These days, that means that I buy a lot of clothes from church thrift stores that work just fine for running errands around my little town. A few years back, I even scored an older-but-works-great Mr. Coffee coffeemaker for free from a recycle email group.
Heck, when my now-17-year-old daughter was in diapers, her gear came mostly from a sweet consignment store called Bearly Used (if you think that the shop’s mascot was a smiling, powder blue grizzly, you’d be right).
Being this sort of sensible buyer doesn’t mean, however, that I’m cheap.
I make it a rule to buy good shoes because they last longer; I also know they won’t give me bunions and blisters. I make sure, too, that our honey is local and organic, as well as most of the meat, veggies and fruit we eat. And when it comes to big purchases like a new couch, I’ll always go with American made, because even though I know I’ll be paying more than I would with an imported model, I also know the quality will be worth it.
So, it pains me to make this confession: I got snookered last month.
To say I am irritated with myself is an understatement—especially because what happened is all my fault.
It began with a vacuum cleaner.
Now, this is an expensive model—my husband paid many hundreds of dollars for this sleek, forest green canister shortly after our marriage. Over the last decade, it has been a solid work horse, even in the hands of a reckless teenager. There have been a few repairs, but once the wand gave out—that overhaul alone would have set us back $400, with no guarantee—we both decided that a new canister (we prefer them over upright models) was in order.
So, like every good consumer these days, I began with some online research.
Soon enough, I found a name brand under $100. Wow! Not only that, but this model was deemed one of the top three vacuums in its class in 2014. Wow again! Reading on, a cornucopia of rapturous users described the machine’s merits, with one even saying her husband only let her buy this vacuum. But for me, the cherry that topped the cake was this: this amazing canister, said so many beyond-satisfied users, was particularly amazing when it came to gobbling up pet hair. Given that we have three big dogs, two of whom shed hair every single day in every single room, this vacuum seemed perfect.
I felt even smarter when I found the vacuum for $71. Wow for the third time!
Then the vacuum arrived.
The box felt so… light. Upon opening, I saw that while it WAS a canister, its body was made of cheap plastic. With growing dismay, I also noted that the wand had no beater bar—a major design omission that has left most of our dogs’ hair still firmly embedded in our carpets. There’s more: the coil that connects the machine to the wand is so thin and badly engineered that it actually twists up (imagine a cheap garden hose) while vacuuming. I could go on, and I will… instead of four wheels, there are only two. And while there is a 20-foot cord, as promised, it is not retractable, but instead has to be wound around, over and over and over and OVER, to the bottom of the cleaner.
Basically, I’ve just thrown $71 to the wind—and still don’t have a working vacuum.
What have I learned?
For starters, why did I so blindly believe all of these users? Who’s to say that the company didn’t pay them for their comments? Who’s to say that they aren’t stockholders in said company? Who’s to say that their pets aren’t hairless cats?
I also made the even more terrible mistake of not checking out this vacuum in person. Photos on the web site obviously didn’t cut it here. In the company’s favor, I was so excited by the too-good-to-be-true price of a name brand canister that I merrily skimmed through the pictures, and skipped the crucial step of seeing the machine for myself.
What else have I learned?
Well, despite my sweet tooth for bargains, I will buy my next vacuum the way I buy my shoes.
This time, I will go to a local dealer, one who specializes in another sort of vacuum—the high-end and dependable brand—which starts in the $400 range. This time, I will not only see and touch and hear the machine with my own eyes, I’ll get to try it out. Many reviews on many websites (yes, I still went online!) say that this particular brand has not only been around for decades, but that its canister models last for many, many years.
It’s comforting, too, to know that the dealer in question has been in his same little corner shop for many years. We’ll start budgeting now.
You can fool me once, name-brand crappy canister. But there won’t be a next time… at least when it comes to vacuum cleaners.
What about you? Have you ever been fooled by something—or perhaps someone—too good to be true? Tell me about it, and maybe I won’t feel so awful!