27 years ago, Hoover offered two free international flights with any £100 purchase. Today, it’s remembered as the worst sales promotion in history. *
But here’s the thing: I got two tickets to the States on this promotion!
And the rest as they say, is history.
The advert was simple: purchase a minimum of £100 worth of Hoover appliances and you will be rewarded with a voucher towards an international airflight ticket. By November 1992, a return trip to the USA was also on offer.
A close friend, godmother to my youngest daughter, had recently relocated to Boston due to her husband’s work, and invited us to visit her. There was no way a young Vicar could afford airflights to the USA at that time, but this advert made all the difference – the church needed a new vacuum cleaner, and so did the Vicarage.
They both got new Hoover vacuum cleaners, we filled in the forms and sent them off and sat back to await our flight tickets. And a kind grandmother offered to pay for another flight – it was decided I would take our two daughters.
After a lot of negotiation with Hoover, including saying we would go at any time,we received flights to New York for mid February. It would be cold – but who cared? It was term time – but head teachers thought it would be educational. We had a few friends in the States in other places as well as Boston; Amtrak trains seemed cheap so we flew into New York, and set off.
Arriving in Central Station with 11 year old and 9 year old daughters, I was faced with a gun shooting just in front of us, and all hell was let loose as the cops arrived. Jetlagged, I wondered why on earth we had come. We staggered on to the Amtrak train - and arrived four hours late at 3am in Evansville, Indiana; our dear friends had fortunately waited and were there to meet us as we jumped down on to the tracks, there being no platform.
From there, things could only get better! My daughters attended school. My American friend drew up a list of words which we understood differently. She drew a line down the page, wrote “English” at the top of the left hand side, then turned to me and asked, “but what do YOU speak?” Top of the list was rubber, let the reader understand. I had presented her young with Paddington Bear stationery, including an eraser …
Atlanta, Georgia, was warm and mild even in February, and I learnt a lot about the recent War and Unpleasantness, and the devastation it wreaked on the area. Hang on, I thought, America wasn’t invaded during the Second World War.
Turns out my friend was talking about the Civil War. I had a lot to learn about the States.
On to Alexandria, Northern Virginia, to English friends; the husband was teaching at the seminary (Theological College) for a while, and was attached to The Falls Church. Little did we know, when we attended church with them on the Sunday morning, that I would end up as a member of the clergy team there. At the time, I didn’t even think women should be ordained!
And so to Boston, where the elder daughter and I dropped the youngest, and we headed home. She stayed for another week, to go to school for a few days with the twin sons of her goddaughter, and travelled home as an unaccompanied minor. She was brave.
She also loved the States.
So really, I can blame Hoover that my youngest daughter now lives in Northern Virginia and is married to an American.
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* You can read the full story of what happened to Hoover and how much it actually cost the company by reading the August 10th2019 edition of The Hustle here: