Sleepy's: The bedbug column The Courant refused to publish about its prime advertiser

This was my column, as approved by my editor, that the Courant refused to publish about one of its biggest advertisers. It was scheduled to run on Aug. 2 but was held without an explanation. This was the first time in my 40 years at The Courant that an investigation by the attorney general was withheld from the public.

State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says he has launched an investigation into consumer complaints that Sleepy’s sold mattresses or box springs that were used instead of new, and in one case infested with bedbugs.

Blumenthal said last month that he has up to 10 recent complaints against Sleepy’s, the largest mattress chain in the United States, with 74 stores in Connecticut.

A letter from Adam S. Blank, Sleepy’s general counsel and chief operating officer. Please click here.

A letter from Stern Environmental Group to Sleepy’s customer Jeff Maier. Please click here.

“We have received a number of complaints, up to 10, that mattresses maybe have been used, with groves and deep depressions,” Blumenthal said in an interview with me.

Prior to that interview I asked Blumenthal to check to see whether any other mattress retailers had complaints filed against them of giving customers used mattresses or of bed bug infestation.

“Sleepy’s was the only one” the attorney general replied.

Sleepy’s denies it has ever sold a used mattress and says its inspection and quality control process would make it impossible for someone to receive a product infested with bedbugs. It says there has never been a proven case of bedbug infestations caused by their merchandise.

Sleepy’s, with 700 stores nationwide, says that the number of complaints against it is tiny compared to the hundreds of thousands of mattresses the company sells each year. And almost all of the complaints were resolved.

Blumenthal’s investigation into Sleepy’s operations is the second in Connecticut since 2004 when the company paid a $4,000 fine to consumer protection.

Two years ago Sleepy’s, according to the Better Business Bureau, paid a $200,000 fine to New York City consumer officials as part of a settlement.

The BBB said that the company faced charges that it used “deceptive sales tactics, including exchanging defective mattresses with equally defective mattresses; charging additional delivery fees to consumers for exchanging damaged mattresses; failing to deliver items when scheduled and not properly informing or offering customers store credit or refund; and refusing to honor manufacturer warranties because of alleged stains.

Jeff Maier, a Norwalk small businessman, asked Blumenthal to investigate Sleepy’s last December because he and his wife had a ‘’severe’’ bedbug infestation that Maier said was the result of buying what appeared to be a used box spring from the Stamford Sleepy’s store.

One week after receiving the box spring, Maier said in a telephone interview, his wife began developing red spots, which Maier said came from bedbugs.

He said they hired the Stern Environmental Group of Secaucus, N.J. to investigate and to exterminate the bugs. The company – which specializes in ridding homes of bedbugs – dismantled the box spring and determined that it was the cause of the infestation, Maier said.

Stern Environmental Group’s report, made available to me, states that the “box spring … was the culprit. There were bedbugs inside and the box spring did not look like it was new.”

Maier said it took two months before all the bedbugs could be killed. (During that time, he told me, he and his wife had to stay in their bed because if they slept somewhere else the bedbugs would have moved with them.)

He said Sleepy’s attorneys offered a replacement box spring, but they denied that the bedbugs came from their merchandise.

Maier said he was suspicious when the delivery was made because the heavy plastic used to seal the box spring appeared to have been opened. He said one of the workers assured him that it was opened by them as they took it out of their truck.

Maier said there is no other explanation for the bedbug infestation. The couple had not slept anywhere else in the weeks prior to their purchase, Maier said, and their personal habits had not changed.

Adam S. Blank, Sleepy’s general counsel and chief operating officer, said last month Sleepy’s was unaware of Blumenthal’s investigation and said bedbugs do not originate in beds, but come from people.

If Sleepy’s had delivered a box spring to Maier that contained bedbugs, all the other merchandise on the truck would have also had bedbugs, he wrote in a five-page response to my questions.

“Sleepy’s does not now, has never, and will never, sell a used mattress. Any claim to the contrary we find to be defamatory,” wrote Blank.

The BBB report state that in the past three years, 633 complaints were filed against Sleepy’s 700 stores (no state-by-state breakdown available).

BBB statistics show that complaints grew yearly in the following areas: warranty issues, product issues, refund or exchange issues, selling practices and delivery issues.

“Complaints to the BBB have alleged failure to provide timely delivery; failure to honor warranties and guarantees; credit and billing disputes; and poor product quality. This firm has failed to eliminate the underlying cause of complaints brought to its attention by the Bureau,” the bureau reports on its web site.

