September 16, 2014
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Rightly or wrongly, mattress salesmen have a reputation akin to that of used car salesmen. Not every mattress salesman fits this stereotype, but they are out there. I strive every day to be as open and honest with my customers as possible. Sadly, many of my colleagues and competitors aren’t so scrupulous.
To help combat this, I’ve put together a list of a few things a dishonest mattress salesperson might say as you’re out mattress shopping. Hopefully, if more people are aware of these tricks, they’ll stop working and the salespeople will stop using them.
You need to buy this mattress protector, or your warranty is voided
This is one I’ve heard coworkers say and it makes me cringe every time. While I do STRONGLY recommend using a mattress protector for many reasons, not buying one from the store does not void your warranty. A mattress protector will help preserve your warranty, whether you buy it from the store or you go home later and buy it from Amazon.com, but it’s not required for the warranty. If your salesperson tries to strongarm you into buying a protector from him by lying, what else is he lying about?
You need to buy a boxspring in order to have a warranty
Similar to the mattress protector scenario, you don’t necessarily need to buy a boxspring to qualify for a warranty. For example, you can put your mattress on the floor, you can use a platform bed, or you can put it on a storage foundation and still keep your warranty. You can read more about the need for a boxspring here.
We have a few mattresses left over from a holiday sale/cancelled hotel order/inventory error, etc. Buy one now or you’ll never get this price again.
There are a near infinite number of ways a salesman can word this one. Here’s how it usually works.
Customer: Do you have a card? I need to sleep on it (ha ha, get it?) before making a purchase
Slimy Salesman: Sure, let me give you a written price on the model you liked. Oh, the system says there’s an inventory error, let me call a manager to check on this.
Slimy Salesman: Great news! My manager tells me we have 2 mattresses left from [insert limited offer here] at an amazing price! If you want to reserve one now, you can get that price. Otherwise, they’ll be gone by the time you come back.
So what’s going on here? A few things are at work. First, the salesman wants to earn your business right now, and price is the most common objection, so he wants to drop price. But, he doesn’t want you to know that he can just arbitrarily reduce the price at will, so he calls a manager to do it, and they come up with a vaguely plausible reason that the price is lower. Additionally, they want it to be a limited offer that you have to act on now to prevent you from shopping around.
The reality is that the price they offered is not on any special merchandise. Inventory management doesn’t work that way. There isn’t a separate section in the warehouse that mattresses reserved for a sale or for a trade show or whatever else are stored. If a company legitimately does have too much stock on something, it’s just mixed in with the rest of it at the same price.
So, if the price offered to you is legitimately good enough, and you’re tired of shopping and negotiating, feel free to buy it. But don’t buy it just because you think it’s a limited offer. It’s not. You could come in a month later and that price will likely still be honored.
Important caveat: On certain products, like the Serta iSeries or Tempurpedic, there is a minimum price the retailer is allowed to sell it for, and during some holiday sales, the manufacturer reduces that minimum selling price. For example, Labor Day 2014, Serta offered a free boxspring with the purchase of any of their mattresses, and the retailers were allowed to match that. The day that promotion ended, that sale offer legitimately expired. If a customer tried getting that price the next day, they were unlikely to get it.
The shady part is when the salesman invents some fictional sale to try to pressure you into buying now. Take the salesman’s reduced offer and continue to shop around with that if you have the time and inclination.
Overselling the mattress warranty
There seems to be a lot of warranty-related ones here. When a salesman says a product has a warranty of a certain length, verify that it’s a non-prorated warranty. An honest salesman will tell you right up front, “this product has a 10 year full warranty followed by a 10 year prorated warranty.” Or they’ll just say it has a “10 year warranty.” A dishonest salesman will tell you “This product has a 20 year warranty!” and then leave off the details that the last 10 years in the warranty don’t really count.
Why don’t I really count the prorated warranty? Let’s say you spend $1,000 on a mattress. If it has a 20 year full warranty, if it starts sagging or a coil breaks or something in year 18, you get a new mattress for free, or you at least get the full purchase price back to help reselect. On the other hand, if you have a 20 year prorated warranty and the mattress breaks, you only get $100 back to help reselect. There’s a big difference.
Again, honest salespeople will be up front about that difference. Dishonest salespeople will try to oversell it.
We’re having a huge sale! This model usually retails for $4,500, and it’s on sale for $1,500!
A disturbing number of places have fake “retail” prices or “list” prices that the product has never sold at. Department stores are the worst offenders, but some mattress specialty stores have started doing this as well. Pay little attention to the regular retail price of an item. There’s a psychological trick known as Anchoring that some retailers try to abuse to make you think you’re getting a good deal. The idea is that your brain latches onto the first piece of information you get about something you’re making a decision on. In this case, it’s the fake “retail” price. Your brain sees this high price, and “anchors” your expectations that the price is a legitimate one.
In most cases, a sale that big is not a real sale, and the mattress has never sold for that absurdly high price. Dishonest salespeople will highlight this fake retail price and talk about how great of a deal you’re getting. An honest salesperson will focus on the current price or even acknowledge that the “list” price isn’t the real one.
Luckily, honest salespeople exist, even in the mattress industry. I still maintain it’s best to go into a showroom to try out the mattresses for support and comfort. But, once you find the right mattress, if the salesman creeps you out, don’t be afraid to make the purchase online. Conversely, if you get an honest salesperson, don’t be afraid to give him or her your business and tell your friends.
What other slimy salesman tricks have you run into? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks again for reading.