Monday, June 28, 2010

It pays to read the contract

This is totally off my usual topic of writing, but it does have to do with things dear to my heart: using your mind, doing research and making wise choices.

We just moved into our new home, and wouldn't you know, the Kirby salesman came by five days later, offering to shampoo a carpet for free. I said, "why not?" and let him in to demonstrate the Kirby Sentria.

There's no doubt this is an amazing machine. It does a decent job of vacuuming, does the dry foam shampoo which I like, and even buffs floors. The salesman, Josh, went on about its durability and fabulous extras. (He lost me with "designed by NASA," but that's another story. Let's just say we're believers in commercial manned space in this house.) Josh showed me dusty black "bags" that he picked up, but I know from experience, I could get one of those same bags, run my vacuum over the same area and pick up the same amount again. That doesn't sell me.

One thing he kept bringing up is the lifetime warranty, however. Josh enthusiastically insisted that as long as I own it, they'll replace anything but bags and belts, and even pay for shipping if necessary. That tempted me. I seem to break a vacuum about once every couple of years. Just normal use, seriously! It's worse than computers for me. To have a vacuum that I could get fixed would be well worth the price ($2650 for the full package). But I was skeptical. I'd been bit by this "lifetime warranty" line before. So I asked questions.

"There are licensed Kirby dealers everywhere--and in 48 countries! We send you the shipping box. Everything is covered. You probably won't need it--this was designed by NASA."

Rob came home and he looked up Kirby dealers in some of the bases we're more likely to visit. There's even a dealer in Minot, ND. I'm a little more tempted. Our son Alex is waxing poetic about how clean the carpet feels. Josh showed us how it works on floors. The manager came by and offered a military discount.

So we left Josh to shampoo the carpet, and got online and Googled "Kirby complaints."

--"I was told my Kirby had a lifetime warranty, but it's only 3 years!"
--"I just paid $$$ to get it fixed!"
--"I was told I'd have to purchase and install my own power cord."

(Point One: Research. Don't just take the salesman's word for anything.)

We went back to Josh. Rob told him it's really more than we want to pay right now. We refused to discuss payment plans because that's not the point--we didn't want to spend $2600 (with taxes) on a vacuum. They in turn offered a "crazy discount" to make it $1800.

I brought up the research on the warranty. Josh replied:
--Maybe these people probably weren't first-time owners. (The warranty is a name-only deal.)
--Maybe they didn't go to licensed Kirby service centers--there are dozens throughout the country. (Notice how the number went down?)
--Well, it's 3 years for everything and after that, it's only $175 to get it totally refurbished, top to bottom. So ten years from now, if it breaks you send it in... (Where was that lifetime, covers everything but bags?)

(Point Two: Keep Asking Questions.)

Finally, the manager came by and showed the warranty to us. I asked to keep it. Let me tell you what it says, nice and clear:
--Three Year Limited, from date of purchase
--Transportation expense paid by owner
--Service calls ... at the expense of owner
--Warranty does not apply to charges for labor

And the Factory "refurbish" (actually called "Rebuild") Plan?
--During the year of original purchase, the rebuild will cost $175. Each year thereafter, the rebuild cost will be increased... (What happened to "ten years from now..."?)
--transportation charges... shall by paid by original owner
--Warranty for the rebuild--ONE YEAR

(Point Three: Read the actual writing.)

Now, I didn't argue with the salesmen--maybe their office has a lifetime warranty (for as long as the office exists--we saw complaints of companies disappearing after a couple of years.) I also still think the Kirby is an amazing machine--but not $1800 of amazing. And not given my history with vacuums and the fact that we move so much.

If Rob and I hadn't done some research, we might have given into temptation and bought the vacuum. It pays to think before you act.

In this case, it paid $1800-$2650.

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