Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
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Monday, September 8, 2014

Back to Bed Loses A Customer to American Mattress

The Internet is a wonderful place and surprise, it's addictive! Admit it, you know you're one of us. We are up all night, blurry eyed and unable to walk away from our keyboard, unable to pull our gaze from the screen. The late night images fuel our imagination, the words on the screen seduce us with urgings to "click here to enlarge."

Nothing gets my juices flowing like the need to make a major household purchase, which of course, cannot be made without countless hours of research. Such was the case when it was time to buy a new mattress to replace a trusty predecessor, retired after nearly two decades of service that has been with me from bachelorhood through two Midwestern states, a wife, two children, three dogs, a couple of cats other assorted life measures.

Let's just say I left no stone unturned in comparing brands, models, technologies, coil gauge, foam, gel, prices, industry practices, sales techniques, and customer ratings and testimonials. I considered online offers, newspaper specials and the in-store discounts offered by eager sales people. After all the research and comparisons, I had my mind set on a higher end Beautyrest model.

Back to Bed, a retailer with numerous locations in Illinois and Indiana, which carries the Beautyrest brand opened a new store in Michigan City, IN and ran ads touting its grand opening with significant discounts. My wife and I took a ride over on a pleasant fall Sunday afternoon fully intending to make our purchase.

The store was cold looking, poorly lighted, uninviting and had the appearance of a strip mall "box" that was unfinished and a temporary location. The products were in lines and aisles that reminded me of an old fashioned  hospital ward. It gave me the feeling that Back to Bed just plopped its beds down in a space where the rent was cheapest, and they spent nothing to create a showroom. It was also empty except for a single sales person who was stationed in the far, back corner of the deep store. He was leaning with his elbows propped on the counter as he listened to a football game being piped through the store's sound system.

He yelled out to us, "Hey, how ya doin'? Have anything in particular in mind today?"

I yelled back that we were just browsing. He pointed to different sections of the store to show us how the styles of coil, foam and "hybrid" beds were arranged. We wandered around, honed in on the Beautyrest display in the very front of the store and tested different firmness options.  That's when I noticed the listed sales prices varied significantly from what I thought I'd read in the newspaper ads. I walked back to the sales person who had yet to move off his elbows and asked about the sale prices. He got immediately defensive, maybe because I was interrupting his listening to the game, whipped out the newspaper ad from under the counter and suggested I misread the ad. "Sale prices are based on the original list price. The percentage discounts you read are already reflected in the yellow prices." The yellow prices were no better than we'd seen advertised by other retailers as their regular prices.

My wife and I took a look at each other, silently agreed we'd had enough of his lazy attitude and the misleading offers, turned and walked out. We left the parking lot somewhat deflated.

However, directly across the street was an American Mattress store and I decided to stop there just to get my wife's enthusiasm back for finding a mattress that met our needs and budget. It turned out to be a watershed experience,

Unlike the store we'd just left, this one was bright, inviting and products were arranged in small groupings that included bedroom furniture, carpets, decorator pieces and accent lighting. This store was also empty except for a single salesperson. Soothing music was playing overhead and I would swear they were pumping fragrances throughout the showroom because the store smelled fresh and inviting.

Before we got five feet into the store the salesperson shouted a friendly hello and began moving in our direction. He shook our hands and then backed off about ten feet before asking us how much we knew about mattresses. "A knowledgeable customer is the best kind of customer" was how he opened. He asked for permission to walk us through how mattresses are constructed and how the categories varied without concern for manufacturers, models or prices. He was most interested in us determining the type of mattress that suited us before considering a choice.

After walking us through his Mattresses 101 course, which proved to be very helpful despite my extensive advance research, we honed in on a couple of choices and decided we'd go home and consider our options. Although he offered us a sale price that was significantly below the posted prices, I avoided haggling at that point. The next day, I stopped back to tell him we'd settled on a particular model at which point he and I entered into price negotiations in earnest.

His informative approach, low key but friendly demeanor and desire to match our needs all contributed to outstanding salesmanship. We spent considerably more than we originally intended and were happy to do so once we fully appreciated the differences in mattresses. Furthermore, he got us hooked on adding a motorized, adjustable foundation, the purchase of which we postponed to serve as an incentive for something my wife and I agreed we wanted to save for first. Where do you think we will be going when it's time to make that purchase?

The American Mattress salesperson might believe a knowledgeable customer is the best customer but I would add a fully satisfied customer who spreads the word is even better.