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The past couple weeks have been perfect opportunities to include our son in the process of being an informed shopper.  We knew we needed to replace our vacuum.  We have done fixes on it ourself: gone through multiple filters, replaced attachments, repaired attachments, taken apart the beater brush, and tape jobs on the hose.  However, it is big and clunky which makes it hard for our son to use as well as scuffs up our baseboards.  With our son’s recent letter to Dyson, I decided he should be my helper in my hunt for a new vacuum.  This would be the perfect way to learn how to be an informed shopper!

First, step was teaching DS about reviews.  He already had seen all kinds of videos on vacuum comparisons from Dyson’s point of view, but I told him to find other company’s point of view.  We also pulled up reviews written by people on amazon, cnet, and company websites (G-Tech, Kirby, Riccar, Dyson, Hoover, Shark, Electralux, and Eureka).  We pulled out the yearly consumer reports book and the couple of issues that discussed vacuums.  We even polled mommy friends on facebook.  He ate up all of this!  He loved finding videos of side-by-side vacuum tests.  However, he didn’t realize that not all companies may be honest with their sales pitch and that not all products get the same rating in reviews.  We had discussions about independent reviewers and paid reviewers.  He learned about fake or spam reviews, which made him laugh.  And, the biggest lesson he learned is that one vacuum might be ranked 1 on one site but not on another.

Now that we had tons of reviews and rankings we narrowed our list to ten models.  I know that sounds like a lot but there are 100’s out there and lots of conflicting rankings/reviews.  We then did price research.  DS learned that not all manufacturers sell directly to the consumer nor listed prices.  He also learned that some stores inflate their retail price so that the sale price looks good.  Those stores got eliminated from the list.  He also learned that there was big price range differences between various online and physical stores.  He also learned that some stores will price match.  Once we had our price research done, we narrowed the list to 5 models: smaller model Dyson, 2 different models of Shark, and 2 different models of Hoover.  Narrowing it down was easy because we discussed wants versus needs and budgets.  In addition, despite his desire for a cordless it was not practical due to its time use limitations.  DS also knew I was not going over a certain dollar point and only certain models were on sale enough to be under  my maximum price point.

We then took our list of models we wanted to see to physical stores to test them out, if possible.  This was a learning experience too.  At Kohls, we could play with tons of models.  None were tied up out of reach.  However, not one employee came by us.  So, we had fun testing 4 of the models we wanted to test.  We learned real quick that one band was eliminated because the first model we touched literally fell apart and the second one we touched was broken.  If it can’t handle being picked up and potentially dropped at a store, its not going to do well at home being accidentally knocked or falling over.  We learned that 2 of the models sounded better in the reviews than when actually testing their mobility and changing out its features.  We also got to see first hand some other models we hadn’t considered and we’re glad to confirm their poor performances when testing them.  However, we still were missing one model.  Next stop was Bed Bath and Beyond.  They had 2 of the models plugged in so you could literally run a vacuum test.  DS ate this up!  I admit, I loved it too.  Their store did not have as many vacuums to choose from so we were still missing one model we had on our list.  Next stop was Target as they had the final model.  However, this was a big disappointment because all of their vacuums were up high and tied so they could not be brought down or moved around.  In addition not a single employee approached us despite my son’s attempt to get someone because he thought we needed an employee to untie the vacuums.  This meant, we could only touch and feel the material from up high but not actually move it on the ground.  Sadly the touch test was enough to eliminate the other model.

While out at stores DS got to learn about customer service and price matching in addition to vacuum comparison.  He saw first hand at Kohls and Target that no employee approached us and in both stores no employee was near by or responding to him.  At Kohls their prices were significantly higher than the manufacturers and other stores.  At Target they had different models in store than online and different prices.  At Bed Bath and Beyond, DS was immediately able to get help and confirmation that we could actually test the vacuums that were plugged in.  In addition, at Bed Bath and Beyond he got to see an employee in action.  We asked the clerk about matching a competitor’s deal.  Walmart Online was giving away an attachment set with the vacuum at the same price.  The clerk researched her binder for all the sales and promotions going on and couldn’t find anything.  Since the price was the same, she couldn’t lower the price and it turned out their store didn’t even have the tool set that was being given away at Walmoart Online.  Instead she told us how to receive a 20% off coupon that we could use on top of the sales price.  Of course this made both of us happy because it meant we were going to be able to get the vacuum from a physical store and was able to get a better price.  In fact we got our Dyson for less than one of the Shark models we were considering thanks to the awesome customer service of the clerk!

I know our son was happy we got a Dyson but I think he was the most proud of all the research we had done, testing it out in real life before buying, and the ability to get it for cheaper than expected.  Thus, it wasn’t an impulse buy or following trends.  We got a model that meets our needs, not as flashy or expensive as the newest one.  And, I have a son who is excited to do the vacuuming chore!  In addition, DS had life lessons on being an informed shopper: understanding types of reviews and sales pitches, importance of product testing when you can (seeing videos can help), price comparison, and customer service.