy do this before.

  6. Good job! Sounds like you two are good bargin shoppers. I have a rainbow and did the same thing. Got it brought down 500 bucks. Not as good as your deal but it still makes your feel good.
    They do last a long time. Congrats.

  7. Oh, that is too funny! LOL
    But I have to say I still think $700 is too much for a vaccum!

  8. I don't know if I could mortgage a product, my vacuum was a hand-me down from my SIL – when she bought her Kriby-wanna-be, a Tri-Star.

    It's held on for 10 years with duct tape but works fabulously… until just recently when someone was helping me out, cleaning up and thought my vacuum was junk and tossed it! Now I have to buy my first vacuum.

  9. This post brought back memories to me. My mom used to have this very old dinosaur of a vaccum, a big huge, RED Kirby. It was so heavy. It took three people to lug it up the stairs. My mom finally parted with the thing not long ago, but I think she shed some tears over it. 🙂

  10. I want a kirby. We almost got one at the house we were renting, then ended up buying a house with all wood floors. I was kinda glad we didn't shell out all that money, but then recently when we had our flea problem, we borrowed my inlaw's kirby and I am in love again. It sucked up all kinds of stuff from the cracks of the floor that brooms just moved from one crack to another. So, now I wouldn't mind having one, but it's a huge investment we cannot afford. Think I'll just buy some vacuum bags and borrow my inlaws LOL

  11. Pretty cool Mary! We've spent about that much total on our vacuum and steam cleaner but they are two different machines so you need twice as much storage space!
    I hear ya about the not letting in any salesman….

  12. My mother-in-law gave us our first vacuum, and then when we built our house, my vacuum salesman brother-in-law gave us our central vacuum.

    I let the Kirby guy in to get a free shampoo. Very impressive, but expensive. Now I have a steam cleaner I got at a garage sale for $7. Haven't used it yet, so I hope it works.

    My weakness is with the Cutco people.

  13. MY FIL has a Kirby — I HATE that BEAST with a vengance! It is the most unwieldy heavy monster I have ever used!

    It does a great job and my DH raves about it but I just Can.Not.Stand.It.

    So funny how something sooooo expensive can be great to some and horrid to others.

    I love my Dyson! (yup – the $500 one I got as a floor model for $100~~~~~~)

  14. Read Heather's comment. Dyson are supposed to be good too. I wouldn't complain. Anything beats the broken dirt devil I have sitting in my closet! LOL

  15. That's a good story! I wish I had a Kirby even though they are tremendously heavy. And I would never take it upstairs for fear of killing myself in the process. My current (relatively new) Hoover could stay upstairs, maybe?

  16. Just for fun,I shared your story with my husband, who is a sales trainer. His classes are always very colorful and he uses examples from just about anywhere, so I'll bet your poor Mr. Salesman's story is bound to be comically referenced in his next class that covers overcoming buyer's remorse!

  17. my inlaws (when they were actually married to each other 28 years ago) bought a kirby, and it took us through 3 years of marriage. then it died a painful death and we invested in an Oreck. I ♥ my Oreck!

  18. RobertDupuy says:

    About 15 years ago when I was just starting out in business, I had an office, and I actually slept on the floor, because I couldn't afford rent and an office….

    And oddly, my office was right next door to the kirby office… every morning I heard them singing their sales hymns, telling stories about how they had taken advantage of somone, and being berated by their abusive sales manager.

    I certainly never wanted a Kirby and especially not to support this system in any way.

    I handle the problem by not letting sales people inside my house. One day I get home, though, and my life has let one in. She says she is only getting the free shampoo of the carpet.

    I'm like, dear, they aren't going to give you that shampoo for hours…but she said 20 minutes, I said how long has it been already…its already been 30 minutes.

    So, I ask the sales woman, you know Kirby is very similar to a cult. She says that offends her, I can live with that, I said. She said our house is full of dirt, I can live with that, I said. She calls her boss, everything was going fine and then the husband comes home, he says we are a cult. Boss wants to know where I got that idea. I said, but the conversation has already ended and now you have to get out.

    I had her out of my house, only 10 minutes after I got home. She said I was rude, but in reality I was only firm. And it got me to thinking though, why all these horror stories of many hours with a saleperson….because you aren't firm.

    Firmly state they must leave. Then they either leave, or your firmly state you are calling the police. You have to use a different style of speaking….erase all ambiguity, make no pretense at politeness. You are not being rude, salesman need a certain type of language. When they insist they need to call their boss, state they may not use your telephone at all. (that was one time saver I missed). Refuse to discuss anything after you've already ended the conversation. That will get them out. If it doesn't, call the police, but you probably won't have to.

