The Art of Buying a Decent Vacuum Cleaner

I recently found myself buying a $700 Oreck vacuum cleaner—despite my normally frugal (some say cheap) nature. But here’s why I did it.

the art of buying a decent vacuum cleaner

WRITTEN BY RACHEL GILLE  ILLUSTRATION BY JAMES NELSON

 

My name is not Rachel Gille. Rachel Gille was a redhead I knew in third grade. But as a condition of writing this article, my identity must remain secret as I am about to reveal an expenditure that might adversely affect my father’s coronary status. For as frugal (some might say cheap) as my father raised me to be, I recently found myself buying a $799 vacuum cleaner at Oreck on Royal Lane. Today, I saw an ad in the Sunday paper with a Dirt Devil for $89 and a Hoover for $259, and I am filled with vacuum cleaner buyers’ remorse.

Or am I?

I set out to buy a “good vacuum” months ago when our $129 Hoover conked out. I’ve bought three vacuums in the past four years, each one requiring at least one trip to the shop. Granted, my family is hard on vacuums—four kids and a 24-year-old calico cat—but not ridiculously so. Our home is ample, some 4,000 square feet, but we only use the vacuum on the wall-to-wall carpet in our bedrooms. For whatever reason—hair pins? gummy bears?—I have not been able to buy a vacuum cleaner that lasts.

I knew I would have to spring for more than my usual $129 to get a

“good” vacuum, so I stopped in at All-Vac on Lovers Lane to get the lay of the land. The salesman started his presentation with their top-of-the-line model, which was about $900. Many thoughts raced through my mind as he extolled the myriad virtues of this particular vacuum, including “life’s too short.” I’m not sure how much time passed, but I didn’t absorb a single word he said. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t care a whit about HEPA filters and I never would. I asked for some literature and excused myself as politely as possible.

Weeks passed. We had to sweep our carpets because I could not bring myself to go to Target and buy another cheap machine that I knew would end up in the mile-high vacuum cleaner landfill for which I am personally responsible. On the other hand, I had no intention of writing a check for $900 for something so, so, so boring. Weeks passed. Our dear nanny started to tire of the sweeping-the-carpets routine. “Please, Rachel (not my real name),” she begged me, “won’t you buy a vacuum cleaner this weekend?” “Yes, yes,” I would assure her. Monday would come. No vacuum.

To make it seem like I was doing something about this problem, I would occasionally ask friends and family for their opinions about vacuum cleaners. My sister said, “Just buy an Oreck and be done with it.” I asked around about Oreck. “Don’t do it,” one of D Home’s editors said. “Oreck’s cords come unplugged at the slightest provocation. Buy a Miele.” I remembered reading in the pages of this very magazine about a Hello Kitty vacuum, but after spending weeks—months!—to make my decision, the Hello Kitty model seemed to lack in a certain gravitas.

Finally, at an editorial meeting, I volunteered to write a short piece about how hard it is to buy a vacuum cleaner these days. I knew that to end my story I would be forced to make a purchase.

I suppose it was sort of anti-climactic when I (finally) brought home my $799 Oreck vacuum cleaner. But here’s what I got: a lightweight vacuum cleaner with that HEPA filter thing. A second handheld vacuum with a number of different nozzles and brushes (it was free, Daddy). They also threw in some sort of sweeper (free) and a vanilla scent (cheesy). The salesman was polite as he cut to the chase: my vacuum has a 21-year warranty.

I’ll never have to shop for a vacuum cleaner again.

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