Vacuums Suck and Cars Don’t!

(PART TWO of a short series using cars to understand vacuums)

We hope you enjoyed last week’s article “If cars were built like vacuums – we’d probably be dead.” If you missed it or didn’t finish reading it CLICK HERE to catch up!

So far, we learned that cars have significantly improved in critical areas like comfort, safety and fuel efficiency over the years. However, the mass majority of popular vacuum cleaners have suffered a serious decline in quality and performance to consumer demand for low prices and weight!

Now that you’re warmed up to my train of thought – using something familiar like cars to better understand your vacuumlet’s explore another commonly misunderstood factor: PERFORMANCE QUALITY. Following are 3 key factors to consider….
Every machine is designed to do a certain job, or set of jobs. To share the same classification, machines must obviously share specific performance criteria: Calculators have to calculate; Toasters must toast; Cars need to move, steer and stop; Vacuums cleaners have to suck and hold dirt in side. If a machine doesn’t perform the expected tasks, we either consider it broken, or we just have to find a new name for it!

Yet within those categories of machine, we often see numerous variants, brands and types. Sure, shapes and colors may vary, but most often a machine will be separated from others of its kind because of a claim to perform somewhat differently. It’s important to look carefully at these differences in claims, as it may drastically affect the machine’s ability to perform the tasks we expect.

The first part of what makes up a machine’s quality of performance depends on how well it is tailored to the task at hand. Do you have the right “tool” for the job? You can’t roast a small chicken in a regular, sliced-bread toaster. I don’t expect you’d buy a Toyota Prius to go off-roading in the mountains. And I would hope you’d know better than to buy an upright vacuum with a non-stopping brushroller if you have only hardwood floors.

The second factor falls in the realm of finer details. Two widgets may claim to do the exact same task, but have very different prices. Why? Quality is usually the one of the main reasons, yet this can be cocktail of several factors. “Better” quality usually indicates a products ease of use during the performance of its given task. Also, the better product can usually be expected to last longer or break less, providing a greater value for your dollar over time. Perhaps this product also does the particular task “better” than the other: Computes faster; Toasts more evenly; Is safer in a crash; Allows less dust escapes into the air, etc. Esthetics often plays a role too. Ultimately you need to decide how much those subtle factors affect the completion of your task, whether you feel they are worth the price, or which is just a better fit for your personal preferences. So if the next vacuum you buy is only $50, that’s fine – It may be just right for your situation. What I hope is that you will NOT BE FOOLED by the commercials and colorful packaging into believing that it will last very long or is “great for allergy sufferers!”

This brings me to the third aspect of discussion: How to maintain your equipment’s level of performance. Everything has an “Achilles Heel.” You wouldn’t dream of buying a car, whether a Hyundai or a Hummer, and never change the oil or brakes…You’d either blow up the motor or get killed in an accident! Similarly, you can’t buy a vacuum and not replace the bag or filter for 6 months without risking blowing up its motor, or you at least suffering a serious allergy attack! Just remember the KEY WORD: MAINTENANCE. All machines, especially those with moving parts, need it now and then! Otherwise, your car, vacuum, etc., cannot be expected to perform as well as it is intended to. You’ll need to understand what it takes to keep it going, and whether or not you’re willing and able to keep up with it!

At Queen Vacuum, we play “matchmaker” all day! It’s our job to listen and match each customer up with the right vacuum for their specific needs. Sometimes it’s a $69 Dirt Devil, sometimes it’s a $699 Miele. When you know a lot about a given type of product it’s easy to spot the differences between seemingly similar items. You can discern the main criteria: WHAT it does, HOW WELL it does it, and HOW LONG will it last. Most importantly, you can translate those differences into the potential benefits or detriments in your experience with that product. When you don’t know much about something you’re looking to buy, please do your research. But if you just can’t wrap your mind around the differences in the products you want – have an expert explain it. Or try the old trick of relating it to something you already understand well like food, electronics or (our favorite) cars!