Better Bedding, with nine stores in Connecticut and now in reorganization in Bankruptcy Court, has had four complaints with the BBB in the past three years and still has its top rating of A+.

In 2002 Sleepy’s paid a $4,000 fine to Connecticut consumer officials as part of a settlement into complaints the company delivered mattresses in the middle of night and delivered defective merchandise, and a complaint that used merchandise may have been sold as new. In all four cases, Sleepy’s did not admit to any wrongdoing, which is common in out-of-court settlements.

The report from Stern, Sleepy’s complete response, the 2002 Connecticut settlement details, and the BBB reports, as well as details of the four settlements will be published on this blog.

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120 Comments on "Sleepy's: The bedbug column The Courant refused to publish about its prime advertiser"

  1. Excellent article. Interesting how the Courant held up the article. Today with split second news and the ability to start viral “Tweeting” on Twitter, it is incomprehensible how any news organization thinks they can put a cover on a story for prolonged periods of time.

    Out of the darkness comes light.

    George, my very best wishes to you. A very professional looking blog. Keep up the great work.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:43 am |

      You can thank Jeanne Leblanc and Tom Twitchell for the blog, two former Courant folks. They worked around the clock last week to get us launched the day I was fired.
      The dog

  2. Fantastic, George. Congratulations. Your former employer is suddenly ethics-challenged on many, many levels.

  3. Good luck with the site. I hope you can still offer the same insightful information!

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:41 am |

      It will be up to people like you Nick to keep sending me tips and information. This web site can’t exist without your and everyone else’s help.
      The Dog

  4. Holy Crap, George. That’s not only a column, that’s news. How terrible the new management at the Courant believes advertising is more important that news. But not really surprising. Hope you keep your column on facebook (where I’ll remember to read it). Congratulations for continuing to serve the CT public. You are a true newsman. TGF

  5. Martha Healy | August 15, 2009 at 12:12 pm |

    Fantastic, hope this really gets around. Boo Courant

  6. Nancy Canevari | August 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm |

    Excellent article George. This is definitely going to be bookmarked as one of our favorites. Good to see you haven’t let them get you down. Congrats on the new website. Their loss and our gain! Thanks.

  7. Terrific work, George. This must be a sad time but a liberating one as well. I just blogged about this. Keep up the good fight:

  8. Welcome back, George, and thank you for all you have done, and all you will do. And thank you, of course, for keeping us in the know about Sleepy’s.

  9. Good luck with the new site George.

    And shame on the Courant for putting pandering to an advertiser above honest reporting of hard news. They’ve joined the rest of the media in selling out.

    I’m going to email this story to everyone I know….

  10. I’m sorry to hear that you lost your job, but I’m very happy for modern technology. It’s a lot harder to silence someone when the internet is involved! 🙂

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:40 am |

      Isn’t the Internet just wonderful. It helps when you have people like Jeanne Leblanc and Tom Twitchell – former Courant people – working straight for a week to launch OUR site.
      The dog

  11. Terrific piece, George. It’s an excellent example to cite why we need watchdog journalists like you. Best wishes in your new venture. joins my collection of news resources worth visiting often.

  12. Way to answer back, George.

  13. George Gombossy has worked for the Hartford Courant since 1969—longer than most Consumerist readers have been alive. Yesterday was his last day at the paper, but he wasn’t caught up in one of the rounds of buyouts and layoffs hitting the newspaper industry…

  14. Hope Sleepy’s sues the pants off you along with your former paper. You wrong the column for the Courant and would it stand not that you turned it in and it became their property (come on copy right police). I hate know it all people like you who try to sensationalize stories for to further your own career.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:38 am |

      I don’t think Sleepy’s will want to sue. You see when you sue you have to take the witness stand and be subject to some very intense questioning. I can withstand that, but not everyone can.

  15. Joanne Thompson Pease | August 15, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

    Very fine reporting. All the best.

  16. This is a shocking and important story. I’m so sorry the Courant would rather cater to their unethical advertiser than share this with their readers and keep you employed. We need more journalists with your integrity.

    • George Gombossy | August 15, 2009 at 9:00 pm |

      Thank you for your comment, and thanks for reading. But I’d like to offer a point of clarification. I’m not accusing the advertiser of unethical behavior. My concern is with how the Courant handled this situation. – George

  17. Best of luck, George, but you won’t much need luck, I think.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:37 am |

      You are the best Susan, please give my regards to everyone at The Courant and let them know that the days that they have to have any negative column, story, or blog about our advertisers won’t last long.
      The Dog

  18. Your story has been picked up by Good work, keep up the fight.

  19. GabachoMike | August 15, 2009 at 9:28 pm |

    So sorry to hear that you’ve lost your gig, George. Somehow, this will not look good for your [former] employer’s business sense, ethics and overall good judgment.

