It all began when, on the advice of friends, we decided that we needed to buy a Dyson V11 Absolute vacuum cleaner. "Nothing else will do when you have animals in the house," our friends assured us. "Only a Dyson V11 Absolute will keep your house squeaky clean and free of fur."
We were dubious.
"No really," they said. "Before we got ours, a friend who is very allergic to cats had to dose himself to the eyeballs with anti-histamines before he came to visit and he still always had to leave early because he reacted so badly. But now that we have a Dyson V11 Absolute he can stay at least half an hour longer than hes ever managed to stay before!"
We expressed interest.
"Its also very pretty and futuristic," they said. "Perfect for science fiction fans. It has a long, thin cylindrical shaft which is, of course, a tasteful shade of purple. At one end of the shaft you can attach any one of a variety of nozzles. At the other end you attach a grunty, battery powered motor together with a transparent plastic cylinder that fills up with the grunge that is sucked up the shaft as you vacuum. Its utterly fascinating to watch! Much better than television."
"So what you seem to be describing," we said, "sounds like a rather skinny vacuum cleaner which you dont have to plug in when you use it because its battery driven. I presume theres a charger for the battery?"
"Thats right," they said. "The Dyson V11 Absolute sits there charging all the time until you want to use it. Then you just pick it up and start vacuuming. Just like that. You dont have to faff around plugging it in and struggling with recalcitrant hoses."
"How can that possibly work?" we asked. "How can you have a vacuum cleaner without flexible hoses and a power cord to trip over while you clean the house? Its not natural. It makes no sense."
"Magic," they said. "Or possibly sufficiently advanced technology."
It was a convincing argument. As I considered its merits, Jake the Dog wandered over with a stuffed llama. One of our friends played tug of war with it. Jake growled impressively and shook both the llama and himself vigorously back and forth. Huge clumps of fur floated off him and stuck to the carpet. I began to believe that our friends might have a valid point.
Robin went to Google that infallible source of absolute truth and checked up on Dyson V11 Absolute vacuum cleaners. "Dyson controls the prices quite rigidly," Robin said. "So nobody discounts them. They cost the same no matter where you buy them. I think we should buy ours from Noel Leeming because they are offering triple Fly-Buys this week."
"Thats a very good idea," I said. Off we went to Noel Leeming.
The Noel Leeming salesman was extremely helpful. He demonstrated a Dyson V11 Absolute for us. He poured dirt on to a strip of carpet and vacuumed it up again. "I wonder where that came from?" he mused as he stared at the rubbish in the collection cylinder. "Ive not seen that lump of grit before. I think someone must have been walking on this carpet when I wasnt looking."
"Sorry..." I apologised.
He explained all the bits and pieces that made up the Dyson V11 Absolute. Then he pointed to the device that the demonstration model was attached to. "This," he said, "is the charger. You just screw it to the wall in a convenient location, plug it in to a power socket, and hang the vacuum cleaner on it." He thought for a moment. "Its a good idea to screw the charger to a wall that is somewhere near a power point..."
"I dont fancy doing that," said Robin. "Once the charger is screwed to the wall we wont be able to relocate it, should the fancy take us, without leaving a mess."
"Fortunately," said the salesman, "Dyson have thought of that problem and they have an ideal solution. What you need is a Dok."
"Hickory, dickory," I said, delighted. "Dok?" I asked.
"Its a free standing unit that the charger can attach to," explained the salesman. "which you then plug in to any convenient socket. With a Dok, there is no need to attach anything to the wall. And for this month only, Dyson have a special offer. If you go to their web site and provide proof of purchase, they will send you a Dok absolutely free of charge!"
That was just too good a deal to resist. We paid for the Dyson V11 Absolute. "And you get triple Fly-Buy points," said the lady who was operating the till. "Have you got your card?"
I proffered a card.
"Thats an Air-Points card," said the lady. "It wont work with Fly-Buys."
Robin dug around in her wallet and proffered a card of her own.
"Thats an Air-Points card," said the lady. "It wont work with Fly-Buys."
"Thats all weve got," I said. "Maybe we dont have Fly-Buys after all."
Shamefaced at our abject Fly-Buys failure, we sneaked out of the shop and took our Dyson V11 Absolute home.
I watched Robin unpack the new Dyson V11 Absolute from its box. "Purple!" she said, clearly feeling deeply satisfied. Then she assembled it unlike me, she is extremely good at putting together the jigsaw puzzle pieces of new appliances quickly and efficiently. When I try and do it, I always seem to end up with a spare ball bearing...
She pressed a button and the motor whined into life, burbling to itself. Experimentally, Robin ran the nozzle over a patch of carpet. "Wow!", she said, greatly impressed. An astonishing amount of rubbish flew up the shaft into the plastic cylinder. Dog fur, cat fur, grit, grime and six bewildered cockroaches that the Dyson had sucked out of some secret sanctuary all swirled round and round in the cylinder. In no time at all the cylinder was full and Robin switched the Dyson V11 Absolute off so that she could empty it out. "Look," she said to me. "Isnt that amazing?"
