Consumer Reports and Durability of Vacuum Cleaners

Consumer Reports and Durability of Vacuum Cleaners
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Synopsis: Can you trust what the leading consumer reporting publications are telling you when it comes to recommending a vacuum cleaner?

    If you have ever have been a reader of mine over the last 10 years you will know that we tend to specialize in high end vacuum cleaners here in our store. You may have even been in the store and heard me say something like, "Yes, I am here to make money. However, I REALLY am on your side!". The point has always been that I will not put you into a vacuum cleaner, air purifier, or central vacuum system where the product doesn't perform like we want it to, or that the manufacturer does not stand behind the product when it breaks down, or that we have problems getting parts, or that it does NOT last like we would expect or want it to. The last thing I want or you need is to buy a vacuum cleaner from us then have problems with it.

    Warranties are wonderful things. They are designed to protect you from spending money sooner than you should reasonably expect to. They are designed to protect the profit margins of the manufacture by ensuring that they design a product that is built well and they are designed to give the selling dealer a reason to have confidence in the quality and durability of the product they are selling. HERE IS THE KEY POINT. As a dealer, the longer the warranty is, the more confident I am in offering that product. I generally do NOT get paid much if anything by the vacuum company's machine I am fixing under warranty. I do not need the headache and neither do you.

    What has always upset me is when customers want to take the "unbiased" opinion of some of the product review publications as gospel - over the time tested experience of folks that are actually in the industry - well, you can understand how my blood boils.

    This all leads up to the reason I am writing this today. It has come to my attention that in a recent issue of CR, they ran a survey asking their readers how often they had to have their vacuum cleaner into the repair shop and what brands were those vacuum cleaners. This of course would lead to helping consumers decide on the more durable brands of vacuum cleaners to buy.

    Their results indicated that Simplicity was among the most repaired vacuum cleaners and Kirby among the least repaired.

    Here is where it gets good. I realize that some of this will get technical, so you can skip ahead if you like. They mentioned that in their reporting they didn't include differences of less than 4% (error rate) because that was "not meaningful". I beg to differ.

    We need to accept that one standard deviation in their reporting of being 4% IS absolutely significant. It means their numbers for 76% of respondents are off by 8%. Eliminating the one deviation from their final "chart" means that they have simply dismissed 76% of the data. This makes their sample fewer than 29,000 based on the total number of respondents. Using their samples and their numbers we find that of the 29,000 consumers sampled, all were at least 2 standard deviations from their base line meaning that the real results of the survey have less than a 4% probability of being accurate. One other point to bring up. How do they eliminate data based on usage of the vacuum cleaner or the age of the machine?

   The gorilla in the room is that they only reported machines that were repaired. They did NOT report machines that were simply thrown away. Also, Simplicity vacuum cleaners have fewer owners, so any repair (bag change, belt change, FREE service, whatever), will skew the results to show as a larger percentage than on a mass merchant product.

   My point is simple. Take what CR says, take what I say, take what you own experience has been, stir it up in a pot and see what the common denominators are.

   The reality is if you look at a vacuum cleaner brand like Simplicity and notice that they give a 3-7 year warranty on all of their models, it should say something about the expected durability of that brand. Simplicity would not extend themselves financially that way if they didn't have some pretty good confidence about the quality of their product. Not only that, but the fact that they are made right here in the United States, means that we are putting our own people to work. To me, that means a lot.

   The other thing I should mention about Simplicity vacuum cleaners and our experience with them. I have done this countless times over the 27 years that we have selling this brand. If I am demonstrating a Simplicity vacuum cleaner to someone and another customer walks in the door with a Simplicity vacuum cleaner, I have no qualms about asking them how they like their machine - right in front of my potential customer. Obviously I am taking a gamble - but trust me - it is a safe one.

    We will sell what we feel are the best vacuum cleaners for your money, not what is the easiest for us to make money on.

About the Author

Carl Tice I own and operate a traditional "mom-and-pop" vacuum cleaner shop here in Torrance, CA. We have been in business in the same location since 1966. We repair almost every brand ever made and we sell SEBO, Lindhaus, Simplicity, Miele, Fuller Brush as well as others.

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