Door-to-door sales call results in destroyed mattress

February 21, 2011 7:47:07 PM PST
This story might make you think twice about letting a door-to-door salesman into your home. For a Fremont woman, one 10-minute sales call turned into disaster.

It was supposed to be a 10-minute demonstration of a cool new vacuum cleaner, but it turned two-and-a-half hours of hard sell? and then, catastrophe.

After years on an old mattress, Karli Allen and her husband finally splurged on a new king-sized pillow top bed. That's why she was heartsick at what happened.

"Now we had a brand new beautiful mattress that was ruined," she said.

Allen wishes she had never opened the door when a salesman rang the bell and handed her a flyer. It offered a free housecleaning to demonstrate a Kirby vacuum cleaner.

"The only reason why I even let them in the door was because, yes they offered to clean my house for free, but at the same time I have a soft heart," she said.

A saleswoman came in and vacuumed her couch, floors and blinds, saying customers love the machine. Many of them posted videos on YouTube describing how they use their Kirby vacuum cleaners.

Allen thought the machine was just fine, except she said the demonstration went a little too far.

"She says, 'Where's your bedroom?' And I go, "Well, no, that's OK,' and she goes, "No, no, no, it will only take one minute. Let me just show you -- it cleans your mattress,'" recalled Allen. "And I go, 'We just bought that mattress three months ago. It doesn't need to be cleaned.'"

The woman threw off the bedding and vacuumed the mattress with the handheld section. In one YouTube video, a customer described how it worked fine on his mattress. However, for Allen it wasn't so good. Her mattress was a pillow top and the vacuum wouldn't let go of it.

"When she went to pull the vacuum up, the strings weren't letting her pull it up," said Allen. "They were still stuck in the vacuum."

Allen was horrified when the vacuum sucked in the fabric and pulled out dozens of fibers in her brand new mattress.

"To see all of those strings come up and the holes in the mattress pillow top, my heart sank so awful," she said. "She's still trying to sell me a vacuum after that."

The worst part? Allen had been warned any damage to her mattress would void the warranty. So she demanded reimbursement from the door-to-door sales company, Diamond T Distributing of Burlingame.

"He was always putting the blame on Kirby, and Kirby was then putting the blame on them," she said.

Six months passed and no one would take responsibility. So Allen contacted 7 On Your Side.

"The fact that you let somebody into your house doesn't give them carte blanche to do something to damage you or your property," said ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson.

Johnson says even if you consent to a demonstration in your house, the sales person is responsible for causing any damage.

"In this case, there was a vacuum cleaner and it tore up somebody's mattress, and that's not supposed to happen." said Johnson.

So we brought the problem to Kirby vacuum and it contacted the distributor. Kirby vacuum said, "Unfortunately, Ms. Allen's mattress was inadvertently damaged during the demonstration because the product was misused by an inexperienced dealer. Kirby apologizes for the inconvenience."

Diamond Distributing said, "We recruit and train our dealers to legally and ethically market a great product. We were disappointed to learn that Karli Allen's mattress was accidentally damaged by one of our independent dealers."

Diamond T Distributing reimbursed Allen $1,400 for a new mattress.

"Yay, I can go out and I can get my new mattress,' said Allen. "So that was great. I couldn't be happier."

Kirby vacuum only sells its products through door-to door sales, so if you want one, you can't just go to your nearest retail outlet. Both Kirby and the distributor say this type of mishap is rare and they apologized to Allen.

If you've had a problem with door-to-door sales or any consumer gripe, let us know about it. Send us an e-mail here.

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