THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Bed rock: They went to the mat(tress)

Consumer disputes involve people, and so they often defy rational explanation, like the situation about which my good friend, Elayne Phillips, telephoned me last week.

She had purchased a mattress and box spring from Mattress King on Route 29 North on March 29, spending close to $1,000.

Mattress King promised to deliver the mattress by March 31, after 5:30pm if possible. Phillips works, so this would fit nicely into her schedule.

That day, however, she arrived home to a message saying there would be no delivery and asking her to call the store. She did so and was able to reschedule delivery for April 1.

But the mattress did not show up on April 1. According to Phillips, the delivery man explained that after completing his deliveries in the morning he didn't want his workmen sitting idle all day until time for the late-afternoon delivery at Phillips' house. That sounded reasonable to Phillips, if inconvenient, so she rescheduled again, this time for April 7.

On April 7, the delivery person called Phillips at work to say he had no helper and would not be able to deliver the mattress that day. At this point, Phillips agreed to leave work and help carry the mattress into her house. Although she signed for delivery, she did not have a chance to examine the mattress.

When Phillips got home that evening and took a closer look at the mattress, however, she says she noticed several dark stains and a tear. The next day, April 8, she phoned Mattress King and spoke with Anne Weaver, the store manager. Phillips said that Weaver agreed to order a new mattress that very day and promised that it would arrive by April 14.

April 14 came and went.

On April 15, Phillips says, she again telephoned Mattress King and spoke with "Mike." He was aware of Phillips' situation, and– according to Phillips– told her the mattress should be coming any day. 

An April 21, Phillips called yet again, this time speaking with Tim and then Weaver. Phillips says they told her the mattress was expected "tomorrow."

Since then, Mattress King has been out of radio contact. Phillips placed several more calls to the store, but they were not returned.

I telephoned Weaver twice, but each time she said she was with customers and would get back to me as soon as she was free. I never heard back.

Finally, I called Mattress King's headquarters in Richmond and eventually spoke with company president Neil Gulati.

Gulati told me that when Phillips signed for the mattress, she attested to having received it in good condition. But he acknowledged she may not have had an opportunity to examine it until several hours after delivery, and in any event, he wants a happy customer.

Phillips has had enough. She now just wants Mattress King to come take the mattress and box spring away and give her back her money. She no longer trusts the company to stand behind its product or its promises. Gulati agreed to that resolution.

True to his word, someone from Mattress King called Phillips almost immediately.

Gulati told me that his company prides itself on its customer service, and that it has won several awards here and in Richmond. That makes his store's actions in this matter that much stranger. On the one hand, agreeing to take the mattress back despite Phillips having signed for it was very customer-friendly.

On the other, the lack of follow-through on that laudable act certainly diluted its effect.

But, hey, even Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.

I'm glad it worked out for Phillips. As for Mattress King, Gulati seemed to be sincere about making Phillips into a happy customer, and he takes obvious pride in his business. I've not come across any other complaints about the store, and given the yin and yang of its actions in this case. I'll chalk this up to a one-time incident that defies  explanation, also known as the vagaries of human nature.

Got a consumer situation? Call the Hook newsroom at 434-295-8700x405 or e-mail the Tough Customer directly.