Epic VAC Battles of History!

 Can you see past the fierce advertising and find what’s really best?

“Who will win? You decide!”

I don’t watch much TV, but boy do I love YouTube! BTW – hopefully you’ve checked out our QueenVac YouTube channel! It’s a little rough in its infancy, but we’re always improving and our gears are always turning with new ideas. Even though I try to keep my YouTube consumption reigned in I can’t resist parodies and generally well-made videos. They’re so creative, inspiring, and of course, entertaining. All too often I pause to jot notes as my mind distorts the video into some vacuum-related concept! I’ve developed a similar annoying habit with songs and commercials. In any case, one of my favorite channels, ERB, combines history and music into hysterically funny parodies called “Epic Rap Battles of History.” 

 

ERB videos include match-ups like Bill Gates vs Steve Jobs; Wright Brothers vs Mario Brothers; Myth Busters Vs Ghost Busters; Darth Vader vs Hitler. See the pattern?  How could I stop my mind from imagining blockbuster battles like Hoover Windtunnel vs Eureka Whirlwind; James Dyson vs David Oreck; Dyson Animal vs Miele Cat & Dog? Oh goodness, the endless possibilities! But considering that videos (even as rudimentary as mine) take days to make, you’ll have to settle for this article and a few photoshopped graphics to envision these rivalries…for now!

James Dyson
James Dyson

The major vacuum

Oreck Advertisement

manufacturers do a pretty fierce job of “battling it out” in the real world. The money some brands spend on advertising probably tops the GDP of a small nation. Others prefer to invest far more in product development and quality manufacturing than on ads. Regardless, it’s easy for a consumer to get lost in the hype; mis-led into buying products that are a poor fit for their needs, or don’t do not perform like they seem on TV.

 

So how do you navigate this “battleground” of vacuum advertising to get the product that’s right for you and will be worth your investment?
Here are a few simple tips:

1)   Look at the key words in the advertising claim. Are the terms clearly definable and provable? Do they even seem like an accurate method for measuring the vacuum’s cleaning performance? If it seems too good to be true, it just might be.

2)    Investigate instances of repair. Check with experts like us; a business that sells and repairs vacuums. We are authorized for so many brands that we see how they hold up in real life and what types of issues they come in for under warranty. Online reviews can be helpful too, but look for ones that were written several months (or even years after it was bought.) Many vacs work just fine out of the box and for a month or so. But often they break, fail or require more maintenance than you’re willing to perform.

3)    Is it the correct format for your household? The demonstration of that snazzy bagless upright vacuum on QVC might have shown it making mincemeat of glitter and cereal crumbs on berber carpeting. But will that machine well suit your bare floors or shag area rugs? And although it looks so easy to empty that “convenient dirt bin,” can your allergic children tolerate the dust cloud left behind in the kitchen when you empty it at home?

So what are our lessons today? Let the manufacturers battle all they want. In fact, sit back and enjoy the show! Just don’t believe everything you see on TV or a vacuum’s packaging (at least not without doing a little research first!) If you rely on an advertised feature working exactly as claimed, please consult an expert (like us) to make sure that it can live up to your expectations. And someday soon you may even have the pleasure of watching our own “Epic VAC Battle” production on youTube!  We feel information should be administered honestly and fairly, yet with a healthy dose of humor! So we’re always excited to produce videos and articles that are not just educational, but quirky and fun. Please keep your suggestions coming for questions and topics and “contestants” you’d like us to feature. Now, go enjoy the shows!View our videos on YouTube

Epic RAP Battles
Since I’ve blatantly plagiarized their name, you should at least check out ERB’s YouTube channel! Warning – It’s addictive!

GIRL POWER at Queen Vacuum… Learn how our talented LADIES make your life easier!

Dead lifting vacuums
Who knew Vacuuming was such good exercise?!

We are pretty big on fitness here at Queen Vacuum. And do we count vacuuming as exercise? Youbetcha!!  But when we talk about “girl power” we’re not just talking about our ability to single-handedly dead lift a Dyson. We’re talking about our general skill and overall AWESOMENESS!

