The Kirby Salesman

Recently I went shopping for a new vacuum cleaner and it brought to mind my husband’s brief stint as a vacuum cleaner salesman. During break from college one year, Phil sold Kirby vacuum cleaners door to door. It’s hard to believe there was a time when door to door salesmen were common and people routinely opened their front doors to complete strangers. Of course, not everybody did. As a ten-year old I remember playing at a friend’s house when a salesman came to the back door. Her mother made us get under the dining room table and pretend we weren’t there. I thought it was strange that a grown woman would crawl under a table and sit in controlled silence in an effort to avoid a salesperson. My own mother would have just gone to the door and told him that she wasn’t interested.

Obviously, being a salesperson could be a tough gig and I have to tell you that Phil didn’t set the world on fire selling vacuums that summer. He did set up a lot of appointments, though. He even arranged a demonstration with my mother knowing full well she wasn’t interested just so he could practice his pitch. Anyone willing to withstand the hour long presentation got a free gift. At that time, the gift was a large mulit-purpose knife with a serrated cutting blade. Later my mother reported it was the best knife she had ever owned and I’ve heard it rumored that she may have used it to cut down one of the trees in her backyard.

Even though most of his appointments were prearranged with supposedly interested potential clients, it was a grueling business. This monstrosity of a machine was heavy and cumbersome to drag from house to house. Never-the-less it was said to be a marvel at cleaning. It had settings to clean high shag carpets or low pile rugs. Snap on an attachment and it could fluff your pillows, dust your upholstery, make an intimate candlelight dinner for two and shampoo the dog. Okay, I’m not really certain about those last couple of things, but you’re welcome to check the owner’s manual for clarification.

Unfortunately, no one seemed particularly interested in purchasing this type of  top–the-line vacuum. Funny how he still had a lot of appointments. Maybe there was  just an abundance of dead trees that summer.

Of course, we’ve never had such a fancy vacuum cleaner of our own. Just because you tried to sell them didn’t mean you actually got to own one. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit that the reason for my recent shopping trip was that my own vacuum was in such terrible disrepair. In order for it to work, a large amount of duct tape had been applied to the frame to keep the entire bottom from falling off.  The worst part of it is that it had been like that for the last six months. Which brings up an important question – just where is a Kirby salesman when you really need him?

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