    I remember when i got fired from a job i loved. It forced me to get out there…and see what else is out there to discover.

    Years later, i love my new job. Hopefully, your new adventure will pay off soon for you.

    Like they say: living well IS the best revenge.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:35 am |

      Not looking for revenge, looking to steer The Courant – a GREAT newspaper – back on the right path – to ALSO provide public service, not just the stories and columns that sell papers
      The dog

  20. To all Sleepy’s customers …. get your bed bug mattress and box spring encasements on eBay!

  21. George,
    I am so sorry to hear about you being fired. You have my greatest sympathy.

    I wish best of luck on your new blog. Get ad revenue asap.

  22. It’s amazing when money is on the line the truth becomes silenced. Thanks for standing your ground and getting the truth out. Good things come to good people~ Great article and good luck!

  23. Great story that I got through the Consumerist.

    As usual, I took a different angle on your story and the CU piece.

    Good luck with your journal. I’ll link your site and you can link mine if you like.

    Stephen Pate

  24. Thanks for the article. Not only will I never buy a mattress from Sleepy’s from now on, I will no longer patronize the Courant for my news.

    • Carolyn Polewka | June 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm |

      I totally agree! Great work & it’s their loss! Best to you!
      Carolyn A. Polewka

  25. George,

    Your article appears to be well researched.

    Who at the courant fired you?

    What can we do to get them fired and you rehired?

    Keep up the good work.

    All the best,

    Bill Corcoran

    • Yes, please let us know who the best person is to contact. This is so ridiculous! It makes the Courant look terrible.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:31 am |

      There is, stay tuned
      The dog

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:33 am |

      Contact Tribune Hq in Chicago and ask them to explain the role the publisher, and the two top editors at the newspaper had in deciding to kill the Watchdog column, which really was the people’s column.

  26. Outstanding article, George and kudos on the website!

    I’m a fan of yours from California — started reading you back when you published that expose on BestBuy’s sneaky internal website which they used in order to deceive customers. Your investigations are beneficial to consumers beyond your local area. I haven’t shopped at BestBuy since and I’ll now add Sleepy’s and the Courant to my list of companies to warn friends and family about.

    Thank you for all of your years of public service – you are much appreciated! Keep up the great work!

  27. Robert Mathis | August 16, 2009 at 12:41 pm |

    The Sleepys coverup has led to Sleezy Editing and unfair termination. Time to get rid of the Editor infestation. The Hartford Courant has sunk to a new low in not allowing honest news reporting; especially regarding public health issues. How many other topics have been censored because of the toes it may hurt?

  28. I bought a mattress set from Sleepy’s in 2008 and soon after became quite ill. Still am. Now I am wondering if the two events are connected.

  29. So sorry to hear of the publisher failing to published that which is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office, conflict or not by an advertiser. Hoping that after the State Atty Gen settles this investigation you can sue for wrongful termination….

  30. This shows that the Courant has basically sold off its journalistic integrity for ad revenue. I’ll be canceling my subscription and I won’t ever buy anything from Sleepy’s. There’s no doubt that the Courant management was completely short-sighted and this will speed up the impending doom of a once fine newspaper. George-I’ll be writing a letter to them and copying Sleepy’s so they understand that some people still care about quality reporting. Good luck with this blog and I’ll be reading.

  31. This firing is ridiculous! I have a story about Sleepy’s and bedbugs, one that is pretty awful…I moved to a new apartment in New York a couple of years ago, and for five months, I slept on a full-size mattress that came with the apt. Finally I decided I wanted to upgrade to a queen-size mattress, and I ordered one from Sleepy’s. It was delivered to my apartment. A month later, I noticed bites on my body, and checked the Sleepy’s bed, and found bedbugs.

    If you have never had bedbugs before, all that I can say is that I am EXTREMELY jealous of you…they really messed up my life. I felt awkward in social situations because they were all I could think about, and yet I couldn’t talk about them to anyone because of the social stigma of them. They took forever to get rid of, and I still have nightmares about them, and the worst part is, they are spreading and spreading and no one in New York, except for a few brave councilmen, wants to talk about them because they are such an embarrassing subject.

