A customer once approached me and asked to be shown mattresses from a well-known “heritage” company. It’s the kind of company that people say, “oh, my grandma has always slept on a Something or Other mattress so that’s what I want to buy.” Which is fine, except Grandma’s mattress was probably made many years ago when the company still deserved its good reputation. They have been bought and sold several times since then and the products are not the same high quality, although it’s no worse than any other commercially made mattress. It’s easy to assume that a brand-name means something. I even owned a Something or Other mattress back in the day; before I worked in the business. We bought it from a mattress chain store during a weekend clearance sale and felt very posh because we had shopped around and knew that the fancy department store sold the same mattress.
As for the customer with her grandma’s words of wisdom, a couple of things were going through my mind. One, I knew that the Something or Other brand quality was diminished and that for around the same price, the customer could buy a better product. Two, I am not so foolish that I would potentially lose a customer by challenging her grandmother’s advice. You never want to tell a customer that she is wrong. However, as the expert, even though I had an easy sale on the one hand, I felt it would be unethical to knowingly sell an inferior product without giving the customer some information so that she could make the choice.
I decided that I would try to gently educate my customer and point out the differences, without calling her granny a liar. Granny’s bed was probably a good one originally, say, thirty years ago.
I mentioned some features of the unique brands that we passed as I led the young woman toward the pair of Something or Other mattresses in the back corner of the showroom.
“This brand to the left uses materials like wool and latex which have some great qualities. They can help to regulate your temperature, they are naturally anti-microbial and resistant to dust mites,” I said.
“I didn’t know that,” said the woman, “but it sounds like a good idea for something you sleep on every night.”
“These mattresses on the right are made by a small company that has been in business for over 100 years,” I said. “Their high-end mattresses are still made by hand using mostly natural materials, and although they’re expensive, they have a good 15-year life span.”
“How long do regular mattresses last?” asked the customer.
“Most commercially manufactured mattresses are only expected to last for about seven years.” I said.
“Here they are,” I gestured to the two Something or Other mattresses, “the one on the left is firmer, on the right is softer.”
“Are these the only Something or Other mattresses you have?” the woman asked. “I’m confused. When I looked online there were at least a dozen different models.”
“We have these two in the showroom because a lot of people come in and ask for them. More of their models are commonly available in other stores. We choose to showcase brands that are of better quality, like Something or Otherused to be.”
“You mean they’re not anymore?” asked the woman.
“No, unfortunately they’ve changed a lot over the years and are no longer the same,” I said.
“Really, Linda?” came a stern voice from behind the softer mattress. “They’re not the same anymore?” And up popped the company’s mattress rep. His face was red.
Uh-oh. Unbeknownst to me he had been under the bed making some adjustment to the mechanical base. What could I possibly say? Words failed me. I did my best Ralph Kramden impersonation: “Homina-homina-homina.” https://youtu.be/wK9odsWwfIo
The woman ended up purchasing a different brand with a lot more quality for a little more money.
Famous Last Words
Here’s the thing. As with any large and infrequent purchases, it’s important to take the time to do a little research. Be curious. Get your information and advice from reliable, current sources so that you can make wise, informed choices. Don’t assume that an old brand-name automatically infers quality, because in the immortal words of Felix Unger, “you should never assume.” https://youtu.be/KEP1acj29-Y
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