So it's 2009, and apparently some people are still buying vacuum cleaners from door-to-door salesmen. And some of those folks aren't happy, based on Better Business Bureau complaints against a Houston-based Kirby Vacuum dealer called Dyro Productions.
Frankly, Hair Balls was surprised that these customers shelled out around $1,500 for a heavy-ass machine - we're partial to that Dyson Ball, which you can order online for around $400. But then again, maybe buying an expensive piece of equipment from an 18-year-old kid who just happens to knock on your door is a fiscally wise decision.
The complaints include customers who say that Dyro didn't honor a three-day refund policy given during the home demonstration and that sales agents actually made carpets worse during the demonstrations. Some complaints were from ex-agents who said they responded to Craigslist or newspaper ads for clerical workers, only to be told they could make bucks lugging vacuums around Houston - a promise that turned out to be less than true.
A lot of the complaints mentioned the company's president, Daniel Blalock, who always seemed to be in a meeting when customers tried to speak with him about getting a refund. And some of those customers say they had to even hunt down Dyro's phone number, because the sales documents they were given didn't have phone numbers or an address.
Hair Balls also found out that Dyro seems to fly under the radar - the company has no website, but based on copies of advertisements included in the complaints, the company has operated (and may continue to) operate under different names, including DP Inc., DPI West of Houston, and Blalock & Hatcher of Houston. Curiously, none of these ads mention the name Kirby or the words "vacuum cleaners."
The best online presence of Dyro Hair Balls was able to dig up was a "testimonials" page for DP Inc. Curiously, it mentions one of the sales associates doing "special training assignments" in "New Zealand, Australia, Hawaii, and in parts of California." Hair Balls isn't exactly sure if there's a difference between turning on a vacuum cleaner in Houston and turning one on in Sydney, but then again, we haven't had the extensive training that these folks have.
In our quest to find out more about the mysterious Dyro, we spoke with Blalock, who asked us to e-mail questions. When he replied (via a Yahoo account - always a sure sign of your business's professionalism and lasting power) we were even more confused, because while the e-mail was signed "Daniel Blalock," the e-mail itself read as coming from "Bob Dickers." Blalock declined to clarify that for us.
Nor did he answer the bulk of our questions. And the ones he did answer had us scratching our head. To wit: Hair Balls dug up a Greensheet ad for DPI West that ran alongside an ad for Blalock & Hatcher. The B&H number is an old number for, you guessed it, Dyro Productions.
Here's what Blalock told us, without actually providing any of the proof Hair Balls requested: "Dyro Productions operates legally and ethically. Dyro Productions provides customers with written contracts that comply with all state and federal laws, including but not limited to the 3-day cancellation period. The contracts also include Dyro's name, address, and telephone number."
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We also spoke with Robert Shumay in Kirby's Cleveland headquarters, who stated in an e-mail that "Kirby requires its independent distributors to operate legally and ethically, to perform background checks on dealers before they conduct in-home demonstrations and to resolve any and all complaints within two business days. Kirby does not tolerate inappropriate conduct by a distributor's organization."
Shumay also wrote that he couldn't get any cooperation from the Houston BBB, writing "This is too bad, because if the Houston BBB copied us on every complaint as other BBB's do, we would make sure every complaint was handled promptly."
Hmmm....so the president of the dealership that sells these behemoths all over Houston isn't responsible for the complaints? Complaints need to go to some dude in Cleveland? Good to know. Kirby's number is 1-800-494-8586 . Dyro's number is 281.945.4379. Be sure to ask for Daniel Blalock.
Or maybe Bob Dickers.