Monday, July 24, 2006

The vacuum cleaner

The class of clientele that Wal-Mart attracts seems to sink lower by the minute. Or maybe it is just how much worse human nature is now in the modern age.

This woman rolls up Sunday with a vacuum cleaner sitting in a buggy. First she asks "Do you know anything about vacuum cleaners?" WTF do I look like a Hoover salesman?

Then she expands on her "problem." They always think that if there's a "problem" with it they'll seem more sympathetic. She goes on this long-winded thing about how the water tank (it's a steam cleaner) won't attach right and how she can't get it to screw down on the vacuum base. The whole time she's going "I just want to be able to clean my carpet."

I'm like "Did you read the instructions?" She goes - "Oh, they're out in the car." And before I can say any thing else, she scampers off, flip-flops clapping madly back out to the car.

Two other people look this vacuum over with me. One thing we notice is that it is dirty, like it's been used heavily. Although she claimed she cleaned it the last time she used it and just noticed the problem. We think that she's not doing something right with the water tank. We tell her that when she gets back and demonstrate how to do it. She makes a show of NOT being able to do it by herself, and then gets to her point, which is "Can I just get my money back on this?"

I'm like - "Ma'am, we're going to need a receipt to take this item back." So she pulls out a receipt. I've gotten very good at noticing old receipts. The first thing I look for now is the date. Although if the paper is yellow when they pull it out, I mentally prepare for how I'm going to drop the bomb.

Sure enough, she bought this little dandy back in March, used it for four months until she either broke it, plans to move or doesn't have company any more. At any rate, I tell her we can't take it back. "Well, can I exchange it? I only used it twice." And my grandmother was the Queen of Sheba. That vacuum was used like a bar bathroom.

I tell her "No." Then I offer to give her the warranty information. Sure enough, when I type in the serial number on the vacuum, it says DO NOT RETURN IN STORE. So I give her that and tell her to call Bissell. They can either arrange for repair or send her a new one.

We actually had a lot of that Sunday night. I had two different managers refuse returns on merchandise brought in with no receipt. They were like "We're not taking back something in this bad a condition." When the customers complained, the managers were like "Find the receipt, then we'll give you the money." They know that stuff is as old as the hills.


Woozie said...

I pictured the vacuum woman being (very) overweight, with red hair and some strange light green shirt that was too small for her and beige shorts...would that be an accurate guess?

Anonymous said...

I've owned a few different models of Bissel's steam cleaners, starting with their original Little Green machines and including a few of their uprights. They all:
1) clean like gang-busters the first few times you use them
2) clean so well they get really grungy right away (and they are not designed to be taken apart/cleaned very easily—just cleaning the dirty water return guard on my upright requires the removal of 6 screws accessible only by an exceptionally long handled Phillips screwdriver, 2 (fragile) plastic clips, and a rubber belt. Have I tried cleaning it again since the first time I spent two hours taking it apart and reassembling it? No way, Jose.)
3) they break within 4 months or 5 uses, whichever comes first. Usually it's a clogged water line, which until fixed (and it's not an easy fix, you have to nearly take the entire thing apart screw by screw before you reach the water line buried deep inside) renders the appliance completely unusable. The next most common thing is the seals start leaking (due to the chemicals in the cleaning solution eating through them, I think, Bissell recommends you use 3x the amount of solution that you need) and it starts peeing everywhere and again loses its ability to pump water. When that happens, the only cure is sending it back to Bissell.

Bissell sends back someone else's refurbished cleaner. The cycle begins anew, only the refurbs last 3 months before they die.

I'm on my 5th Bissell upright replacement....*so* never buying one again.

I feel sorry for your customer. Sure, she may have irritated you by showing up with a 4 month old receipt, but behind the counter, you're not using the (often crappy) products the store is selling.

Anonymous said...

can you delete the comment above. i dont think anyone really cares.

FARfetched said...

Don't delete the second comment. It wouldn't surprise me if Bissell designed their gadget to be hard to maintain — making something easy to manufacture often makes it hard to maintain or fix, and you make more money selling entire units than parts anyway.

Unfortunately, this isn't unique to merchandise sold in Wal-Mart. Landfills are already full of crap that is (or should be) easy to repair. In my single-guy days, I rescued a fan from the trash drop-off in the apartment complex where I lived; all it needed was for me to splice the power cord.

Having said that, I wonder if a small, flexible bottle brush (or even a pipe cleaner) would have been able to clear out that water line that clogged up. Now if Wal-Mart was a responsible corporate citizen (ROFLMAO), they could ask companies to make stuff easy to repair, or even have a product help line.