Here’s a riddle. What sucks when it doesn’t, and doesn’t when it does?

See that? I invented that right there. Okay, so maybe it has been done hundreds of times already, but I’ve been slaving over a hot keyboard for hours trying to think of a witty opening to today’s blog. Honestly, the things I do for both of you.

It all started (as most appalling stories do) with Mrs. Chips’ luxuriant tresses. I mean most appalling stories begin with “it all started”. I don’t mean Mrs. Chips’ abundant mane launched 1000 alarming anecdotes. Keep up Jim, keep up.

Anyway, as a result of the odd strand falling floorwards, our vacuum cleaner has ended up all-of-a-twist. And, as any domesticated dude (or dudette) will tell you, that’s a Dickens of a fix to be in. Trying desperately hard not to let the failure of another costly appliance cause us to feel downhearted, we set our credit cards at a rakish angle and trudged off to find a suitable sucker.

By now, of course, you must have answered the riddle. If not, please leave this page immediately. You’re lowering the average IQ, and we need all the points we can get.

Being your ever alert consumer hound watchdog, I am duty bound to report on excellent products as well as the also-rans (which is posh-chat for crap). Most of the products are run-of-the-mill and don’t bear mentioning, but the following are noteworthy exceptions.

One of the products we looked at was the Genesis all-in-one gadget you see with nauseating frequency on TV and in the more questionable periodicals. During the demonstration, the sales person poured some instant coffee granules onto the test carpet and proceeded to embarrass himself by failing miserably to remove the coffee and return said rug to its former glory. A few questions revealed his disastrously inadequate knowledge of the product and we concluded that, either the product doesn’t perform ‘as seen on TV’ (now there’s a shock), or the demo didn’t do justice to the product. After politely taking our leave we wondered where we’d try next. With quite some trepidation, we pulled into Stax in Clearwater Mall.

What a terrific experience it turned out to be. The sales lady, Rose, rose to the task (haha, brilliant that, I thought) of selling the Mielé vacuum cleaner with relish and aplomb. Her knowledge of the product was excellent and she seemed to have pre-empted our concerns regarding spares, reliability, toughness, after-sales-service and workmanship. Rose’s colleague, in the white goods department, also displayed outstanding knowledge and sales skills on another product – both of which we ended up buying.

Later, I spoke with one of the managers who told me that Stax is on a service-excellence drive and is expanding by opening several more branches country-wide. My initial reaction was one of surprise, especially when one considers the poor wretches who pretend to work in chains like Pick ‘n Pay or Game (we’ll chat about them in a future post), and who don’t know where their next strike placard is coming from. It was most refreshing to see knowledgeable, motivated and happy staff enthusing over their products.

At the end of a wearisome time looking for a replacement vacuum cleaner, I am persuaded of the following: Time and fuel are expensive. So next time, Stax is going to be first on my shop list. You have my loyalty for as long as you keep up the good work.

About Freud Fission Chips

Despite the banality of the name, FFC has led an intensely varied life. Grateful for surviving almost three years as a 'troepie' (soldier for non-South African Readers) in the Angolan war, he determined to wring as much out of life as possible. Currently providing Business Analysis services, trading on the stock market and developing web pages to pay the bills, FFC also dabbles in wildlife, landscape and people photography, writing, and far too many interests for his own good. He has also travelled extensively in southern Africa (working on the sound theory that a moving target is more dificult to hit). These peregrinations also include over 1500kms on foot through some of the worlds most spectacular scenery. It hasn't all been plain sailing, beer and skittles, and endless beds of roses... Chief amongst the prerequisites for surviving Africa, with its mind-bending characteristics, is an appropriate sense of humour.... So, for now, he will be recounting the amusing among the annoying, the frustrating wrapped in the funny and extracting the mirth from the melancholy... Oh yes, there might be some alliteration too.
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8 Responses to Here’s a riddle. What sucks when it doesn’t, and doesn’t when it does?

  1. thayn says:

    Good one. But the cost of fuel required to support them from East London is akin to the GDP of Bapetiskosweti T?) . How about a branch in EL? Stax is one of 3 stores on my list to visit when in the Big Smoke + looking to purchase an item that tends to put a dent in my pocket. “The 3rd Reader”.

    • Yup – I think a branch of Stax in East London is loooong overdue. It will help to sort out many of those other retail slackers who rely on the “Old Boy Network” for business, instead of first world service.

  2. Steve says:

    This report is marginally useful (being in a generous mood) in that it told us where good service was to be found, but sweet FA (Fanny Adams for the sensitive disposition) about the vaccuum cleaner as a product, which was what one envisioned the post was going to be about. Focus lad, focus.

    I too am in the market for a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t excel at snorting up the most embarrassing piles of dirt and duly exhausting it all out the rear again as somewhat finer dust, but dust nonetheless. So I did some research on the Internet. This is called “doing one’s homework” and is distinguishable from “doing one’s housework” by the absence of a vacuum cleaner.

    Apparently one needs a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which is, or was, designed and developed by NASA at huge expense to the American public (I don’t care either) for vacuuming up the bits of rubbish floating around in space stations etc. HEPA is an acronym for “high efficiency particulate air” (I looked it up, see “doing homework above”). Basically HEPA is a type of filter that can trap a large amount of very small particles that other vacuum cleaners would simply recirculate back into the air of your home. They can snaffle at least 99.97 percent of particles of .3 microns, which is so small you can’t see it ever and what’s out of sight is out of mind.