“TOOOOT!!”  (That’s was our own horn, sorry!)

We know that our business is unusual and quite a throwback to say the least. But it’s extra “weird” that aside from the primary owner, John (my poor, outnumbered husband) that we’re operated mainly by ladies! Thanks to incredible mentors like old “Uncle Gene” and John, Erika and I have absorbed a ridiculous amount of vacuum-related knowledge! I also imagine it’s helpful that she and I (albeit from two different states) both grew up working on classic cars and building things with our dads from the time we could walk. That kind of experience is pretty helpful in a mechanical field like this! All of that aside, we each impart our own unique flair and skills in this store – which are what make YOUR experience here more valuable and enjoyable!  

What skills? Oh geez, there are so many “hats” to wear here! Sales, repairs, ordering, re-stocking, assembling, warranty processing, accounting, marketing, recycling, shipping, calls and reminders, data-entry and recordkeeping…now we even have website design & maintenance, social media updates…the list goes on!  Back in the day, John used to have to everything by himself. But since the business has grown, so has the workload – and boy, is he lucky to have us girls!

[CLICK HERE to learn more ABOUT US… our whole team and our store’s long, rich history!!]

Erika & Rachel from Queen Vacuum
Happy girls Erika & Rachel!

Most days you’ll find one of our Master Technicians, Erika, at the repair bench.Whether it’s a spitting Oreck, a sparking Kenmore, a miserable high-tech Dyson warranty repair, or just a gentle Miele cleaning service, your vacuum is in great hands!  Record-keeping of all the repair work we do is a critical part of the job too. Erika’s technical skill combined with her attention to detail is part of what sets our services apart. You can also be sure that she keeps our shop well-stocked with the most critical replacements parts and ensures that warranty repair claims are flawlessly executed to save you time and money!

I, Rachel, spend a lot of time these days in “paperwork land.” Well, it’s more digital than paper these days….including these newsletters! My office is communication central and where the “back-end” of the business is kept well-oiled. I make sure Miele customers are reminded to replace their HEPA filters every year and maintain all records.  I also produce resources like our website, Facebook and YouTube channel and keep them up-to-date and brimming with useful information for you!  BTW – be sure to send me your suggestions of what you’d like to see or know – otherwise I have to guess! You should also know that I’m the one who sends out the referral commission checks each month!! And if you’d like $20 bucks +, please click here to print out some Referral Cards!

When not tied to the office or repair bench you’ll find one of us ladies at the sales/service counter or in the showroom selling new vacuums. This is the LIVE arena where we seek victory over the frustrations of our customers! Remember, the average “Joe” arrives furious after his brand new Electrolux from Kohl’s is already broken. “Jane” is at her wits end after scouring the web for weeks for the “best vacuum” (while her house is currently a dustbunny-infested disaster!) Our greatest challenge and JOY is to help them leave with a smile! We’ve learned that people feel better and are extra appreciative when we just lend a sympathetic ear then TEACH them something useful about their vacuum or situation. Patient explanation and truthful, useful information are precious commodities that you just don’t receive everywhere. Wouldn’t you like to be told why your vacuum broke in the first place, how your warranty actually works, how to prevent future breakage and/or how to use and maintain your new vacuum correctly?  Consider these our gifts to you, just for being our customer!

CONCLUSION

“Girl power?” Don’t worry…no fem-nazis here. Besides, John is too great of a guy to be overshadowed and we are a true, equally-awesome TEAM!