    There need to be more articles about Sleepy’s and its practices, especially since I know other people who have ordered from them and found bedbugs in the mattresses. I don’t understand why newspapers would shut these kinds of articles down.

  32. Talk about yellow journalists.

    The courant’s been going downhill for years.
    It’s overflowing with syndicated content, especially in their pitiful business section.
    And the design of the paper makes it look like a desktop-published newsletter.

    Sorry to hear about what happened to you. Maybe the local news stations will do a piece on it so people know about the Courant’s lack of journalistic integrity.

  33. George, thank you for all that you do.
    So glad that you will keep serving the people of Connecticut through this new site.

    I am sure that honest business people will advertise on your site!

  34. This weekend your firing for telling the truth about investigations into Sleepys mattresses is flooding the Internet if one searches for sleepys and gombossy e.g. (Results 1 – 10 of about 886 for sleepys gombossy. (0.32 seconds)).
    And if you look for Sleepy’s and bed bugs there were so many hits (Results 1 – 10 of about 55,400 for Sleepys bed bugs. (0.22 seconds)) that I started to itch something wild.

  35. George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:27 am |

    I don’t think so, he owns a tanning business in Norwalk

  36. Emily Thayer | August 17, 2009 at 8:09 am |

    For everyone’s information —
    It is entirely possible for bedbugs to be “delivered” with a brand new mattress, if the same truck is used for removal of old and infested mattresses. Plastic wrapped or not — bedbugs are plenty small enough to hitch rides on outside wrappings. The thing to ask for is whether or not the company regularly uses separate trucks for mattress removal and mattress delivery. Most don’t, since it is a more costly way of doing business, and most of us aren’t used to dealing with/preventing bedbug infestations. Bedbugs are spreading everywhere through the common practice of using the same truck for both new deliveries and removal of old and possibly infested mattresses. Although it is much more inconvenient, you may want to purchase new bedding from a dealer that does NOT provide any sort of pick up or disposal of old mattresses.
    Signed –
    Just a Regular Consumer –

  37. I was stunned when I read your last column. You’ve done lots of good. The Courant has gone beyond “jumping the shark”. I just recently renewed my subscription, and in hindsight (even before your last column), am questioning the renewal. To say the Courant has done the community a huge disservice is an understatement. Your blog has been added to my “favorites”.

  38. if you’re going to blogroll the drudge report, you should at LEAST list the Matt Drudge is a political hack – and you might consider exposing HIM.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 9:45 am |

      thanks for your note. My purpose in listing Matt is because his site is tremendously useful to readers because they can easily navigate to hundreds of news sites from there.
      The Dob

      • Wouldn’t it be more useful to host your own list of links? Linking to The Drudge Report when you yourself are a consumer advocate is perplexing at best, unsavory at most. Linking to him from your own blog gives the impression that you espouse his type of yellow journalism.

  39. Christine Palm | August 17, 2009 at 10:04 am |

    Hey George–
    Long ago, when I was a reporter at The Hartford Times (the canary in the mines of newspaper closures) I did a story about how Railroad Salvage was forcing its employees to take lie detector tests. When the retailer threatened to withdraw its (considerable) advertising dollars, City Editor Jim Lynch told me to keep on their tail, because this was a NEWS paper, after all…

    Nelly Bly is rolling over in her grave at this latest calamity…

    Christine Palm

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 11:16 am |

      And that was a GREAT paper you worked for. And I am sure the advertiser did not stop spending money with you guys.
      The dog

  40. Jason Bodenheimer | August 17, 2009 at 10:12 am |


    All endings seed new beginnings. You, my new found friend, are properly guiding news through the new frontier. The evolution of news as we know it cannot be stopped and the newspapers will be left to crumble. I’m proud to know you and to watch this process. I’m confident that in a short period of time, your blog will have more readership than the paper you use to write for. Advertisement will follow readership and one day soon, that newspaper will be begging you to help them stay alive.
    You are in the right place at the right time. Real news cannot be stopped. People will find a way to know the truth in the world – and in this case we have!
    I will be checking your blog daily now and spreading this story in every way I can.

    Sincerely yours,
    All the way from the West Coast,
    And only a few mouse-clicks away,
    Jason Bodenheimer

  41. Sorry to hear about your shabby treatment, George. This column deserved to be published. I’m glad you’re fighting on.

