Tuesday, March 17, 2009

James Dyson Sucks

I will never understand why people are so emotionally attached to their vacuum cleaners. In years past it was Kirby, Rainbow, Oreck, Phantom (more about them later) or Electrolux, and now it is Dyson. Another five or ten years from now there will be a new "high end" vacuum being sold to the masses, and rest assured the same people bragging about their $550 Dyson's will be bragging about whatever replaces it.

The fact is, if you filter out the biased "reviews" and the opinions of those who feel the need to justify spending $500 or more on a vacuum cleaner, you cannot find one single independent review which shows Dyson to be superior to any other vacuum out there.

Sure James Dyson makes some neat commercials, and sure his marketing campaign is only rivaled by Bose or Apple, but the simple truth is much of his marketing is based upon lies. For instance, look at his commercials about the Dyson Ball where he states there is a problem with all vacuums because they have four stationary wheels which prevent them from doing anything other than moving in a straight line. I ask you - have you EVER seen a vacuum with four wheels like the little "car" that Dyson uses as his example? Better yet, have you ever seen a vacuum cleaner with wheels attached to a solid axle that prevents the wheels from turning independently of one another?

No you haven’t - because vacuums most commonly have two wheels in the back and one beater bar in the front. They aren't difficult to steer and don't force the user to only move in a straight line like Dyson claims. Besides, if having wheels is such a bad thing, why does Dyson still make vacuums that use them (the DC07 and DC14 for example)? Only one of his models uses the "ball" design, so clearly it isn't all that innovative.

As to other lies Dyson uses, he claims other vacuums require replacement filters and belts and his online marketing team (who use anonymous opinions from "Dyson owners" on blogs and forums) will give you examples of what filters and belts will cost you over the life of a vacuum while showing how cheap a Dyson is over the long haul.

However, anyone who has ever owned a bagless vacuum with filters will tell you that most often you can simply clean the filters, give them a quick rinse in the sink and let them dry....there is no need to buy new filters every month or two like Dyson suggests. I myself own a vacuum with filters, and it is six years old and I am just now thinking about buying a new filter due to the fact I know any filter (if properly designed) will catch particals that cannot be seen by the human eye, yet my vacuum still works as well as it did the day I bought it.

As to the belts, I'll admit that is a design flaw in most vacuums, but the belt does serve a purpose. If you suck up a rug or get a lamp cord stuck, the belt will slip and save the vacuum motor from damage. Although it is nice that Dyson uses a clutch design instead of a belt, the costs for a replacement belt in most vacuums is minimal and most often belts only need to be replaced every few years for a total cost of $3 or 4.

James Dyson himself even lies when speaking about how he developed the cyclone in his vacuum cleaner. Dyson claims he worked on his vacuum for five years and went through 5,127 prototypes before finding one that worked. However simple math tells us that suggests Dyson would need to develop 2.8 prototypes every single day for the entire five year period! Clearly Mr. Dyson either does not understand the definition of a true prototype, or he quite simply isn’t very good at math.

As to longevity, if you spend more than ten minutes researching Dyson's online you will hear countless people who have had problems with them. You will also note that you can buy refurbished Dysons at dozens of different websites at any given time (just type if "refurbished Dyson" in Google and you will be presented with a number of choices).

So I ask - if Dyson vacuums are so great and so reliable, why are there thousands of refurbished Dyson's available for sale at any given moment? I never see piles of Hoovers or Kenmores or Eurekas or even Dirt Devils....but I always see Dysons. That fact alone tells me quite a bit about the quality of the product, and it appears clear that Dyson vacuum cleaners are no more reliable than many other brands.

Remember that clutch I spoke of earlier? If the Dyson clutch breaks, the repair cost will be far in excess of what someone would spend for years and years of belts, and this happens more often than Dyson would like to admit. Many Dyson owners report a “clicking” sound they soon find that their beater bar isn’t functioning which can require an entire new clutch assembly. The cost for the parts alone can run $50 or more, and that doesn’t include labor to replace it. Sort of puts those $3 belts in perspective now doesn’t it?

Of course I should note that when Dyson claims his vacuum doesn’t require replacement belts, what he really means is they don’t require belts assuming the thing never breaks. The fact is, Dyson vacuums do use belts, but they aren’t what we would typically consider “user replaceable”. There are actually two belts used for the clutch and although they might last longer than user replaceable belts on other vacuums due to the clutch design, they will eventually need to be replaced, and it likely will require a vacuum cleaner repair person to do so since the process is much more complex than a belt change on a traditional vacuum. This is yet another example of James Dyson being dishonest about his product.