"It certainly is," I said, vastly impressed with the quantity of rubbish the Dyson V11 Absolute had pulled out of the carpet. "Theres only one problem."
"Whats that?" asked Robin.
"All that junk came out of a very small area of carpet," I said. "And now that patch of carpet is several shades lighter than the rest of it."
"Hah!" said Robin, brandishing the newly emptied Dyson V11 Absolute. "You and I can soon fix that."
I tried it out on another patch of carpet. Theres no doubt about it, a Dyson V11 Absolute really, really sucks.
All we needed now was a Dok. I went to the Dyson web site to see about claiming my free Dok. After thirty minutes or so of clicking and searching and clicking again I utterly failed to find any information about claiming a free Dok apart from a veiled hint that if I bought a Dyson V11 Absolute directly from Dyson themselves rather than from a store, they might, if the mood took them, send me a Dok as well. Feeling no great urge to buy a second Dyson V11 Absolute, I decided that perhaps I had misunderstood the Noel Leeming salesman. Perhaps I was meant to claim my Dok from the Noel Leeming web site. I rang Noel Leeming and explained my problem to a nice lady.
"Youll never find it on the Dyson web site," she explained. "They dont have any direct links to the page where you claim your free Dok. I can tell you the appropriate URL if you like, but its easier to just look up Dyson V11 Absolute on the Noel Leeming web site. Weve put a direct link to the proper Dyson page there. Just click on it and away you go."
I thanked the nice lady and followed her instructions. The next thing I saw was a Dyson web page that asked me to fill in my details so I could claim my free Dok. Easy peasy. I filled in the serial number of my Dyson V11 Absolute and I provided my name, address, email address and telephone number. I uploaded a scan of my Noel Leeming receipt as proof of purchase and I clicked the submit button. The page thought about it for a moment, then the screen cleared and a new page appeared. The new page said:
Thank you. We have successfully received your submission for an employee discount code. You will receive your limited one time use discount code via email very soon.
This puzzled me. I am not a Dyson employee. I have never been a Dyson employee. I never will be a Dyson employee. Why would I need an employee discount code? Oh well, perhaps it was a bit of a work-around that they were using to allow people to claim their free Dok by pretending to be employees with a discount code. I sat back and waited for the promised email to arrive.
A week later, I was still waiting. I sent an email to Dyson enquiring about my Dok. The next day, having received no reply, I sent another email. After another day of email silence I gave up and rang Dyson directly where, after a lot of automated telephone tag, I finally got to speak to a real live person. I explained my problem, and told her about the puzzling employee discount code.
"That doesnt make any sense," she said. "Im sure thats not supposed to happen. What is the serial number of your Dyson V11 Absolute?"
I told her, and I heard the sound of keyboard keys clicking.
"I have no record of that purchase," she said. "Are you in front of a computer at the moment?"
"Yes," I confessed.
"Ill give you the address of the web page where you have to fill in your claim," she said.
I went to the indicated page. "Thats the same form I filled in last time," I said.
"Fill it in again," she said, "and tell me what happens."
I filled it in, uploaded the scan of my receipt and pressed the submit button. "It says those details have already been recorded," I said, "and it wont let me submit them again."
She sighed deeply. "I wonder where the information is being stored," she mused. "It isnt in any of the databases that I have access to. Never mind give me your details over the phone and Ill record it in my database now."
I gave her all the information she needed and I listened to the clatter of keys as she typed it in. "There," she said, "Ive got all that. You should be getting an email soon confirming your warranty." No sooner had she finished speaking than a brand new email popped into my inbox the first email Id ever received from Dyson. I was thrilled.
"Its arrived," I said.
"Good," she said. "Now Ill see about getting your Dok sent out to you." More keys clattered. "There," she said. "Thats done. Please allow 60 days for delivery."
"60 days?" I said, appalled. "Why does it take that long?"
"I dont know," she said. "Im just quoting the terms and conditions of the free Dok agreement. Perhaps free things go to the back of the shipping queue. Things that bring us money always take priority. But with luck, you might get it sooner."
A week later, I got another email from Dyson. Two emails in a week! My cup runneth over! This one informed me that my Dok was ready to ship and I should receive it in another week or so.
Rather to my surprise, the Dok turned up on my doorstep a few days later. Astonishing! Even more astonishing, two days later Dyson sent me a second Dok, thus making assurance doubly sure. I wonder how many more they will send me?
There is no doubt that a Dyson V11 Absolute really, really sucks and that, of course, is a very good thing. There is equally no doubt that the design of the Dyson web site, the design of the back end databases it uses and Dysons general ability to communicate effectively with its customers also really, really sucks. At least this has the merit of consistency, but it has no other virtues that I can see.