It’s just funny how some folks are shocked to see that women not only co-own, but operate and do the repairs here!  Yes, we “know our stuff” and how get our hands dirty…very dirty! But we also possess that gentler, friendly, patient side that stereotypically lacks in a business of this nature.  A woman’s touch? Maybe.  So stop in for a visit and be sure to send along your friends and family…You can trust we’ll take great care of you all!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATERecently, our dear Erika moved out of state to take care of family. We miss her sooooo much!! Not sure if she’ll be able to come back to work with us or not 🙁   So in the meantime John and I have divvied up her workload (like the “olden days” when we first took over this shop, before we had any help.) We certainly have some seriously talented and productive shoes to fill!  John has re-assumed his place as the sole, master vacuum (and small appliance) tech.  He also spends a lot of time with customers in the showroom helping them pick out new vacuums! I’m up front most of the time at the sales counter now, and taking care of eeeeeeeverything else in-between and behind-the-scenes. But, due to my personal nature (an excessively girly, detail-oriented, chronically multi-tasking, gym beast) I think there will still be plenty of GIRL POWER to go around LOL!  So although we have to work a bit harder than usual, we still are able to take fantastic care of you!!    Oh! And long-time Erika customers/fans…please feel free to send in your love and wishes to her – we’ll be sure to pass them along 🙂 

Trick or Treat? False Claims or Real Benefits…

….the frightening reality of vacuum marketing.

In honor of Halloween, I always like to address some of the spooky, freaky and downright scary aspects in the world of vacuuming!  What do I find to be the scariest? FALSE MARKETING CLAIMS!!

Disappointing, perhaps; But scary? You would think that spending as much time with vacuum cleaners as we do would make us numb to some of the more disgusting aspects of their existence. On the contrary: We’ve become hyper aware of how different machines work, how they often don’t work, and how their performance sometimes differs greatly than claimed or expected. What makes a false or misleading claim scary is the consequence the user may suffer from believing it!

scary-vacuumsFollowing are some CLAIMS attached to certain vacuum cleaners. See if you can guess which claims are a “TRICK” (as in totally bogus or just misleading) or a “TREAT” (that is, a feature that really has value.) THE ANSWERS MAY SURPRISE YOU! 

“So powerful it can pick up a Pick up a bowling ball!”  Answer: TRICK

This one has been around forever, and is just plain hysterical. Oreck uses a bowling to demonstrate the suction power of its little companion canister vacuum, the “Buster B Vac.” The use of the funnel-type device at the end of the Oreck’s hose is the key.  The funnel cups around the bowling ball providing a suction cup-like effect, truly requiring only the slightest amount of vacuum to provide the seal. This is NOT a great indicator of suction, let alone cleaning performance. In fact, this little Oreck has some of the worst suction on the market.

“No Loss of Suction”  Answer: TRICK

This is Dyson’s famous line. The company did suffer some slight legal trauma over this claim…they now have to include some fine print that supports the point.  But the mighty Dyson can and will lose suction eventually. The tag line is not exactly trickery, but too many people make the errant assumption that they don’t have to wash the vacuum’s filters or empty the dust collection bin regularly. If this required at-home maintenance is neglected, the poor Dyson suffocates and just won’t suck anymore. That equals a dirty house.

 

“Zero Emissions”   Answer: TREAT!

Most of the allergy-provoking particles in your home are sized between 0.1 and 10 microns: a fraction of the width of a human hair. The bodies of many vacuums leak badly, allowing fine dust and allergens to escape once sucked up.  On the contrary, vacuums like the Miele S5 canisters and S7 uprights rate as some of the best filtering vacuum cleaners on the market. Using an air particle scanner, a Miele will record a zero emissions rating at .3 microns setting. I’m not aware of any other “sealed-system” domestic upright or canister vacuum that achieves this degree of clean air being exhausted back out into your home. This means great relief for allergy sufferers! (And those who hate having to dust the house after vacuuming!)  The good thing is that this claim is pretty well regulated, so when you see it you should be able to believe it.
“No expensive bags to replace”  Answer: TRICK

Define expensive! Many bagless vacuums are advertised using this lie – I mean line. The majority of these machines utilize a pleated HEPA filter in the dust collection bin, which serves to separate the dust from the clean air inside the vacuum (which a bag would normally do.)  The trick is that these filters are not free! They need to be replaced every 6 months to one year, which can cost you the same annually (and sometimes up to twice as much) as disposable paper vacuum bags.  Lastly, the long term expense you really have to consider is the vacuum itself. Since most bagless vacuums manage dirt so poorly internally, their motors tend to short out much sooner than their bagged counterparts…replacing a whole vacuum frequently is what really gets expensive!