The fact is, people are buying into the marketing, and the product itself is merely a gimmick. Tests have shown they don't vacuum any better than any other vacuum and tests have shown their exhaust to be fairly dirty when compared to other models, thus the "cyclonic technology" isn't all that it is cracked up to be. In fact, the exhaust on a Dyson doesn’t even meet the standards for HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air). Dyson gets around this by claiming they have a HEPA filter and although the filter itself might meet HEPA standards when tested outside of the vacuum, the vacuum itself does not.

Remember that Phantom vacuum I discussed earlier? Well as it turns out, until the year 2000 Dyson licensed their vacuum technology to Phantom, which in turn produced vacuums that were essentially identical to what Dyson has released since. So when someone tells you a Dyson is the greatest vacuum ever – ask them why they most likely never thought the same about the old Phantom (or even heard of Phantom for that matter). It all comes down to marketing.

So what about performance? You will often hear Dyson owners brag about how full their canisters are when they vacuum, but these people fail to take into account two very important points. First the cyclone design of the Dyson doesn’t “pack” the dirt into the canister. This means that it may look like a lot of debris in the canister when compared to other vacuums, but the density is much less, so in reality it can be very misleading.

Second, the automatic adjustment design of the Dyson can actually force the beater bar down into the carpeting more than other vacuum designs. This may result in excessive wear on the carpeting and thus the canister is actually being filled with carpet fiber rather than dirt. Ask a Dyson owner to show you their full canister and judge for yourself.

I know people are always quick to defend their purchases especially when they are expensive, so it is difficult to judge a product based upon user satisfaction, but if anyone is considering a Dyson I highly recommend they test one for themselves before committing to buy. If nothing else be sure the store you purchase from has a money-back guarantee so you can return it if and when you determine it to be just another vacuum at twice the price.

I've used several different Dyson's myself as I have friends and coworkers who have tried to convince me, but at the end of the day I haven't found them to be any more powerful than a Hoover or Kenmore costing 1/3rd the price.

When buying or testing any vacuum it is important to not fall for the old salesperson trick of vacuuming the same room with your old vacuum followed by the “new and superior” Dyson. This test has been used by vacuum cleaner salespeople for years and although it may look impressive to see the canister on a Dyson fill up after you have just vacuumed that same piece of carpet, this test is very misleading.

In fact, this test relies upon a few very important facts. It assumes the carpet has been in the home for several years, so the chances of ground in dirt are much higher. Second, it assumes the older vacuum hasn’t been cleaned out and that the dirt bin and/or bag is partially full as well as the beater bar being wrapped up with hair, string, or whatever else has been sucked up in the years of use (which can all contribute to reduce the effectiveness of the suction). Of course it goes without saying that a new ‘out-of-the-box’ vacuum cleaner will almost always perform well because it is brand new and hasn’t had the opportunity to have hair or carpet fibers clog the intake hoses or brushes. Third, the person performing the test will often vacuum the carpet at a 90 degree angle to the original vacuuming, because this has a greater chance of lifting dirt that was trapped between carpet fibers (which is why if you really want to do a good job of vacuuming your home, you will vacuum one direction and then turn 90 degrees and vacuum the entire room again).

If a salesperson or Dyson owner suggests this test, be sure to level the playing field by emptying the bag or canister of the “old” vacuum and cleaning the brushes and intake hoses before starting. Once the Dyson has had a chance to vacuum the area and they have shown you how much dirt and dust your “old” vacuum has missed, go over the area yet again with the old vacuum. In the vast majority of the cases you will find that old vacuum was able to pick up even more dirt and dust that the shiny new Dyson missed.

You could repeat this test going between the two vacuums several times and chances are you will continue to pull up more dirt each and every time. Unfortunately even the best vacuum cleaner on the market can’t get every single particle of dirt, and each pass of the vacuum is likely to remove just a bit more fiber from the carpet due to the beater bar ‘scrubbing’ against it, so this is not all that unique.

What is important to note is what is in each bin or bag. It is not sufficient to simply compare them visually because (as mentioned earlier) the Dyson bin might not be packed to the same density. For this reason, the contents of the bins and bags need to be emptied onto newspaper or paper towels and compared side by side as they would do in a lab. Ideally you would weigh each pile but that isn’t realistic for home testing, so just use a pencil or your fingers to pull apart the piles and determine the density and contents.

