I don’t know if they’re in your neck of the woods, but many of us have heard those ads for Dial-a-Mattress — just dial 800-MATTRES (“and leave the last S off for Saving”). Well, you can put it back on again for “Service.”

I know we’re supposed to be doing all this via Internet, and maybe one day soon it will be “www.mattress.com.”

But the point is, the Dial-a-Mattress folks have done such a good job of drilling that simple concept into our heads, even going so far as to fly their 800-number over the beach in the summer, that they have created a virtual “category-killer store,” like Home Depot or Toys R Us, without the added bother of having an actual store.


1:54PM Thanksgiving Eve: I dial 800-MATTRES and leave the second S off, for savings. My call may be monitored to assure customer satisfaction. I describe the kind of mattress I’ve been told to get (what do I know about mattresses?), but explain that it needs to arrive before six.

5:01PM: despite chaotic start-of-holiday New York area traffic, the mattress arrives, and at considerable saving. “What?” I wonder. “Do they have roving tractor trailer warehouses responding like cabs to radio calls for this stuff?” (No, they have a warehouse in the Bronx.)

5:05PM: the old king-sized mattress is out, removed at no extra charge. Lest you think I discard things lightly, I might explain that this mattress had seen 17 years’ service. “Turning it over” — my bright idea earlier that day, when some of the loose spring wires had inflicted a couple of particularly painful puncture wounds — had not done the trick. “Over” was even worse, leading me to think that I must have gone through that same exercise a decade ago and just forgotten.

5:06PM: the new one is in.

5:07PM: I’m worried. You have heard of single and double and queen size and king size mattresses? This is a king of the mountain size mattress. It has so much pillowy padding on the top and the bottom, and so much who-knows-what-inside (for the price, despite the Savings, I’m guessing some kind of fuel-injected shock absorbers), it’s made the bed a foot taller than it was before.

Not that I get a lot of say in these matters (no anagram intended), but I’m thinking: vertigo. I’m thinking: protective fencing. I’m thinking: is this really what we had in mind?

5:08PM: the Dial-a-Mattress guys are gone, with a $20 tip I thought appropriate to the season.

That night: we hate it.

Thanksgiving, post-parade: We have decided that embarrassment alone is insufficient reason to spend the next 17 years in fitful sleep. Even money is insufficient reason. Surely, though out of its plastic and slept on, this mattress can be returned or exchanged for some kind of re-stocking fee. On a lark — it’s Thanksgiving — I call 1-800-MATTRES (leaving the last S off for saving) and am dumb-founded to find a human on the first ring.

I explain the situation, beginning by saying, “it’s entirely our fault” (which it clearly was).

“Oh!” said the nice customer rep apologetically, “didn’t anyone tell you about our 30-day comfort exchange policy?”

So I’m here to tell you, first, that if flipping your mattress after 17 years doesn’t do the trick, you might want to give Dial-a-Mattress a shot. But, second, that it’s not just the quality of the products we buy that’s getting better, it’s the quality — at least in many cases (I’m sure you’ll point out the exceptions, as I will too) — of the services.

Lest I tout these folks too highly, I should point out two details of their otherwise saintly exchange policy: first, they do ask you to “sleep on it” for 14 days before exchanging. Second, they give no refund if you switch to a cheaper mattress, as our replacement, sans fuel-injected shock absorbers, can only be. So I guess we’ll be paying a few hundred bucks for our stupidity after all.

PS – Want some advice from a guy who really knows how to sleep? Just get your basic firm cheap mattress. And don’t sell short or buy on margin.


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