Friday, 16 May 2008

Expensive Suckers

Henry Vacuum CleanerSingapore seems caught up in the global vacuum cleaner conspiracy. Local evidence was found during an aimless wander around a hardware store in Vivocity, the shopping mall down at the harbour front. Such stores are pretty rubbish by my standards; all bubble packs and finished goods with few raw materials. Anyway, they had a vacuum cleaner on display, nothing super fancy, a drag along the floor model on casters with a hose. The ad copy went "Why spend twice as much?" Sticker price: S$1,760 (£660).

I've seen this design before with a glass bowl holding water that has some beneficial filtering properties. The paper has a gwai loh writing a regular column (not as good as this blog, I assume you) and a recent article related his inability to resist door to door sales people and how his wife hastily intervened before he bought a $3,000 vacuum cleaner, a snip at $50 a month on the drip feed.

I had woman peddling Hoovers at my door. She didn't have it with her, I imagine it was downstairs until she got a prospect, so I don't know what it was like but for investigative purposes I'm sorry I didn't pursue it.

I've heard similar tales in England. My ex boss' son (nice but a tad on the delinquent side), sold a deluxe £800 model for a while. It claimed a cast iron case with heavy duty motor and a special nozzle; you set it in the corner of a room with the nozzle blowing air down one wall. After a while, it sets up a circulating air current which cleans the dust out of the room's air.

Reality check: a vacuum cleaner consists of an electric motor driving a fan, a (plastic) casing, hose and optionally, a filter. At the factory gates in China, we are looking at less than £10. For me, Dysons are pushing it; every one I've ever used clogged then broke. A sales lady in John Lewis once confided that most Dysons were bought by men (flashy, macho design you see). Personally, I have some hope invested in those robot ones that scuttle around all day annoying cats. They're a bit fragile and underpowered at the moment but seem ideal for hard wood flooring.

So there's established precedent for aspirational vacuum cleaner sales though I wonder about the psychological sub-text: "My house is dirty, ergo I am unworthy. Spend a lot of money in penance and I can be rid of my sin." You'd be better off donating money towards genetic research into reducing human skin cell production but I suppose if you insist on spending £1,000 on a vacuum cleaner, it might as well be for spiritual reasons.