Wednesday, January 23, 2013

1126  Sleep On It

Frustrating!  Buying a mattress is pretty close to the way you had to buy used cars in olden days.

The “old” mattress here is not so old, but it’s worn out. (No snide comments, please, about either laziness or athletic activities!)  Still have three years to go on its “unconditional” ten year warranty.  This is a problem, since the maker went out of business two or three years ago.   So much for “buy local.”

We are inundated with ads for mattresses with user-variable firmness (a glorified airbag with a remote control,) mattresses made of “space age” materials that didn’t exist a generation ago and “conform to your body shape.”  (Most of us would rather not be reminded of our body shape, thank you.)

We are inundated with ads for phone order warehouses (“leave the last ‘s’ off for savings.”)

Even shopping TV sells mattresses, and offers “White Glove Service,”  which means they don’t just plop the thing at your front door, they’ll go upstairs, set it up and then take the old one away.

Customer:  Does your 30 day return policy apply to mattresses?
Customer service rep: Of course, sir.

But it really doesn’t.  You’ve already let them take the old one away.  And when you sleep on the floor, your body shape conforms to it, not the other way around.

Most people seem not to care all that much about which of the handful of jointly or private equity fund-owned mattresses they buy, they just want a decent night’s sleep.

Sealy owns Stearns & Foster and Bassett and in turn is owned by KKR, the private equity company which bought it from Bain Capital.   Simmons and Serta are jointly owned but operated more or less separately by Ares Capital and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Got all that?  No?  Okay, here’s a summary:   all the major brands are owned by two entities neither of which has anything but a financial interest and a fixation on the bottom line.  And it’s not YOUR bottom we’re talking about here.

There are no “mattress guys” in the mattress business as there are no “car guys” left in the auto business.

Which brings us to the used car lot aspect of the “buying experience,” as retailers now call shopping.

A carnival atmosphere.  “Yay! You’ve come to the right place.  Tell ya what I’m gonna do.”  Forced, in your face “friendliness.”  You wonder where all the guys who sold Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, Plymouths and Mercurys went?  Now you know.

It’s hard to deal with the big tooth human hovercraft at the Mattress Carnival.

At classier shops, the sales people have smaller smiles and correspondingly smaller teeth.  But they all sell the same stuff.  And usually at the same price.

So, you pick your poison:  glad handed to death or intimidated.

The big stores and the chain stores have too many choices.  Confusing.  The small stores have too few.  

So maybe the answer is to find an empty cover and a dealer in hay and straw.  Stuff your own.  It’s like having one of those adjustable firmness air mattresses without the remote control.  But much cheaper.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

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