Bedder or Worse

by Kenneth B. Lourie

I’m not a betting man, so I probably can’t understand the gamble one of America’s largest mattress discounters took recently. According to its current radio promotion, this national mattress chain bought “8,000 truckloads” of product, “nearly one million pieces” of bedding. Enough, the ad says, that, “if they placed the mattresses end to end, they would stretch between Washington and Kansas City.” Wow! I’m sure that would require a lot of sack time.

The commercial goes on to say that the manufacturer told the discounter the more it bought, the deeper the discounts would be. And of course, the ad states, these discounts will certainly benefit the bed-buying public.

I couldn’t help but wonder, though, if this mattress discounter was merely attempting to turn disaster into dollars. Granted, buying in volume reduces the unit cost, but one million pieces of bedding? That seems like an awful lot of box springs and mattresses, even if it does have stores all across the country. But what do I know? Maybe there are still plenty of renters, homeowners, colleges, hoteliers, moteliers, shelters and miscellaneous other people and places that need bedding.

This promotion reminds me of two business stories I like to tell. One is about Home Depot - the box-type, super hardware store - and the other is about a woman’s hair salon (any one will do), specifically those where chemicals are applied to hair when wet to promote body, bounce and curl.

As concerns Home Depot, I spend very little time there. One time though, I was inside, wandering (lost would be a better description), when I happened into the bathroom fixtures aisle, which naturally was not my intended section, but again, what do I know? As I looked around, left and right, up and down, to get my bearings so to speak, I gazed on what I’ve come to call “the wall of toilet seats.” Approximately 10 horizontal rows up and nearly 25 columns wide, all with seats hanging on hooks, lids down, arranged for the public’s viewing and selecting pleasure. It was the most awe-inspiring sight I had seen in a long, long time.

Incredulous at the 250 choices (shapes, sizes, colors, designs, etc.) and the supporting inventory shelved behind, I believe I said out loud, to no one in particular, “Who’s buying all these toilet seats?” It’s not like they’re weekly, monthly or even yearly purchases - identical in life expectancy to a bed, I would guess - yet there they all were. Ready and available for immediate replacement.

With respect to the beauty salon; women occasionally feel the urge to change their hairstyle (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Sometimes that change involves the application of chemicals. Generally speaking, this chemical-applied process is called a “permanent.” But, as any woman who’s paid (and repaid) her way through this “process” knows, the “permanent” solution is hardly permanent. It’s temporary. In fact, if the salons actually called the permanent what it really was, they’d have to call it a “temporary,” because that’s what it is. It doesn’t last forever; it only lasts for a while.

Listening to the mattress truckload commercials lately, I remembered these two stories. Are they fact or fiction? Sometimes too much is simply too much. I mean, how frequently are toilet seats replaced? And other times, calling something what it isn’t, often enough, may convince the general public to buy and not beware. But hope springs eternal for buyers and sellers. It’s that opportunity - and freedom - that makes America great, and hopefully, provides a good night’s sleep as well.

Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.