Retailer drops mattress comfort exchanges over bedbug concerns
Michael J. Knell -- Casual Living, March 17, 2011
RED DEER, Alberta — Western Canada's largest regional mattress specialist, Mattress Mattress, has discontinued its "comfort exchange" guarantee program, partly in response to consumers' growing concerns about bedbug infestations.
The company also said it believes if the consumer is sold the right bed in the first place, offering comfort exchanges shouldn't be necessary.
Lori Fecho, vice president and director of retail operations for the16-unit chain, said the mattress industry's standard practice for several years has been to offer comfort exchanges, allowing customers to return beds they don't like for periods ranging from 30 days to six months.
But by no longer accepting any used mattresses into its warehouse, the retailer has eliminated the possibility that any of its new mattresses could come in contact with used ones containing bedbugs.
"Our customers can sleep at night knowing there are no bedbugs in sight!" Fecho said.
Mattress Mattress calls its approach the Peace of Mind Commitment.
Fecho said that since the company opened its first store in 1994, its practice has been to assist the customer in making a good buying decision and in finding proper support and comfort.
"We're so passionate about this, we call our people ‘beducators' rather than RSAs (retail sales associates)," she said. "It's not unusual for customers to visit a few times, or to spend two or more hours in the store finding the right mattress. It's a process - an investment in a quality sleep."
She maintains this approach to selling has been so successful that the company's return rate has been remarkably low. She said that since 2007, it has taken back less than one in 300 of the mattresses it sold.
"This is a remarkable statistic in an industry where rumor has it some retailers exchange one in five mattresses sold and where catalog returns can run as high as 40%," Fecho said.
She also said it's becoming increasingly difficult to sell either exchanged or "demo" mattresses, in part because of the intimate nature of the product. Consumers have been spooked by recent news reports documenting the spread of bedbugs in urban centers. Since bedbug eggs are not visible to the naked eye, a clean looking mattress is not necessarily bedbug free, she said.
And there are other concerns as well, Fecho said: "Returned mattresses can harbor allergens such as smoke or pet dander."
She said that for hygienic reasons, Mattress Mattress stopped donating used mattresses to charities and women's shelters in 2004. To continue helping the nonprofits, it has donated hundreds of new mattresses since then in a program it calls Matts 4 Kids.
"We think our customers deserve peace of mind that a mattress coming out of our warehouse has not been put at risk in any way. Having inventory sitting that's been returned from an unknown environment could be asking for trouble," Fecho said, adding that the response from consumers quite positive.
"Our customers really appreciate knowing their ‘new' mattress is definitely new," she noted. "Our customers know there are no used mattresses going out the door."
However, Fecho acknowledges that there probably will come a time when the only right thing to do is accept a mattress return.
"Our first thought is that if we have to take back a mattress, we'll just take the hit," she said, disposing of the returned goods rather than taking them to the warehouse. "We won't have a customer stuck with something that's not right."