Back in the days when things were made to last, my mother had a good old-fashioned upright Hoover vacuum cleaner, one that was advertised to “beat as it sweeps as it cleans”. It did exactly what it said on the box, beating, sweeping and cleaning for at least 50 years, at which point my mother was eighty and having difficulty in heaving the beast up and down the stairs. We bought her a cylinder vacuum cleaner, thinking it would be easier but she never liked it. Her solution was to use the Hoover downstairs and the cylinder upstairs, meeting halfway up, and in fact to my knowledge that old Hoover never actually died: it simply disappeared one day.
The cylinder model gave up the ghost a couple of years ago, so our neighbour brought us a bagless upright VAX, known as the poor man’s Dyson. This wasn’t expensive and had a 2-year guarantee, so we were quite happy with it for about a year, when it suddenly started smelling of burning. The company sent us a replacement under the terms of the guarantee, and perhaps I should have been wary at that point, because the model they sent was not an upright but a different model, a cylinder.
This is still working well, apart from the fact that in September the main sweeper head came apart owing to too much hair winding around the little guide wheels and forcing them off. A penalty for having long hair, I suppose.
I immediately wrote an e-mail to the VAX customer service and was assured that a replacement part would be dispatched as soon as possible, but it was currently not in stock and would have to be sourced. Three days ago, I received an e-mail announcing the glorious news that the tool had been sent.
As soon as the postman handed me the package, I knew something was wrong: it was far too small. They had sent a “32mm turbobrush”, a tool that we already had, which is claimed to be “ideal for pet hair”. This was the thing I had been using for the past couple of months and had already discovered that it may be good for shorthaired pets, but it’s anything but ideal for households where long hair gets brushed daily – and in the past two months, there have been at least three of us with long hair living here. I have been reduced to using a stiff-bristled broom with a dustpan and brush, as in the days before Mr Hoover launched his appliances.
Another e-mail to customer services, and a description of the tool we need. I even went onto the VAX website and found the article, quoting details and number to them, and asked what to do about the unwanted item. An apology by return, and then once more the “great news, your order is on the way to you”, with the information that it is yet another 32mm turbobrush. So we now have three of them. I have written back to ask if they want the spares back, though I don’t really see why I should have to pay the postage on them, and to explain yet again which part we need.
I must say, VAX customer service is very prompt and polite, though efficiency deficient. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be third time lucky, and we’ll get the right sweeper before the guarantee runs out in January. It would be nice to have a clean house for the New Year.