 

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t believe everything you see on TV or a vacuum’s packaging (at least not without doing a little research first!)  If you rely on an advertised feature working exactly as claimed, please consult an expert to make sure that it can live up to your expectations. Look at the KEY WORDS in the claim. Are the terms clearly definable and provable? Do they even seem like an accurate method for measuring the vacuum’s cleaning performance? If it seems too good to be true, it just might be (or at least not without paying the price of extra money or your time.)

 

By: Rachel Decker (Co-owner, Queen Vacuum)

If you have a specific/interesting question about vacuums, cleaning, maintenance, product reviews, etc., that you would like to be featured in our newsletter or blog… send an e-mail to: info@queenvacuum.com (Subject: “Newsletter Topic”)
One lucky question will be selected for every issue!
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Do NOT Take it Back!

 (Top 3 reasons why it’s kinda EVIL to RETURN a vacuum cleaner)

Today I’m going to touch on a topic that’s, well, a little touchy…Returns! Ever buy a new vacuum at a big-box store and notice a little piece of paper that fall out of the box when you assemble?  “…DO NOT RETURN TO THE STORE.” Why on earth is that? Besides, retailers like Wal*Mart and Costco take back everything, no questions, right?!

That note was inserted by the manufacturer of your vacuum, and it’s pretty standard-issue. They know that most consumers are on their own… They know that at any given big-box store there’s no store staff member to help a customer select correct machine for their home and it certainly won’t be assembled for them. These product manufacturers (like Bissell, Hoover, Dyson, etc.) at least provide an owner’s manual with simple instructions and a Do not return vacuum to the storefree hotline or website link for basic troubleshooting.

Despite the disadvantages in the mainstream shopping method for appliances like vacuums, the actual setup and maintenance on most vacuums isn’t so bad.

But many folks simply lack the patience (or think they don’t have the mechanical knack) to utilize the resources provided to solve their issue. Thus, combined with the extremely liberal return policies of many retailers, today’s customers’ first inclination is to immediately return the vacuum to the store.  But what does that really solve and how does that affect the retailer?

By the end of this article I hope you’ll understand the many reasons why returning a vacuum is such a BAD IDEA! You’ll also learn it’s so much more practical and valuable to shop with a dedicated small appliance seller and repair station like Queen Vacuum!!

Here are the top 3 Reasons why it’s kinda EVIL to RETURN your vacuum:

  1. It’s not ETHICAL.  By this I mean that it is potentially hurtful to others. Here’s how…a.)The other typical cause for return is a practice called “retail borrowing” or  “beturning.” But, quite frankly, it’s stealing. As it relates to our business, it’s unethical to buy a new vacuum then use, abuse, neglect, get it clogged, etc. and return to the store claiming it’s defective. Everybody (should) know that it’s wrong to purchase a product with the intent to use it briefly (borrow it) then return it. Have you ever suffered through the chafing caused by carefully tucked-away price tags in that too-expensive white cocktail dress (and avoid all red-colored foods and drinks) only to return it after the fancy event? Ever buy a massive, HD flat screen TV only to return it shortly after the Super Bowl? Tisk, tisk….

c.) Thus, “beturning” a machine to a store (that really shouldn’t be accepting returns on this kind of product anyway) opens up the risk of passing contamination on to others. Some big-box stores are not very careful with such returns and occasionally re-stock that contaminated product!  This opens consumers up to the risk of receiving product that had collected hazardous construction materials, excrement, pet allergens, mold or insect infestation.  Vacuums properly refurbished and boldly disclosed as “used” are fine, if you choose to buy one from a reputable source. But buyer beware!!b.) New Jersey consumer protection laws prevent retailers from ever re-selling certain categories of products again as “new.” Products contaminated with biological waste or water like vacuums, toilet seats and water filters fall in this category.  In other words, if Home Depot sells you a new Hoover, you go home, use it for a few days and decide to return it, they can never sell it again as new. They give you back your money but take a loss. It cannot go back on their shelf, new.

