Mattress Madness

Today’s Wall Street Journal had a story by Stephanie Yang that looked at the world of online mattress sales, and how people try to scam the system.

Many online mattress firms offer “free” trial periods during which customers can try out a mattress. The customer typically pays for the mattress upfront and gets a full refund if the mattress is returned before the cutoff. The trial periods vary in length among the mattress firms, with Nectar Sleep offering a generous 365-day trial, while many are in the 100-day range.

It’s a fairly common business practice to allow a customer to try something before they buy it. The problem is when customers abuse such an opportunity.

The journal profiled some examples of this customer abuse:

  • Over the course of 15 months, one customer slept on five different mattresses, each one purchased and returned consecutively using the free-trial policies of dozens of bed-in-a-box startups. “You could literally do this and never pay for a mattress,” he said.
  • One customer used a free-trial mattress during a three-month stay in Los Angeles.
  • Relying on a friend’s suggestion, one person planned to sign up for several of the free trials. She started with a 100-day trial of a Casper mattress, fully intending to return it at the end of 100 days. However, she as a day late, and has had to keep the $800 mattress, which didn’t really like.

There are so many problems with this mindset of trying to game these free trials.

First, it’s not free. Since you are paying for the cost of the mattress upfront and having to wait anywhere from 100-365 days for a refund, there is an opportunity cost associated with that money that you no longer have access to.

Second, there’s the issue of what to do with the returned mattress. There are laws against selling used mattresses, so the companies may give the beds to shelters, or more likely, the beds end up in a landfill.

Third, there’s the impact of all these deliveries and returns on the environment, such as the additional fuel costs.

Fourth, there are personal costs such as:

  • keeping track of delivery and return dates
  • assembling, disassembling, and packing
  • time spent online researching for what your next mattress will be.

Fifth, there’s the fact that the extra costs incurred by the firms of dealing with such customers are likely passed on to the customer who actually buys a bed. How is that fair?

The WSJ story was one of those rare ones where almost all of the comments were unanimous in their outrage over such customer behavior.

Here are some sample comments:

  • The benefit these misers receive pales in comparison to the additional costs incurred by the manufacturers, whose expenses are ultimately paid for by everyone else.
  • The fools gaming the system increase the mattress costs for everyone else.  Shame on them.
  • Ridiculous. The amount of time and effort to purchase a mattress, wait for it to arrive, unbox it (with that gross plastic smell), and then return it only to go through the same process again, could be much better spent. Some people are so pathetically miserly!
  • I’m glad to see so many commenters stand up for ethics. Shame on people who game the system.

We bought our last mattress online (from flobeds, highly recommend), and while there was a free trial period, we bought it with the assumption that we would be keeping it. And while it wasn’t too bad putting it together, it is not something I would want to do on a continual basis, not to mention taking it apart and packing it each time I wanted to return it.

I certainly believe that a good bed is an investment in your health, and you should buy the mattress that is best for you. After all, you do spend one-third of your life on a mattress, so you might as well make the most of it.

So do your homework, try out different mattresses in a store, and then take the plunge and buy one.

Not having to worry about returning your bed will likely allow you to sleep better, and isn’t that the goal?

P.S. On a related note, I’ve always thought that Sleepy’s mattress has one of the all-time great slogans:

“Trust Sleepy’s for the rest of your life.”

The double meaning is perfect.

*image from SleePare

13 thoughts on “Mattress Madness

  1. I read this too and was quite surprised by how some people took complete advantage of the system. like you, I ordered one and have kept it, as planned.


    1. I agree. It’s much more important than a couch, a TV, a fridge, etc. After a house and a car, a mattress is probably the next biggest investment we can make…


  2. I had no idea. I had seen the commercials and knew of the trial periods, but never continued that train of thought to the abuse of the free trial system. I guess I am no longer surprised by our ability to cheat to win. Great post!


  3. Sort of reminds you of the person who returned a Christmas tree to CostCo in January … True story, and CostCo refunded the money for the dead tree. Says more about CostCo than about humanity, no? 🙂


  4. Many online mattress firms offer “free” trial periods during which customers can try out a mattress. The customer typically pays for the mattress upfront and gets a full refund if the mattress is returned before the cutoff. Its really happen.
    Thanks for the information.


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