  42. Everyone should boycott The Courant until they dump Sleepy’s as an advertiser. They should not advertise any company that abuses it’s customers and uses legal manipulations to deflect their criminal activity. Carry on George; you;re a good man and you should be rewarded ultimately for your courage.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 12:47 pm |

      Steve: I allowed your post to be published because I believe in a free exchange of ideas – within limits of taste. I UNDER NO CONDITION SUPPORT ANY BOYCOTT OF ANY COMPANY, including The Courant and Sleepys. First of all, many good people work at both companies. They are NOT our enemies. The Courant’s top three managers need to be replaced because it is clear they do not support the public’s right to know. No one has proven any allegation against Sleepy’s that was in my column. The issue is that the state Attorney General is investigating Sleepy’s and The Courant refused to publish the investigation because Sleepy’s is one of its biggest advertisers. I have no evidence to prove that Sleepy’s violated any rules or laws.
      The Dog

      • Some of Sleepy’s retail outlets sell used mattresses. That is a fact. Just look at the back of their flyer to see for yourself. The locations are marked with an asteriks or sometimes highlighted in red. The are called discount clearance centers. One of those places is in Woonsocket RI. However, they stock both used (damaged returns) from dis-satisfied customers and slightly used floor models. Many of those used mattresses have been in someone’s home sometimes over 90 days. That is a long time. The salespeople make more money if they can get those mattresses out the door quicker. The sales people are instructed to call them reconditioned floor models. Those models are also sold as-is because they CLAIM once the original wraping has been removed the warranty is void. To be fair ALL retailers that sell mattresses also re-sell returned mattresses. That too is a fact. Buyer beware when buying a deep discounted mattress. Make sure when your mattress arrive at your home it is factory sealed. Do not accept delivery if the wrapping has been re-taped. Also NEVER BUY THE FABRIC PROTECTION. It’s a scam.

  43. I hope other journalists see what you’ve done here and have the courage to stand up for what is right. Thank you, George, for being inspiring.

  44. I have cancelled my subscription as of today. This management decision put me over the edge and I refuse to pay for what the Courant has become. The “managers” don’t get it if they think subscribers will put up with them cutting half the newsroom and adding more advertisements in place of real news coverage.

    The kicker: When I called to cancel my subscription and mentioned what I’ve said above: the operator actually told me: ‘Why cancel the newspaper because of my opinion of the news content. There are other sections to read including the coupons’

    Her comment made me realize I made the right decision.

  45. Way to go Sleepy’s.
    Now everyone, not just The Courant’s small circulation, knows about you.
    How about we keep track.

    Robert – Norman, OK

  46. A Courant Reader | August 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm |

    One very likely source for the bed bugs is from the delivery truck.

    You see, Sleepy’s for a charge will take your old mattress and box spring away for disposal. In the time from the first delivery of the day to the last it takes little time for one of those little “buggers” to catch a ride on a new mattress to an unsuspecting buyer.

    Yes they might have you believe that the “isolate” the new mattresses from the used ones on the truck but that’s not the case. I saw what was used mattresses along with the one I was giving to them go right up against the new merchandise. Yes the new is wrapped in plastic but it only takes a small tear to let one of the “buggers” in. It is also a well know fact that bed bugs can live for months without any food (blood). So they are living on the delivery truck whenever an infected mattress/boxspring is placed in there.

    By their own addmission, Sleepy’s does “fumigate” the delivery trucks once a month.

    Sleepy’s would never admit that it’s at least a possibility since it would be a PR nightmare for them and lots’s of lost revenue. But odds are this is where the bed bugs are coming for most of those unfortunate new owners of beds within the first few months.

  47. Steve in New Jersey | August 17, 2009 at 2:41 pm |

    Wake up America! What do you think Sleepy’s and most other major retailers do with their “free old mattress removal” Besides the obvious answer in providing a service for their customers, they also sell them to a multitude of mattress rebuilders. How do I know? I’m a long time mattress retailer in NJ. I used to sell both new and refurbished mattresses. We now only sell new, having been sued several times for bed bugs. I don’t remove old bedding, nor were two of those units refurbished. While the Green revolution should welcome keeping these units out of the landfills, the truth is that it’s done as a way to rid the retailers of the matts/boxes and not having to pay for disposal. While getting paid only $2 to $10 per unit, they are not paying extra for dumping. I have dealt with many clean and legitimate rebuilders. They are in every major urban areas. Why? Because these units are primarily sold in inner cities to less discriminating customers. Or more accuratley sold by discriminating TO those customers. Drive in any major retail area and you will see them. $99 Queen set tells the story. What I don’t understand about the letter from the enviromental company is how they can determine if its RB (rebuilt) just by a lack of corners or a loose dust cover. What about the law tag???? In NJ NY and PA, the law clearly says that a unit must have a yellow tag and say “All Second Hand Materials” if it’s RB. I have only seen a few instances of cheating in this respect. While I know nothing about Sleepy’s I seriously doubt that their volume and need for consistancy would allow RB bedding in their operation. Also, and most important, all bedding since July 2008 must have a manufacturing date, to proove that it is meeting Federal fire retardancy laws. The report says nothing about the tag, whether it’s missing, or white, or yellow. Finally George, you should consider working for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Their reporters recently wrote a not so kind article regarding the paper’s publisher, Mr. Tierney, and how their publisher got a big bonus right before the bankruptcy filing. It made the front page of the paper.