Obviously the goal of the test is to determine what is in each pile. Dust and dirt are good, but once again if you see a lot of carpet fiber in the Dyson bin this could be telling you that the beater bar is too aggressive and it is shortening the lifespan of the carpeting.

The bottom line is people need to be wise in their purchasing decisions and they can’t just fall for the salesperson gimmicks. Nobody should care if their vacuum cleaner can lift a bowling ball because we don’t use our vacuum cleaners to lift bowling balls, and nobody should care if their vacuum can suck up a quart of oatmeal that has been dropped onto the surface of the carpeting because any vacuum can suck up surface dirt. People need to be objective and nonbiased so they can make the right decision with their purchasing dollar.

If you remove the marketing hype and really compare apples to apples, I’m convinced that Dyson is to vacuum cleaners as Bose is to speakers. This probably explains why in all the years Consumer Reports has been testing vacuum cleaners, Dyson has never been at the top of the list. In fact, in the latest head to head comparison as of this writing, an $80 Hoover scored higher than any Dyson on the list with the Hoover being ranked 3rd and the Dyson being ranked 13th! (The winner was another Hoover while second place went to a Kenmore – both which cost about half of any Dyson).

To add insult to injury, the Dyson ranks lower for performance on carpet (where 95% of vacuuming is done). Had it not been for the fact Dyson scored well on bare floors they would be even farther down the list. This is probably why Consumer Reports even ran a special article talking about the Dyson hype a few years ago, and why they have never rated them as a Consumer Reports Best Buy.

A lot of Dyson supporters claim Consumer Reports is biased, but the fact is they perform independent scientific testing and compare vacuums against one another, so there is little possibility for human bias. They don’t accept advertising from any of the vacuum cleaner manufacturers and therefore there is no motive for them to be dishonest about their findings.

The simple truth is there is a sucker born every minute, and apparently they are all buying Dysons.

16 comments:

  1. I agree that Dyson sucks. I have a $1,200 Miele from Italy and it is fabulous. There is no other vacuum that sucks as well. BTW, I am serious.

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  2. Sorry to say, but my Dyson Root(the handheld version) works far better than any other vacuum I've had(Black&Decker Wet/Dry Handheld Vacuum)

    the main selling point about the dyson is that the suction is there until the bin is full or the battery runs out... my B&D Handheld has good suction at first, but the filters and everything clog up after 1 minute and suction is lost.... my dyson keeps sucking until the battery dies..

    that saying, i got my Dyson Root as a refurb for $70(MSRP $150), while my B&D Handheld cost $40...

    extra cost? in my opinion, it's worth it... i would buy a new Dyson upright if i move out of my apartment into a real house...

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  3. If you only compare a $150 Dyson Root to a $30 B&D is there any surprise it works "better"?

    This is a prime example of people not understanding the basics of true comparisons and drawing illogical conclusions.

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  4. I would just like to add that I work at Sears, and we have countless refurbished Kenmore vacuums, most commonly known as the "best buy" and #2 rated upright by Consumer Reports (35922/35923). We literally have 5 of them in our back room at any given time because we are only allowed to keep one out on the sales floor at a time (so it doesn't look bad to customers). So you should check your facts before commenting on how there aren't thousands of refurbished Kenmores out there, they just aren't made available online! I have been in the vacuum department there for about a year and a half and by far the least returned brand for me is Dyson. Also, about 95% of the Dyson's that I have returned are unopened and are returned because of buyers remorse. Once customers actually try it, they rarely return it. I understand that they may not rate as well in magazines but I have had countless customers make a trip back to the store just to tell me how much they love their new Dyson.

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  5. There are so many things to comment about in this article, but I'm not going to tear down the author.
    In MOST cases, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

    If you have a pet or you're a neat-freak, a good Vacuum is a wise investment.

    I cook a lot, so I invested in a good set of knives and a professional sharpener.
    The only reason I use a computer is for the internet, so I bought a cheap computer.

    Don't read articles that have such clever titles as, "James Dyson Sucks".
    Before you even read the article, you know that it's going to be a bunch of hate-spewing crap.

    I've used and owned Bissel, Eureka, Kirby, and Dyson(My family owns a dog training center). My opinion..... The Eureka was a disaster, the Bissel was good at first but needed replacement parts after a year, the Kirby was great but it is a bag vacuum and the belt had to be replaced every year or 2, and the Dyson has been the best we've had so far.
    We still use the Kirby and the Dyson.

