Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Death of a Salesman

I'm skeptical of most salespeople, but today I gave in and let one in my house. Actually three of them.

Not my finest moment.

Around 11:30am, a young woman comes to my door and tells me she's from Kirby. She would like to come in to vacuum and shampoo one of the rooms in my house as advertising for her product. "We don't do TV commercials. Our only advertising is word-of-mouth, so if you would let me show you what my Kirby vacuum could do for your carpet you would really help me out," she said. "My boss pays me $35 to clean a carpet, so he says I'm cheaper than advertising."

Okay, I cave. What can I say? I'm a housewife with a post-birthday party mess to clean up from the night before and I could use a little help with some of the cleaning! I figured it was harmless. I knew I wasn't buying, so no big deal, right?


She tells me they'll be right over (who is "they" all of a sudden?). So I stop her and say, "Is it going to be noisy? My son needs to take a nap in a few minutes and I can't have loud noise."

"Oh, no. It's not loud," she assures me.

Salesperson #1: not a truth-teller.

So a few minutes pass, and two young gentlemen plow through my door with large boxes of vacuum parts. They're cordial enough, but I am irked that they don't remove their shoes as they enter. Um, wouldn't vacuum cleaner guys realize removing shoes is important if you're going to keep carpets in good condition?

I'm slightly annoyed, but they're all dressed up, so I cut them some slack.

Of course my mind is on those shoes now, so I look at the kid's shoes who is unpacking the chrome-glistening vacuum. His shoes are a fright. Completely peeling on top, and he informs me later his dog chewed the backs off of them.

I'm not buying it. I see it as a ploy for me to feel sorry for the guy and hand him a check.

Not happening.

He starts in on the small talk, acting interested in what my husband and I do for a living. In hindsight, my husband tells me I should have made something up. "You should have told him I sell vacuums," he jokes.

At any rate, I am feeling stuck in the room with this guy - with my son who should be down for a nap right now. He begins to start showing off his prize vacuum, bringing out gadget after gadget and having me test drive them.

And there is noise. Kirby is not a quiet product.

All I can think of is all the work I need to get done, all I had planned to do while my son napped.

But I try to remain cordial. I keep thinking, surely he'll get to the shampooing part soon and be gone.

It isn't long and the sales pitch comes. That monster of a vacuum can be mine for just $2700+.

If I had $2700 to spend, believe me, it would not be spent on a cleaning device.

But then he tells me he can knock $300 off that price because of his "contest promotion."

Ah, love these things.

The great line of, "I'm trying to win a trip to XYZ and you can help send me there, blah blah blah."

Oh pul-eeeze. I'm supposed to want to buy from you so that you can take a trip? Give me the trip, and we'll talk.

The kicker was the trip destination. And where these fine young gents were from.

They came here from Nebraska.

The trip was to Oklahoma City.

Uh, that's just a day road trip, isn't it?!? That's like offering me a trip to Pierre, SD. Woo wee. Sign me up.

Really? Oklahoma City? That's the big prize trip? Apparently people aren't buying the ol' Kirby if that's all they can spring for.

So I have very little interest in hearing about how he can win a trip if I "become part of the Kirby family."

They need to work on their main sales pitch, though. The "repulsion" factor. You know, vacuuming an area and showing you the filter, littered with dirt, dust and fuzz. Like I don't feel bad enough about how far behind I am on housecleaning, now I have some young whipper-snapper showing me I am not cleaning nearly well enough.

Thanks, dude. You now sent me into such a depression I'll need the $2700 for counseling and medications. Oh, I'm sorry. $2400, since I'm helping you win that extravagant trip.

But wait! He's grabbing his phone. This got really comical for me after awhile. He kept calling his "boss" to tell him about the nasty stuff he was getting on the filters.

"Hi, Mr. Snitzenbueler! Yeah, I'm here with Maxine and holy smokes! - you should see what we've pulled out of her carpet! It's awesome what Kirby can do!" Short pause. "Okay, great."

He hangs up and tells me Mr. Sneezyboo is taking another $200 off the price.

I feel like I'm a contestant on Deal or No Deal. Why does he need to keep calling "his boss?" And does that guy really answer every call on the first ring? Does he never have other appointments? Or for that matter, ever need to use the restroom? He is always available to take the call.

How convenient.

I call Vacuum Boy on it.

"Is there really even someone on the other end of that line?" I ask.

He looks at me in disbelief. "Of course! It's my boss. Here, look at this."

He shows me the last call on his phone. It means nothing to me. Just "Brian" somebody. Proves nothing. I figure, if it was legit, he would have rung dear Mr. Sloshfosh so I could speak to him.

But he goes through this charade at least 8 more times. Each time, Mr. Shooshibeans offers another price cut.

Now they're willing to give me a $700 trade-in on my vacuum. The one they claim is worth nothing because it doesn't pick up any dirt whatsoever.

