Mattress Malice

Mattress Malice

Alisha Bhatia, Staff Writer

“Nothing would make us happier than to pay you a ton of money,” CEO Phillip Krim stated in an email while advocating for his product. What happened after was completely unexpected.

Nothing good usually comes from emails like these. With bribery usually comes corruption, but the reason this case is unusual: it deals with mattresses.

From the outside, the mattress market may seem like any other. However, the industry is somehow filled with scandals of bribery for online reviewers, lawsuits, and almost instantaneous growth for startups.

When Phillip Krim offered in his email to pay “a ton of money,” he was offering the site Mattress Nerd to advertise his company Casper’s mattresses only instead of the competitor Leesa that Mattress Nerd also reviewed. The rest of his email is as follows: “but we need to do it in a context of being accretive to Casper. Currently you actively endorse a competing product on our review page. What can we do not to have you endorse another product as superior to ours? I am certain we can be a better partner to you than Leesa”[1].

This kind of direct and unabashed bribery is common in the mattress industry. Why this industry specifically? Because of a perfect combination of the high price of the product that offers a high commission for bloggers and mattress reviewers who advertise the mattress and the great dependence of customer purchases on reviews due to the rise in mostly-online retailers.

But bribery like this is almost entirely why companies like Casper have received so much success. Casper specifically was started only six years ago and is now worth over $1 billion.

The mattress industry is riddled with corruption, so much so that even more questionable acts were found even in the same company. Casper’s online reviews suddenly skyrocketed on the site Sleepopolis after Casper acquired the mattress review site. Even now, the site unusually sends more customers to Casper out of all other mattress companies[2].

From the reviewer’s perspective, Memory Foam Talk owner Andrew Levy explained that the mattress company Nectar paid him $150 for each mattress sale, and that this could be nearly three times as other brands were paying this. In regards to this, he explained that higher commissions influenced how he ranked and promoted each mattress company on his site. CEO of Chris Young also admitted the same thing.

While these may not seem like outright claims of bribery, it is certainly clear that the commissions don’t affect reviewer rankings (and therefore consumer purchases). Because of this, reviews are now becoming synonymous with advertisements, and a mattress company’s success is largely dependent on it.

What does this mean for non-mattress enthusiasts? The mattress market may be niche, but the problems are not. As people begin to shop online more, a phenomenon exacerbated by the pandemic, we will see the success of all business become reliant on how much money they are willing and able to fork up.