By Carmel Fisher
03 November, 2017
Who knew there was a steely edge to the otherwise snuggly mattress industry?
I recently purchased a new mattress and am pleased I don’t have to go through the process again for 7-10 years.
It wasn’t awful — it was the standard process: visit the showroom, lie on a few mattresses (in full view of other customers and salespeople), choose the comfiest and arrange delivery for a not-so-small fee.
It’s just that you invest a lot — financially and personally — in the purchase of a new mattress.
I hadn’t realised quite how expensive mattresses are these days; the top-of-the-line ones cost more than $10,000 and that’s before headboard and other bedroom furniture.
With such a large outlay, there’s the worry you’ll choose the wrong one. You can’t return it after a month of sleepless nights — but how were you to know having spent only an hour in the showroom?
And what say you love it but your partner doesn’t? You’ll be reminded of your folly for years.
Because mattress buying can be challenging, a new industry has emerged in recent years involving mattress reviewers and online bed companies who deliver mattresses direct to the customer, bypassing traditional showrooms and salespeople.
Reviewers test mattresses over a period of months and write of their experiences online, helping purchasers narrow down their choices. If customers are prompted to purchase a mattress after reading these reviews, the reviewer receives a commission from the bed companies (on average $US50 for every US$1000 mattress sold).
In the US, there has been a flood of direct-to-consumer mattress companies launched, with more than 100 brands on offer today.
Of the $US14 billion US mattress market, online sales are expected to reach $US1.2 billion (up from $US300 million two years ago), thanks largely to the proliferation of online mattress reviewers (also known as affiliate marketers).
Mattress companies are taking this burgeoning online industry seriously, with one recently suing several reviewers for ‘adversely influencing the purchase decisions of many thousands of people seeking a good night’s sleep’ (ie. steering people to other mattress brands rather than theirs).
Disruptor mattress company Casper filed a federal lawsuit against mattress reviewer Sleepopolis saying the blogger will have cost it millions of dollars in potential sales.
Sleepopolis blogger Derek Hales is one of the more successful online mattress reviewers and has reportedly become a millionaire by sleeping on a variety of mattresses and sharing his comments.
His YouTube reviews have garnered 2.5 million views while his site attracts over half a million visits every month.
While initially a big fan of Casper mattresses, in 2015 Hales began promoting other brands with equal enthusiasm.
In a 2016 review, the Sleepopolis site called Casper “an above average mattress, but it’s not above average enough. There are simply too many other mattresses available that I find offer better support, comfort and feel for about the same price.”
Casper took legal action because the Sleepopolis site did not clearly outline the commission relationship that existed with the four recommended mattress companies and not with Casper.
In an intriguing postscript to this David-and-Goliath legal battle, Casper provided funds to enable another mattress reviewer to purchase Sleepopolis.
The site now has a glowing Casper review: “Overall my Casper experience was very positive — the comfort of the mattress definitely stands out from the pack in the my mind ... I say go for it!”.
There’s more at stake than I realised in ensuring we all get a good night’s sleep.