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I Never Say ‘It Sucks’ Except for My Vacuum Cleaner

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

By Bill Primavera

Some years ago, I wrote a piece with this same title and, since that time, my wife has purchased two new vacuums. Having tried them both only once, (I’m not a big vacuum guy) the crude expression “it sucks” still conveys my sentiments about this household item.

Funny, but after I wrote that first article, a woman called me and asked if I was aware of where that term originated. I assured her I was, and followed up by saying that if there is any consumer product about which we could appropriately use the term, it should be the vacuum cleaner.

Despite manufacturers’ claims from different brands and models that my wife and I have collected during our home cleaning history, we have never found a vacuum cleaner that really performs the job as promised. Maybe we expect too much.

When I was a Madison Avenue neophyte, everyone in my agency was astonished when we read that the Swedish company Electrolux introduced its vacuums to the United Kingdom with the slogan, “Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux.”

We couldn’t know whether it was an innocent blunder in rhyme or if the company intended the word’s more common reference to gain attention. But the slogan was soon changed to “Thinking of You,” which I suppose is a good supporting sentiment to the first slogan.

Maybe my wife and I are just cursed with bad luck in selecting and caring for our vacuums. We lost our first purchase by leaving it in the elevator of our apartment house the day we moved in. Since losing that first one, the search was on, always for a model that would have greater sucking power than the last.

Another reason we bought so many different vacuums is that it was always a question of whether we wanted the convenience of a small canister model that moved about with ease but with lackluster suction, or the sturdy, heavy upright model that seemed to suck more dirt from the carpeting. So, we kept switching back and forth.

Since the advent of QVC, my wife has purchased and returned no less than three different vacuums, including one of Oprah Winfrey’s “favorite things” that promised picking up a bowling ball with its suction. We found it couldn’t pick up some New Year’s confetti.

The last model my wife returned was a Dyson, which has had a good reputation for a long time. But in her test run we found that – you guessed it – it didn’t suck. She repackaged it skillfully with countless other items that she returned to QVC. I suspect that the return of this large item will definitely get her “tagged” as a chronic recidivist.

You might think that somebody would have gotten the suction thing right by this time, considering how long the appliance has been around.

The first vacuum cleaners invented in America in the 1860s were so large and cumbersome that they had to be operated manually by two people, one to operate the bellows to create suction and the other to move the mouthpiece over the floor. In 1899, John Thurman of St. Louis invented a gasoline-powered version, considered the first motorized vacuum cleaner. A major technological leap came in 1901 when Hubert Cecil Booth of London invented the electric vacuum. It, too, was so large that its vacuum pump and motor were housed in a horse-drawn cart from which a long hose was extended into the best houses, including Queen Victoria’s.

Because vacuum cleaning was considered a great way to improve health and sanitation by sucking up tons of germ-laden dust from public places like theaters and shops, the quest was on to invent smaller versions that could be more conveniently maneuvered in homes. Many inventors jumped into the fray.

By 1924, when Electrolux introduced the tank vacuum cleaner to the United States, its unique design became the standard of excellence and many inventors improved upon the system. The latest advancement is the robotic Roomba, a small disc-shaped vacuum that cruises around a room using sensors to negotiate furniture and other items. I say, no thanks, I don’t want anything that sucks roaming around my house automatically with no human intervention.

With our most recent upright model, my wife and I had to invite our adult daughter over to the house just to show us how to release the dust container (no longer a bag) for emptying.

But hope springs eternal that someday someone will invent the perfect vacuum cleaner that is small, easy to operate and with effective sucking power.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is, and his blog is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.

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