An acquaintance of mine’s wife manages the print ad campaign for one of America’s largest furniture chains ($30 million plus per year). When he asked her why they continue advertising ridiculous 50-60% off discounts that everyone knows are fake, her reply was, “Because it works.” Well, using a weed whacker to trim your toenails also works, but it doesn’t make it right and I don’t recommend it.
Our industry has a negative reputation that’s been justly earned, with many retailers putting dollars in front of ethics as they advertise ridiculous claims of huge discounts. People hate shopping for a new mattress and put it off as long as possible, often because they don’t want to go through all of the shenanigans associated with this process. I mean, who doesn’t look forward to a weekend full of dodging lies and commission-driven salespeople more interested in selling what’s best for their bottom line instead of what’s best for the customer? In the end, consumers are often left discerning who was lying to them the least instead of who was telling them the truth. That’s just wrong.
As an example, here’s a sampler platter of a few whoppers from my neck of the woods. How about a queen set where you’d expect to pay $1699, was $856, minus an “employee discount” of $457, for a final price of $399. That sounds plausible. Or take the example of another shop in my area that’s been open for a year and has had a “1/2 Off Mattress Sale” banner hanging in their window the entire time. Or, how about the store running a “Going Out of Business Sale” with incredible discounts of 83%? Now who wouldn’t want to go out and navigate those muddy waters?
Honesty is Such a Lonely Word
Do any of those sleep shops sound like yours or ones in your area? I hope not. But if that’s the case, why not try something different – ethical, consumer-friendly, and honest advertising. Skip the fake discounts and promote prices that are fair and reasonable. To assist consumers, maintain the ads from your competition and point out how their ludicrous markdown claims are fictitious and repeated on a weekly basis. Help customers learn to look at the final price they’ll pay and ignore the hoops they need to jump through to get to that price. Above all, explain how difficult it is to trust anything the salespeople tell you when their business’ advertising has already lied just to get you in the front door.
Operating a store without wild discounts requires a focus on education – both for the consumer and your sales staff. Learn, from top-to-bottom, all about your mattresses and those of nearby stores. You’ll need to help customers see, through objective comparisons, that your prices are fair. You’ll only be trusted if you know what you’re talking about, as opposed to disparaging other stores and making things up as you go along.
I’ll grant that operating a business with accurate and honest pricing is more difficult than going along with the status quo and screaming from the rooftops about 80% discounts. But over time you’ll be able to gain a reputation as a store with pricing and expertise that can be trusted, further validating the advice you offer. Become a store where people can visit and not feel pressured. While you may not end up owning a fleet of Mercedes, your store will eventually have better staying power and you’ll sleep better at night knowing you’re treating people the way you’d like to be treated.
Jeff Scheuer has been in the retail mattress industry for more than 20 years. He currently owns Mattress To Go in Shelby Township, Michigan. He's also the creator of Beducation®, a series of online videos that educate consumers about mattresses. A former USA Olympic Team coach, Jeff spends his spare time designing luge training programs and relaxing at home with his family.