  1. It’s not ECONOMICAL…. This type of activity actually hurts people’s pocketbooks and bottom lines in a few ways.
    a.) It’s not fair to make the store buy back and suffer the loss on a machine that is not actually defective (which partly this relates back to the ethics issue.) Did you realize that 9 out of 10 vacuums that are retuned are simply clogged, dirty, the belt snapped from a small accident or had been operated on an incorrect usage setting (so that it wasn’t “working right.”) By returning it, the same problem is likely to happen since you’ll never learn what simple mistake you’d been making. What a waste of time in the long run.  Typically, the “tenth” machine is genuinely defective and therefore is entitled to a simple warranty repair, paid for by the manufacturer (it’s their fault anyway!)  Losses incurred from a liberal return policy add up quickly and the only means of a business’ survival is to raise process or cut costs from somewhere else. For consumers this means you prices go up service quality goes down.b.)You should know that, with very rare exception, manufacturers do NOT buy back vacuums returned to their product’s retailers! Units they’ve produced that are proven to be genuinely defective can be repaired for no charge to the customer by a contracted warranty station like ours. But big-box stores do not fix anything! As you read above, the retailer simply bears the loss themselves. With laws restricting what can be done with these unwanted vacuums, they may either be sold through back-door deals to private refurbishers or will be discarded (which brings up my final point…)
  1. It’s not ECOLOGICAL…
    Because manufacturers do not buy back their “junk” from retailers, many of these mass-returned big-box store vacuums just end up in the dumps in mass quantities!dysons_in_the_dumpster

Our culture has supposedly become increasingly “green-conscious,” yet we find instead that consumers are all too eager to throw away large appliances like vacuums at the first moment of inconvenience. Do you realize the quantity of plastic and precious metals involved in their manufacture? Sure, they can be dismantled and recycled….we do it all the time here at Queen Vacuum. Does Wal*Mart take the time out of their day to do that?  This is why it’s most wise to purchase a high-quality, long-lasting machine that is simple and serviceable. Get help picking one out and establish a relationship with a reputable service facility like us. You don’t throw away your car when the oil needs changing or the alternator quits, right?  Cheap machines are typically harder to maintain and fail very quickly. Don’t waste your money, time or the valuable space in our landfills.

What are we thinking these days? 
Back in the day, when the vacuum acted funny, Grandma or Mom likely would’ve grabbed the manual and said “Hmm…I bet I just broke the belt. Let’s check the book to learn how to put a new one back on.”  Or “Rats, I wonder what I sucked up that clogged my vacuum? Let me turn it off and see if I can clear out the culprit.”  Today, it seems that consumers look at these situations much differently. Their inclination is to get angry, assume that the vacuum is genuinely defective and that it’s best to return it to where they bought it. Alternately, many believe that the $50 vac they bought is literally disposable, so off the curb it goes once the dirt bin is full, belt breaks or filter gets too clogged. But other than buying back the yucky, now useless vacuum at their loss, how is Wal*Mart helping you?

CONCLUSION:
Keep in mind, this is in NO WAY an attempt to steal away or diminish the rights of the consumer! After all, we’re consumers too! If you’ve been treated unfairly or received defective goods by all means, stand up for yourself! I just implore that you take a logical, fair approach (by taking whatever personal responsibility is needed) then follow the logical, fair channels to truly fix your problem. This article simply attempts to illustrate how the abuse of one’s consumer rights and stores’ policies can have very far-reaching negative consequences on the economy, our earth’s ecology, and hurt other people – consumers and retailers alike. Be thoughtful, be fair and everyone will benefit in the long run!