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Claims file: A little common sense, please

by Lew Migliore

Almost 40 years in the industry and every day brings a new and exciting cornucopia of issues.

A dealer recently received a complaint from a consumer because her vacuum cleaner was leaving burn marks on the carpet, which was a cut-pile polypropylene. The consumer was using a new upright vacuum with a beater bar and brush.

After vacuuming, she noticed marks in the carpet and upon closer observation the marks revealed themselves to be burns from the vacuum cleaner. The kicker is that during the vacuuming process the consumer was moving furniture, and when she stopped to do this she left the vacuum cleaner running in place on the carpet.

The spinning of the beater bar and brush on the carpet surface generates a great deal of heat, enough to actually melt the surface of the carpet when it is allowed to run in place. Not only is there enough heat from friction to melt the surface of the carpet, but the agitation will distort the tips of the yarn. If the vacuum cleaner is placed on a low setting or if it has no setting, the machine will actually bite into the carpet surface causing physical damage.

Carpet that is polypropylene, which has the lowest melting point of any synthetic used to produce carpet, puts it at a disadvantage because it can be damaged more easily by this type of activity. Dragging a heavy piece of furniture over it or a kid wearing soft-soled athletic type shoes running and stopping abruptly, like in front of a ping pong table, will also leave damage. All of these conditions I’ve seen over the years.

Again, the heat from friction generated will melt the fiber, essentially fusing the tips together. Remember, synthetic carpet is a thermoplastic and each fiber is about a third the thickness of a human hair. It can and does melt when it gets too hot.

Now before you go panicking over selling polypropylene and getting as non-common- sensical as the people to whom you sell floor covering, stop and think about what you’ve just read. If you were cleaning a hardwood floor with a buffer and left it running in one spot, don’t you think you might cause some damage to it? If you were cleaning a ceramic floor with a very abrasive brush or similar device and you scrubbed excessively in one spot, don’t you think you might cause some damage? If you used one of those little steamers on a wood floor and left it in one spot while you moved furniture, don’t you think you might do some damage?

Naturally the answer is yes to all these questions. It makes sense that this would happen. Any damage caused by an end user categorized as maintenance, use or abuse belongs to them, not you. Well, you may ask, should one expect to vacuum their carpet and not damage it? Sure, if they vacuum properly and don’t leave the machine running in one place while they move the furniture and have the setting too low for the length of the carpet they’re vacuuming.

I hope this makes sense to you and puts this occurrence in perspective. Common sense isn’t so common when it comes to claims and complaints.

By the way, the consumer in this column bought a new vacuum cleaner but not from the dealer. Might this not be another profit center for you? You could sell her the correct machine for her carpet.