    Armed with this bit of scientific research, I will be looking around for such a creature in due course and completely shatter, mock and belittle any salesman who thinks he’s the last word in particulate removal. No doubt he will be demoted to the washing-machine section where any housewife who knows her stuff can further demean him and make cutting remarks as to his parentage.

    I’m looking at (and for) the Karcher 5600 first off, possessing both the HEPA filter and an additional water filter. Possibly one of the children will have to be sold, but as they make the most dust anyway, this will further enhance the look of the family hovel and not be so much work for the Madam.

    This *much* more technical report was brought to you by NASA, the American people, the Internet and a HP 6730b laptop, so you may trust it is not just a load of hogwash I just thought of.

    • Steve, you old curmudgeon you. The article was about good service not about the vacuum cleaner – mainly I haven’t used it for more than a few minutes, so have no personal experience to use at this time. I also didn’t want to put the sales pitch up here – because according to the brochures, every vacuum cleaner can do everything, including make coffee, remove planter’s warts and cure HIV/AIDS.

      However, we bought a Miele. Not having any serious allergies (other than hard work and BS) we didn’t get the Madicair one that has that HEPA filter. Instead we selected the S 5361 Deluxe Cat & Dog model. I hasten to assert that this is no negative reference to Mrs. Chips (again with the hair!!), but we wanted something slightly more than the ordinary machine.

      I have no experience of the Karcher but if their high-pressure water cleaners are anything to go by, they certainly sound pretty good.

      For more information on the Miele Medicair model, check out

      Let me know how you get on.

  3. Hi,Thanks for the positive comments regarding Stax CLearwater.It is great to see that what we preach works in practise.

    Warren PLasket
    Stax Super Stores

    • You’re welcome Warren. I believe it is well deserved praise for services that positively stand out from the rest

      You will see from other posts , where I experience poor products or services, thatI shall be equally scathing and vitriolic.

      I am of the opinion that South Africans are lamentably complacent and possibly even lazy when exposed to sub-standard products and services. As a result, we tolerate poor service and even reward mediocrity in all areas of industry and commerce. So I’m on my own personal little mission to highlight the good guys and draw attention to the bad guys – to help any consumer who reads my stuff make an informed decision.

  4. Steve says:

    Ah. Abject apologies, old fruit. In my defence, I do actually read the review (even if I miss the point completely).

    Karcher 5600 could not be found for love nor money, but I was impressed with the Nilfisk Coupe, all 2000 watts of it in a most compact bundle and remarkably well designed (it’s made by WAP who are no suckers when it comes to vacuum cleaners) (drumroll, cymbal TISH) and it possesses three filters, the one at the back being the HEPA filter. And it certainly sucks. Which is more or less what one wants.

    The only problem is that it doesn’t come with a crevice tool (That’s NOT funny, Robertson) – the pointy attachment that allows one to clean down the side of one’s car seats and similar places where one discovers where all one’s small change has disappeared to. I will have to buy one to fit from some other manufacturer as it is for me an essential (I want my money back).

    It has large (15cm) wheels for helping it over the bumpy bits and a neat little clasp thingy for enabling the pipe/nozzle/extendable metal thing (you can see I’m an expert) to standup clipped to the machine for storage, and the quality of the plastic seems to be up to scratch.

    The less said about the shopping experience at Game, the better, so I’m not going to harp on about it. Suffice to say that it is better to chase the “attendant” away and not allow him to speak at all than to listen to his mumbled apologies for not having a clue, especially about the whereabouts of spare bags/filters etc. How they get a job at all I have no idea.

  5. Upon re-reading the blog, I believe it is I who need to apologise for the misleading title. I was going to say ‘titular ambiguity’, but that’s like searching for a blog about the Queen, only to find it’s about Elton John’s recipe for fairy cakes, or about his favourite Desert Island Disc, “I’m forever blowing Bublé”… But I digress.

    My ignorance here is lamentable and I confess to never having heard of the Nilfisk Coupe. If you had asked me yesterday, I’d have thought it was something Jeremy Clarkson might comment on, rather than his wife.

    Having been duped into accepting the general offerings of the more common department stores, my thinking was lamentably linear. One traditionally Hoovered one’s carpets, one didn’t Nilfisk them. And I can definitely confirm that “Nothing sucks like Electrolux”, now that we’re getting rid of our broken one.

    However, now that I’ve seen Nilfisk’s offerings on the web, they look fine machines. I assume Nilfisk is Danish for “No Dust”. I also noted, the three filters – one at the back. I only wish one or two of my family members were constructed with a similar configuration….

    Having now had an hour or so pushing the Miele’s around, I am in a better position to validate some of their advertising claims. Similar to the Nilfisk, its 2000 watt motor really sucks (in the conventional sense). While vacuuming the upstairs bedroom, it felt like I was pulling the dust up from downstairs.

    I can also (smugly) confirm that the Miele does come with that…um… crevice tool, and after a short spell on the couch, I’ve doubled my pocket money, which put a smile on Mrs. Chips’ face.

    But now seriously Steve, thanks muchly for the scintillating feedback. I welcome your contributions any time.

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