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WARNING: Sealy / Stearns & Foster EVIL business practices - Nothing to See Here

Jul. 1st, 2009

11:48 pm - WARNING: Sealy / Stearns & Foster EVIL business practices

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I will start this off by making clear in advance that Costco has been utterly wonderful, a joy to deal with, and as usual awesome. Sealy (of which apparently Stearns & Foster is just a brand), however, are the recipients of my utmost disgust.

About nine months ago, we bought a mattress. My wife was pregnant at the time, we were moving into a new house, and a good mattress was rather important for her comfort.

We always had in mind that we would probably buy from Costco, since they have Kirkland[1]-branded mattresses and since you know if you buy from Costco that you can be confident that if there is a problem, they will make it right[2]. We did, however, visit a number of mattress stores to see and try out various kinds of mattresses. We had in mind that a non-innerspring mattress (one with a memory foam or latex core) might be more comfortable, and I was under the impression that they were generally considered to have a very good lifespan.

We had a heck of a time trying to find any Stearns & Foster mattresses without innersprings. Indeed, we failed completely. A mattress store employee told us (though I tend to take things mattress store employees tell me with a liberal pinch of salt) that S&F had pulled all their non-innerspring mattresses, and that they had done so due to problems they were having with them and might be coming out with new ones next season/year. The fact that Costco still had Kirkland-branded S&F mattresses without innersprings, I took to mean that it was possible those ones didn't have problems (perhaps they were the newly formulated ones ahead of S&F's regular offerings), but I knew there was a chance that it could be a problem and was confident that buying it from Costco would ensure I was covered.

For the first 2 or 3 months, our $1800 memory-foam-core mattress was awesome. Luckily, this was the most critical time.

Unfortunately, after that it began to become more and more apparent that something was not right. Instead of conforming to us but returning to shape, it became evident that there was a noticeable dip where each of us slept on it. This started out as being merely a bit annoying, but has progressed to the point where it is causing (thankfully minor so far) back problems for both of us.

I called Costco.com (as we bought it on-line) last Saturday morning, the first time I had the chance and explained the situation. I explained that while I knew I could return it to a store for an immediate refund, I was calling to let them know and also ask if there was any other option (since we would have to rent a U-haul to carry the thing, and since it's damned heavy and would be hard to get out to a truck). They agreed that that was unacceptable and told us that they could process a return and have it collected from our home. No charge whatsoever. Well! Costco, you outdo yourselves again. You are awesome! It would take up to 12-15 business for the carrier to arrange a pick-up, but once they received word that it was picked up, we would receive a credit right back to our card. Perfect.

Fast-forward to Wednesday (much sooner than 12-15 business days, as I rather suspected) and I received 2 calls:

The first, "This is [someone] from Sealy calling about your Costco mattress return." (I will get back to this one!), the second from a carrier to arrange to pick up the mattress (which will be happening on Friday).

Now, that first call is why I am writing this account.

Sealy, you see, are pure and unmitigated evil.

The woman from Sealy asked me a series of questions, confirming that I had called Costco to arrange a return of my mattress, asking what was wrong with it (and, this is important, agreeing that that was totally unacceptable for the mattress to have so deteriorated within mere months of purchase, new) confirming that my address was correct, checking that it came with 2 box springs[3], and then asking one last question:

Very shortly thereafter, the conversation ended with her saying that she would have the carrier call me within the next day. They called later the same day and arranged pick-up as previously mentioned.

The moral of this story, however, is WOW am I glad I bought the mattress from Costco. I know with certainty that if Sealy did in fact try to screw me, Costco would make sure that it was solved and I got my money back. I have no such confidence that were I to buy from a regular mattress store I would not risk getting totally screwed by slimy, weasely escape clauses in warranties allowing Sealy to get out of what was clearly their fault. A mattress should last 6, 8, 10 years, not a few months. It is not like Sealy would take the returned, defective, mattress and re-sell it. It would obviously be discarded/destroyed, so the only possible reason for a stain mattering in that case is so as they can dodge their responsibilities and screw the consumer.

Since we are at a time in our lives (with a 6-and-a-bit month-old baby on our hands!) where we have no spare time, I am very glad that we did in fact on day one put a (waterproof) mattress pad (ironically, a Sealy one) on the mattress since I wanted to keep it in good condition for us, since this means I don't have to fight them as I am certain there are no stains, but a little piece of me kind of wishes I could have the opportunity to fight them and win.

Needless to say, we have ordered our next mattress (this time going for the more safely time-tested, variety; one with innersprings) from Costco.com and are awaiting a call from a carrier for delivery (which could be 4 weeks from now, but last time they said 4 weeks and it was 5 days). I hope that this next one will last as many years as our previous mattress (8 years, and it's still quite pleasant and serviceable as a spare bed). I feel a bit bad about even indirectly giving S&F any business (the new mattress is also "Kirkland by S&F"), however I feel good about giving Costco my business. I also feel good about the fact that the new mattress is $300 cheaper.


[1] Kirkland is Costco's store brand. Unlike most store brands, Costco is pretty discerning and almost anything with the Kirkland brand on it is really outstanding quality, and insanely cheap compared to the same thing by another brand. Often literally the same thing, since Kirkland stuff is generally just rebranded name-brand stuff. In the case of their mattresses, they are explicit about "by Stearns & Foster", but obviously the names of the mattresses are not the same as the ones S&F are sold under in regular stores.

[2] Not to mention that Costco has excellent business practices and treats their employees, as well as their customers, extremely well.

[3] Apparently king mattresses don't come with one huge box spring, for structural reasons, and I guess ease of manufacturing/transport. Perhaps the 2 box springs are the same size as some other mattress (full? twin?) so that they don't have to make as many different sizes?

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