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  6. Ah yes - the Dyson marketing team at work. They can't dispute the facts that Dyson's are just hyped up overpriced vacs that can't even perform better than $80 Hoovers, so they resort to those old "people say..." or "it is the best..." comments.

    I guess when you have no real evidence or unbiased head to head comparisons to fall back upon, you need to stick with personal opinion. However for the educated consumer, personal opinion simply isn't good enough.

    No thanks Mr. Dyson - the educated consumer just doesn't fall for marketing hype. Lucky for you the masses do, so there will always be a steady stream of lemmings willing and able to shell out $500 on your plastic miracle machine if for no other reason than they are too ignorant to look beyond the fancy colors and clever ad campaigns.

    Hey - it works for Apple.

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  7. FYI - the latest Consumer Reports rankings put a Hoover and the number one spot (again) and a Kenmore at the number two spot (again). The Dyson ranked 9th and cost $600 whereas a $140 Hoover scored 5th.

    That means you could buy four Hoovers - which perform better than the Dyson - for the price of ONE Dyson.

    By the way - once again the Hoover was "excellent" at vacuuming carpet whereas the Dyson was one ranking lower at "very good".

    In this case, the actual product just can't live up to the hype, so yes it does seem that James Dyson still sucks.

    (Apparently the poster from June 9th doesn't understand what a pun is)

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  8. The guy who works at Sears is missing the point. First of all if someone has a problem with a Dyson they are instructed to contact Dyson rather than Sears, so it stands to reason he wouldn't see them returned to the store.

    On the other hand, if you have a problem with Kenmore, where do you return it? You guessed it - right back to Sears.

    Also, I think the point about not seeing massive quantities of refurbed Kenmores and Hoovers is valid because they just aren't as common even if they sell more. I'm sure all brands have their share of returns and refurbs, but you see refurbed Dysons for sale in dozens of places (Woot.com seems to have a refurbed Dyson for sale every couple of weeks, and they even sell refurbs at Best Buy).

    I'll agree that Dysons are all about the hype. If you really want the best vac get a whole house vacuum. Not only do they have way more suction, but they have huge dust bins and exhaust that is vented outside so you don't even have to worry about silly filters.

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  9. Here is a question... Who the hell refurbs a $140 vacuum? Most of the time they are considered disposable....

    I am not a Dyson lover.. I actually don't own one... I have a Kirby that weighs a TON and when I am done vaccuming it smells like burned rubber even though my belt is fine. I occasionally get the itch to buy a new vaccum... but I'm not often home... and when I am I don't wear my shoes past the door so really not much of a use for a high end vac. Eventually I want hardwood anyway... and that requires a "floormate" not a dyson.

    But the point is... if something is $600 you refurb it... because the labor is worth it.

    If something is $100 you don't refurb it... you scrap it.

    So if you see a refurb... odds are it's going to be a Dyson or Kirby... where paying someone $50/hour will still turn a profit when the product is fixed in about an hour.

    Just something to think about...

    I will say.. Kirby has been going strong for I think 10-12 years at my place... I got it in the divorce ;-p It's just damn heavy and smells like burned rubber. Oh and using the hose attachment is a P.I.T.A.

    My Freaking kirby came with carpet dry cleaner... neat... upholstery brush... neat.. but light bulb changer and scalp massager... WTF?!?!? Seriously... I am not joking.

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  10. For most of us, we would probably toss out the $140 vac and we would probably spend the money to repair a $600 vac, but to the manufacturer, if they have hundreds or even thousands of these coming back as defective they will most certainly refurbish them and sell them on the open market or to wholesalers.

    The thing that seems odd is that we just don't see vast quantities of other manufacturers out there. Sure from time to time you might see a refurb here or there for practically anything, but why does it seem there are so many refurbed Dysons? I mean the fact they sell factory refurbished Dysons at Best Buy should shock people... because Best Buy is a huge national chain and in order to stock that many vacs across the nation there has to be a huge massive quantity of refurbed units coming in.

    That just scares me personally. If I saw refurbished Sony televisions for sale at every Target across the country, I for one would probably shy away from that particular model number... but thats just me.

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  11. got my DC14 for $140 refurbed... it's been the best vacuum by far I've owned. Is it the best out there? Hell if I care, it's reliable, it works, it picks up dirt, the hose is easy to use, the tools are on board, it's relatively light, canister is easy to remove and empty, it's all I ask for.

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  12. As the owner of a ten-year-old Dirt Devil, I don't have a dog in this fight, but Dysons carry a 5 year warranty (as opposed to 1 or 2 on most vacs), which may explain the higher # of refurbs. Not only are people more likely to service an expensive vac than they would a "disposable" one, but due to the length of warranty, they have two to five times the opportunity to get something fixed/replaced should it go wrong.

