My friend Ken and his wife were recently treated to one of the best sales presentations in the United States, the sales presentation of the Kirby Vacuum Salesman.

I enjoyed hearing about the experience, and I thought you might too.

Part I, Getting into your house.

  1. Doorbell rings, 7:30pm on Saturday night.
  2. Beautiful blonde woman and her handsome friend offer a "Room cleaned for free". Their offer is accompanied by a pink flier that seems to indicate that the room cleaning will demonstrate a dry foam cleaner. They indicate that the carpet cleaner will be by shortly for the one room carpet cleaning (in about 10 minutes) and that he is being paid $25 to clean your one room.
  3. Blonde and friend leave.
 Part 2, Sucktacular demonstrations
  1. Sweaty vacuum guy arrives, and begins carefully unpacking the many pieces of a shiny metal vacuum cleaner from a cardboard box.
  2. Vacuum guy replaces the bag with a clear plastic chamber including black and white filters which display collected dirt very well. White filters are used first.
  3. Vacuum guy shows off the motorized vacuum head which he claims cost $29 million dollars for NASA to develop.
  4. Asks Ken how much such a vacuum might cost. Ken estimates $500. Vacuum guy says the vacuums sell for $2,200 to $1,800. "I have a lot more to show you", he explains.
  5. Asks Ken to bring out his vacuum. And asks Ken which room he wants cleaned.
  6. Cleans the floor, first with Ken's Hoover, then with the Kirby vacuum. The Kirby picks up lots of dirt, despite the fact that this house and carpet are only about 3 months old. The salesman continually changes filter after soiled filter, cleaning 10 different spots on the carpet.

 Part 3, White powder
  1. Vacuum guy pours a thick line of white "carpet fresh"-style deodorant sand in a thick line on Ken's carpet.
  2. Vacuums the area with Ken's Hoover perhaps 15 times, cleaning up the line.
  3. The white line seems to be gone, but now he uses the Kirby vacuum cleaner (this time with black filters) 8 inches away from where the white powder line had been. Sure enough, lots and lots of white powder comes out. Piles of white powder.

 (salesmen sometimes use table salt for this demonstration, according to Karon Thackston)



Part 4, Absent Authority
  1. Vacuum cleaning guy gets on his cell phone to see if he can get Ken a special deal on the vacuum.
  2. A brief conversation with the boss results in a price break. He offers Ken the Kirby Ultimate 8 for $1,640, if Ken trades in his Hoover vacuum.
Part 5, Mite Poop
  1. Vacuum guy uses the upholstery attachment on Ken's new couch, sucking out a small amount of dirt.
  2. Declares the dirt to be dead skin and dust mite poop.

Part 6, Wrapping up the deal

  1. Sprays dry aerosol cleaner onto the carpet in the hallway and showcases the Shampoo attachment.
  2. Calls the boss a second time, receiving permission to offer an Ultimate 8 for just $1,290. Payable on a 5 year payment plan, with just $1 down.
  3. Asks Ken's wife, "can you afford one dollar tonight?"


Ken and his wife had dinner reservations, so they politely asserted their need to leave.

The vacuumer slowly and meticulously disassembled the vacuum, asking for a few paper towels. He used all the towels on the roll, and started a second roll before finishing, cleaning and carefully repackaging the vacuum cleaner. 

Ken offered the man a cold Coca-Cola, which he accepted before leaving.  The vacuum guy had spent more than 90 minutes on the sale.

Upon returning from dinner, Ken found the empty Coke can on his porch.


$800. Eight hundred dollars. EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS. That is the difference between a good vacuum cleaner and the Kirby Ultimate Eight supermega grande supremo vacuum champ. Even the highest technical achievement in a vacuum, the Dyson DC28 Vacuum is $690 less.

There must be something you'd rather spend $800 on than a super-duper incredible vacuum cleaner. If not, I'm sure you'd love the Kirby. Maybe you'd also like a $400 blender, a $280 toaster or a $470 coffee maker.

Dyson Vacuum Reviews

Recently, a very powerful tool against door-to-door salespitches has emerged, and it is called EBAY. The next time a Kirby vacuum, Cutco knife, Fuller Brush, or any other kind of door-to-door salesman comes calling, take a look at Ebay. You'll always find their products at a fraction of their retail price.

Regarding your marriage: If you are married, and haven't yet experienced a Kirby vacuum salesman, it might be a good idea to discuss the absurdity of $1,290 vacuum cleaners right now, before a vacuum salesman arrives. Consider drafting a "love contract to not buy thousand-dollar vacuum cleaners". This pre-planning may help prepare you for that day when the Kirby man comes calling.

Kirby Sales Techniques 2007 | Kirby Recruiting | Kirby Sales Techniques 2006 | It is legal to buy a used Kirby from Ebay.

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Originally published May 20, 2004.  

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