I realize they have no need for it. The "trade-in" comment is just a ploy to make me think I could get a "good deal."

An hour and a half later, I insist that I need to get some work done, that I was not under the impression he would take this much time to vacuum and shampoo my carpet.

"Oh, go ahead and do your work," he says.

Okay, so I bolt. I've got dishes to do, an article to finish writing, and phone calls to make. I don't trust a complete stranger in my house, however, so I keep coming down to check on him.

Each time, he's got a nasty filter to show me. "Holy smokes, huh?"

Yeah, holy smokes, kid. Are you almost done???

I continue this darting in and out until his sidekick shows up again, this time saying verbatim what the other guy had just told me. The language was identical. Right down to the "awesome."

What's with using words like "awesome" and "perfect" 400 times in a sales pitch? Does that really resonate with people?

He claims he's sold 11 vacuums toward his 15 vacuums goal for the trip.

Good. What's four more, then, for a fine saleman as he? He doesn't need my help.

Not that it matters, but there is no chance of spending that kind of money without my husband's consent anyway, so he and his sidekick are practically begging me to call my spouse and see if he'll bite. The price is down to just $1700 now, after all.

I wanted to tell them that if I called my husband at work to ask him if spending $1700 on a vacuum today would be a good idea, he would laugh harder than he does at Jay Leno's Headlines on Monday nights.

So I get honest with the fellas.

I tell them the price isn't the issue - I'm not in the market for a vacuum, and furthermore I don't like their sales tactic. The girl tells me she'll be over to vacuum and shampoo one room, and then these guys show up and take up my afternoon.

I expected one clean carpet and a sales pitch. I did not expect him to drag Kirby upstairs and vacuum a mattress, try out every gadget on my stairs, ceiling fan and drapes. I did not expect him to pull out a filter every 3 -1/2 seconds to show me more dirt.

I return to my office and sidekick dude leaves. After I heard the shampooing finally end, I went downstairs to check on the trip contestant. He was packing up his gear. Finally! I thought.

I go back to working, and don't hear much so I check to see if he's still here.

He's at my front door gripping Kirby and company in his hands, peering out the window. He looks like a school kid waiting for the bus. A kid who has to pee.

Why is he fidgeting so much? He's just dying to get out of here, isn't he? Wow, they don't like "no"s, do they?

I am amazed at how he could go from Mr. Perky Holy-Smokes guy to unresponsive ready-to-dash boy.

I go check out my freshly cleaned carpet. He only did half the room, but that's okay. He did the dirtier half.

But all those filters with the guck on them were left in a pile in the middle of my floor.

Really? You can't stash a trash bag within all that cargo you've got?

Worse yet, as he picked up all those filters to put them in a pile, the dirt and fuzz fell off them onto my carpet.

Why would you not have Kirby clean that up?

So I'm pulling out my own vacuum and cleaning up his mess. He's still in my house, but doesn't make a peep when I utter in disbelief, "You sell vacuums, but you leave a mess on my carpet?"

Then I head to the kitchen and come upon the huge mess of water splattered all around my sink. He needed water to fill his shampooer, but obviously couldn't make use of a towel.

Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. And as I watched his ride pull up, it looked nothing short of a bank heist.

Driver smoking a cigarette flies into my driveway. Scared boy runs out of my house, hustles to the back of the van to throw the vacuum in and jumps in the passenger seat. They practically burn rubber out of my driveway.

I shake my head and realize I've learned a hard lesson. It's best to just send those salespeople on their merry way when they come to my door.

Lest I shatter the dream of young people everywhere of luxurious stays at the Motel 6 in Oklahoma City.


  1. Oh, how this story resonates with me. Lisa made the mistake of letting a Kirby sales guy into our house with similar tactics. 2+ hours later, I had to get mad at them and tell them to pack their stuff up and get out, because I am not buying their vacuum! That still did not work, they would not take NO for an answer. It got to be an ugly scene, so not like me, but I was cranky already and wanted them OUT of my house! NEVER let Kirby in your house.

  2. We couldn't say no and actually bought one while we were stationed in Hawaii. The next morning we woke up with a Kirby Hangover. Thankfully, you can still get your money back the next day. Did I learn? Oh no. I let another one in to see if they could get a high-traffic stain out of our carpet here in New Mexico... but this time I stood my ground to their weak sales tactics and said HELL NO!

  3. Oh my goodness, Maxine! I love it...I love the "get-away" vehicle, the "doesn't he know how much I had planned to get accomplished while my son napped" line and the whole set-up...this is great! Maybe tomorrow you'll have the Mr. Watkins stop-by...remember them...they were the only visitors we ever had on the farm, other than the UPS man every now and then to deliver a JC Penney catalog order. :)

    Good laughs, good laughs...

    Tammy Huber Krings

  4. I made the mistake of letting them in my house once... I had to threaten to call the cops to get them to leave.... even if I could afford a Kirby (which I can't)... I wouldn't buy one just for this reason...