    Additionally, I'd say those spending $500 on a vac may be a little more serious about their vacuuming- performing the act at near habitual levels. In reading Dyson reviews, I'm stunned by the number of people who say they vacuum daily (or at least multiple times a week) and tired of replacing previous brand vacuums on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. Seriously? Vacuum daily?!? I'm lucky if I do it once a week (perhaps that's why my cheap-o Dirt Devil has lasted so long). Still, more use = more chance for failure.

    Lastly, I'd suggest that there's more of a market for refurbed Dysons. Be it hype or not, there's brand equity there, and people love a perceived bargain. Many folks would never spend $500 for a vacuum, but for a "premium" product, may be intrigued enough to spend $300 on the refurb. A store like Best Buy has their own brand equity/image to worry about, and can sell refurbed Dysons while positioning themselves as offering "limited availability special values" instead of peddling "pre-broken disposable goods."

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  13. Some very valid points in that last comment (Jan 3rd). Truth be told, I think $300 for a Dyson is probably a fair value, but I also feel you should be able to buy them new at that price rather than refurbished.

    It is blatantly obvious that James Dyson is making millions from marketing and his product is no better than many others on the market. That is proven with reliability comparisons, that is proven by head to head performance evaluations (both in the US and the UK independent studies) and that is proven based upon James Dyson's comments.

    I really don't have a problem with Dyson vacs as much as I have a problem with James Dyson and his misleading or outright dishonest marketing tactics. He has successfully convinced people that his cyclone design is unique (it isn't) and he has convinced people all other vacuums are hard to use (they aren't).

    Much like Amar Bose has convinced people that all other speakers and headphones are somehow inferior because they don't have the Bose name on them, James Dyson has done the same in relation to vacuum cleaners.

    Would I buy a Dyson? Well first I would need my existing vac to die (because it does a fabulous job, and unlike many comments I read from Dyson owners I don't understand why someone would replace something when it is actually WORKING), and then I would need to find a Dyson on a huge, massive markdown sale to where it wouldn't cost me anymore than a comparable Hoover or Kenmore. That means finding a new Dyson for somewhere around the $300 range, or a refurbed model for somewhere around $150-200.

    In reality I buy a lot of refurbished products and that doesn't concern me. I have only had an issue a couple times, and in both instances it was resolved by the manufacturer. However I will not pay full price for something that is basically used and repaired, much like I would not buy a car with 10,000 miles on it for the same price as a new one sells for.

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  14. Dyson uses 100 year old ideas known to every engineer in the world and claims they are brilliant new inventions. Dyson relentlessly hypes, lies and exaggerates every aspect of their products. Cheap ABS plastic is described as "used in riot shields" (totally false they use polycarbonate) or ordinary fans as "jet engine technology".

    Cyclone dust extractors (used in Dyson vacuum cleaners) were invented in 1901. They are common in dusty factories. However they are incapable of removing fine particles from the exhaust air stream. (Dyson has not solved this problem).

    Dyson "multiplier" fans are simply a fan in a base that blows through a ring. They rely on the Coanda Effect used since 1910 in aircraft design. This is far less efficient and much noisier than an ordinary fan.

    The Dyson heater is simply a fan and a heating coil in a heavy base that redirects hot air through a plastic nozzle.

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  15. Here is a story that was sent to me about some newer Consumer Reports testing.

    http://shopping.yahoo.com/articles/yshoppingarticles/778/reliable-kirby-vacuum-sweeps-away-most-of-the-competition/

    The most relevant paragraph comes at the end of the article...

    "... Two other new bagged uprights from Oreck—the Graphite, $350, and XL Element Professional Series, $200—weigh under 12 pounds but offer mediocre carpet cleaning. Dyson’s DC26 City Multi Floor canister, $400, is similarly wimpy. But airflow, a selling point for other Dysons, was poor. And like the brand’s larger and heavier DC23 Turbinehead canister, this one was dismal at carpet cleaning".

    Once again Dyson doesn't measure up when put to the test. I would hate to have paid $500 or more to learn that lesson the hard way. Perhaps this is why so many refurbished Dysons seem to be flooding the market... people soon find out the actual product doesn't compare to the marketing hype.

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  16. I wish Dyson could do something about the high pitched whistling noise. I find it piercing and annoying. Drives me insane when one of my neighbors is cleaning his car.

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