War(ranty) – What is it good for?

Posted by Jeff Scheuer on

How can a piece of paper make a sleep set last longer? Well, it can’t, unless you’re stuffing multiple reams of Dunder-Mifflin’s finest into the upholstery layers of a mattress. Yet bedding companies have known for years that offering a longer warranty, no matter how convoluted, changes the public’s perception of a mattress, making them think it’s more durable and valuable than one with a lesser warranty. That’s not right.

How many of us have ever replaced a mattress within the prorated period? I haven’t processed one in 22 years. How many comfort consultants can even adequately explain a prorated warranty? Still, too many salespeople continue to use warranty as their lead selling tool instead of differentiating between products by quality of construction and componentry.

It doesn’t end with exaggerated warranties. Many stores, including one of the largest online mattress retailers, affix ridiculous comfort life expectancies to mattresses, basing these numbers more on the retail pricing instead of quality. Adding .75” of 1.2 Lb. foam to a mattress and increasing the price by $200? Why not slap another 3 years of comfort life to the product. I’ve seen ratings of over 30 years for some incredibly basic mattresses. These comfort life ratings offer more fiction than the stories my mom used to read to me at bedtime when I was two. And those had dragons and unicorns.

I applaud people like Gerry Borreggine, past ISPA Chairman and current CEO of Therapedic, who has spoken out about shortening mattress warranties to more reasonable terms. The mattress is the most used piece of furniture in the home, yet companies put out $599 mattresses with a 15-year warranty, while their $4,000 television has only 1-2 years of coverage. He argues that retailers should focus more on educating their sales staffs on product knowledge and rely less upon warranties. I concur. And recently, Tempur Sealy consolidated their warranty programs and deleted the prorated part of their coverage. This is an excellent step in the right direction – kudos to them.

Let’s focus more on finding the appropriate product that addresses the specific needs of each consumer, as a mattress can have a direct impact upon an individual’s health. Take the time to manage the expectations of customers. Have them reevaluate their mattress after the fifth year of continuous use and let them know that no matter how wonderful of a product they purchased, they should probably consider replacing it after 10 years. We need to convey to our customers that a long warranty and an extended comfort life are not necessarily mutually inclusive items.

This is a hole that the mattress industry has dug for itself over many years, but it doesn’t have to be one filled with quicksand. The Tempur Sealy announcement was a shovelful of common sense back into that hole. It was a step in the right direction, but we still need a few more dump trucks to fill the chasm.

In the end, this issue needs addressing. It’s not something we can continue to paper over.


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About Jeff

Jeff Scheuer has been in the retail mattress industry for over 20 years. His currently owns Mattress To Go in Shelby Township, Mich. He's also the creator of Beducation®, a series of online videos that educates 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. View all articles by Jeff
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