I had to have a little giggle at this post on Lettice's blog this morning. I started leaving a long comment, but then I figured I'd blog it instead.
I, too, had a brief run as a Kirby sales person and let me tell you, selling Kirby's is up there among some of the dodgiest of dodgy jobs! The way that things are set up (here in SA, at least) is unsatisfactory to both the salesperson and the client!!
First, upon circling the very promising sounding advertisement in the classifieds and calling them up, they're very sketchy about telling you the name of the company. If you ever encounter this, know that you are about to walk into the clutches of a Kirby sales agency.
Secondly, in your "interview", you are expressly told that you will NOT be doing door-to-door sales but that appointments will be set up for you by telemarketers to do demonstrations. What they don't tell you is that 1) you will be required to go door-to-door to collect referrals for the telemarketers to call and 2) when the "telemarketers" call those people, they tell them that they have "won a free carpet shampoo".
So, in essence, you go door-to-door gathering phone numbers for the normal 8-hour working day period. You get chased by dogs, you get treated like a common beggar, you get all of the shit that goes hand in hand with being a door-to-door salesperson and then, when you return to the office, you then hand over all the numbers you've managed to gather to them and they then supposedly schedule appointments on your behalf. BUT they only give you 2 or 3 appointments each evening (after all, you have to spend some time with your family too, right?). They also don't tell you which of the referrals you brought in are converted into appointments and you are not permitted to cold-canvas your own potential client base. And they don't take into account what areas these appointments are in, so you may very well drive (at your own cost!) from Pretoria North to Centurion and then all the way back out to Brooklyn. Only to find that 1) this house is not one of the ones where you personally gathered the contact information, 2) the people aren't home or 3) they greet you very brusquely and make it very clear that they really didn't want the free carpet shampoo in the first place... etc.
At which point you are then expected to sell them a Kirby by means of a demonstration they are surprised to learn that they were meant to *watch*. Because if they had been told they would have to actually *be* there for the free carpet shampoo, they would've said "No, thank you."
And I won't even go into the whole deal about why people can't just go and buy a Kirby themselves, if they're interested! (I see that they now have a website, though, which I was unable to find back in my day...)
Basically, unless you're being stationed in a Kirby dealership with signage, stock on the shop floor and all the proper practices in place, you're going to do a lot of hard work for next to fuck-all, and you'll last a few days at it at best and maybe sell one machine, before you and most of your fellow recruits move on and are replaced by the newest bunch of saps to fall for what is essentially a poorly formulated pyramid-style sales scheme.
As for the demonstrations, the "practice" demonstrations really are supposed to be for practicing and people do get better and faster at doing them. This is why they are expected to do practice demos to at least 10 friends/family members. But they are also expected to create a "soft sell" scenario for the newbie sales guy. This is usually the period during which you will most likely sell your first/only Kirby, and also serves as the confidence booster you need to keep at it while they find the next lot of recruits (who will be replacing you shortly).
As far as the product itself is concerned, I totally agree: the Kirby is drastically overpriced and I believe that this is for a couple of reasons, the first of which is that, being an American import, the product's price is not suitably adjusted for the South African market. The second is that, even though local agents probably could adjust the price, doing so would lower their own income, instead of allowing them to ride the favourable Rand/Dollar exchange rate.
Despite these issues, it really *is* a fantastic machine. That's not to say I would buy one! They are heavy to carry and awkward to operate unless you have actually been trained and drilled on their use the way the sales guys are. Theoretically, you get free training when you buy the machine, but frankly, who has the time!?
One of Alet's other commenters mentioned that she'd spoken to an allergy specialist, who'd told her that the Kirby does not kill dustmites. As I recall, there has never been any claim made by Kirby that they *kill* dustmites. Rather, the claim is that the machine's far superior sucking action *removes* more dustmites from your surfaces than any other vacuum does, which I believe is quite true.
Basically, even though I suffered through 3 weeks of door to door canvassing for referrals during the day, followed by driving around at my own cost at night to then go and deliver free carpet shampoos to people who'd been hard-sold on having these "demonstrations" in the first place, and I managed only to sell one machine in all this time, I believe that Kirby is a good product. But I have no interest in having one demonstrated to me and I'm certainly not in the market to buy one. At the price, I'd rather buy a Genesis and suffer a bit of hayfever!