  19. I AM a Kirby Salesman. When looking on line to see if I could find any sites with tips on how to boost sales and better my presentations, I was appaled at the number of sites with negative comments regarding not only the Kirby salesmen but the actual machine itself. Most of which were made by people who have no idea what they're talking about.
    Kirby has been around since 1914(almost 100 years), and still going strong. They have built a name for themselves that has stood the test of time. Everybody's gramma had one; if they didn't they had a Hoover, and chances are if they're still living, they're still using it.
    Kirbys have a 3 year replacement warranty and a lifetime rebuild warranty.
    True enough, the older models were a little heavy to push, even though they did(and still do) get the job done well.
    The new Sentria model is a lot lighter, being made of die-cast aluminum, reducing body weight, plus its new tech-drive transmission…it won't take off running away from you, but you can pretty much push it with one finger.
    The motor on it is 3 1/2 horsepower compared to the older 2 horsepower engine, and the brushes on it rotate 3000 revolutions per minute, compared to the older 1500 rpm.
    The warranty is a factory warranty which means it is always good, compared to some of the other competitors whose warranties are only as good as the dealer(in other words…if I sold you a Rainbow, then quit my job next week, your warranty is no good any more!Hah! Anybody bother to tell you that one?)
    Or how about the sales pitch by Rainbow dealers that says the Rainbow cleaning system is also an air purifier? My supervisor quit working for Rainbow not too long ago, and still has a document issued to all their employees stating that Rainbow is in no way shape or form an air purifier and that telling people that it is is a fraudulent statement, and NO ONE was to use that pitch ever again.
    We do mostly work in teams, as other companies do. We have canvasers who knock on doors and set appointments for a free carpet cleaning in your home( one room, regardless of size) which takes about an hour in and out. We have our dealers who go into the appointments and vacuum and shampoo your floor. They do show you the attachments, as well as how to use them. Yes, sometimes our dealers bring a new employee in with them to help them get the feel of what goes on during a demonstration. We also have our closers who come in at the end of the demonstration to negotiate the price. We are NOT in the business of putting a hardship on anyone, and if you are interested we will find a price you can afford as long as we don't end up losing money. For example, if I pay 2.00 for a burger, I can't sell it to you for 1.50. If I did that I would be out!
    We are expected to do at least 3 demonstrations a day, so that is no lie. We do have dealer competitions where we can win incentive prizes depending on how many we sell.
    The program is set up to train people in the sales category of occupation, and will train you from the bottom up as long as you stay with them and if you want will even help you set up your own branch office. We work strictly off commission, and yes it pays good…sometimes, and then there are times when you may feel like you're not doing much, but overall, it is a great job.
    I suggest that those of you who think have so much to complain about cease your destructive communication, and start being thankful for all you do not have to complain about. Let us do our job. If you don't want a salesman to come to you, put up a "no soliciting" sign on your door, and leave it at that. 1798.00 is not a bad price for a home cleaning system as reliable and durable as a new Kirby(especially one that does all that it does….and with a lifetime warranty).Not to mention the fact that very seldom does one actually pay that much anyway. 1798.00 is just the retail price, not to mention your trade-in discount, and various other ways your dealer can help you bring the price down to one you can afford.
    We are real people like you with real jobs like some of you with real families to support, and bills to pay like everybody else.
    God bless you all, but when is the last time you bought something cheap and it doesn't even work right now? If you buy a disposable lighter, it will eventually quit working and you buy a new one. The same with a camera, and much much more. You could buy a car for 5000.00 and it won't last you as long as a Kirby will. You decide if you want to throw your money away, but remember you get what you pay for.

  20. Right about the car vs. vacuum thing.
    You sound like a typical salesman though, with this apple v. oranges approach.
    You don't USE a vacuum every day or several times a day, as you do a car.
    Furthermore, they have absolutely nothing in common as far as utility or manufacture.
    And the fact is, a $1750. car would be infinitely more useful and life-changing than a $1750 vacuum to a person in need.

  21. Here it is plain and simple. My wife has wanted one of those Kirby's for 10 years. Her mom has had one for 10 years and swears by it. I was impressed with the demonstration and so if I don't have to buy another daggum vaccum however good it sucks (oxymoron?) for 10 years I am a happy man. I gave $1000 for mine (the new model, bought in 2008) and I hope the sales guy can pay some bills and take his wife out to dinner on it. Probably could have paid less but it was my price floor so I am satisfied if the thing lasts as long as everyone elses.

    I crud it got up that my hoover wasn't is disgusting…I hear my wife vacuuming now, and I hope its my bed. I don't know if those little critters are really there, but if it sucks the crud out of my bed like like it does my carpet I will sleep better.

    Also, to the commenter on a car being used more than a vacuum…I'd bet my new Kirby your not a housewife. And my wife is now a happy wife with her new Kirby…happy wife…happy life.

    The end.

  22. Ok, the date above for the new kirby is 200 and eight..lol