Actually, the vacuum really didn't suck at all. It was just too clogged to do much of anything.
We bought it at a tag sale this weekend for $5.00 mainly because Jim was tired of shlepping my Oreck (which I love) back and forth with him every weekend. I thought we could get by this way but it seems that Biscuit's hair makes once a week vacuuming impossible. Despite the hardwood floors, the broom is just no match for the hair of a yellow lab mix.
I discovered the clog while taking the hose off to vacuum the edges of the room. The pile of sand that fell out of it was the first clue anything was amiss. We upended the vacuum and a ton more sand and lint fell out. I wish things came out of the hose that easily but that task took the better part of an hour using a broom handle and a wire snake to clear things out. We opted to do the job outside to keep the indoor mess to a minimum.
It turned out that the entire length of hose was clogged, as was pretty much any other cavity that could be. We took every part we could off and just kept cleaning until we could find nothing else to clean. Then we cautiously plugged it in and hoped for the best. It actually worked really well. Despite our sweeping earlier in the day, we were still able to fill up the dust cup with Biscuit hair. We emptied it immediately to avoid the same problem twice.
In the end, the vacuum really did suck, but in a good way. The moral of the story is, when buying a used vacuum, check for clogs first.