  48. I don’t think you should have lost your job over this Dog, but I don’t like stories that are run concerning investigations. What if the AG’s investigation turned up zip – would you write a column saying that the investigation turned up nothing? Would it be so prominent? It seems that a very small percentage of people have complained about Sleepy’s.

    People are not going to buy from Sleepy’s now because they now think – right or wrong – they sell used or bug-infested matresses. As you said – good people work for Sleepy’s. They and their company are innocent until proven guilty. When the investigation was completed was when you should have written your column.

    “Absence of Malice” anyone?

    But again – you shouldn’t have lost your job over this.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm |

      Thank you for taking the time to send us your comment. I think the issue is whether all investigations should be reported or only of those companies and entities that DO NOT advertise with a newspaper.
      The dog

  49. Leslie Wendel | August 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm |

    My son, John, forwarded a news item to me today re your being fired by the Courant after writing the “bedbug” column. If true, what are you going to do with your life now?

    Dick and I now live in Maryland and are enjoying life in retirement. Alice Coleman called me a few weeks ago and brought me up to date on what was going on with you. Let’s keep in touch!

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm |

      So nice to hear from you, as you will find out soon by keeping in touch with my on our website, Prime Maryland Crabs did me in.
      The dog

  50. Jennifer Warner Cooper | August 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm |

    So sorry to hear about all of this, George, but I do think you will flourish with this website. Readers are smart enough to know the difference between advertising and journalism, and they will increasingly turn away from the combined TV news/newspaper model and toward the blogs and other independent news sources.
    Best wishes.

  51. Journalism is surely dying when writers are fired at the behest of advertisers. Shame on The Courant and I will never ever buy anything from Sleepy’s.

    • George Gombossy | August 17, 2009 at 6:16 pm |

      Aaron: thanks for writing to me. I want to make it clear that Sleepy’s had nothing to do with getting me fired and I don’t suggest a boycott of any company. I was fired because The Courant did not want me to continue to write about key advertisers that the public wanted me to investigate.
      The dog

      • Sleepy’s had nothing to do with getting me fired

        As a purely hypothetical matter, which do you consider worse? Having the advertiser complain, or a paper internalizing the anticipated complaint and acting first?

    • Spread the word to whomever you hear about wanting to go to Sleepys. I was one of their victims. I fought back and George fought for me last year – and after weeks of dealing with them, finally got my money back on a lifetime warranty mattress that started sinking within 2 months !
      They’re a corrupt corporation – even their atty. lied – they will get what they deserve – hopefully bankruptcy.

    • I am confused to why you are upset with sleepy’s for this. They are not the one that fired him.

  52. George-

    This saddens me beyond belief. After being an intern at the Courant for three years, it hurts to see the awful turn the paper has taken in recent years. All of the excellence that the Courant used to represent has died, and their treatment of you and your magnificent column disgusts me. I will read your blog faithfully and send my best wishes to you and your family.

  53. The Courant ownership, brilliant as always, gives people one more reason to go to the internet and one less reason to buy their shrinking paper.

  54. George, you dropped the bucketfull at the door of Sleepy’s and the Courant. There seems to be no journalistic reason to withhold this story. There are no anonymous sources, and there are qoutes from all the affected parties including Sleepys. What’s the problem? The problem is Graziano, the GM of Fox 61 who’s pretending to now also be a publisher of a major newspaper. What the public is seeing real time is the dismantling of journalism as we have known it but gutting the real thing and putting a cardboard cutout in its place – preferrably young with large taa taa(s). The new design of the website doesn’t even look like a newspaper, is difficult to read and quite frankly, I only use it to scan headlines. The meat is disappearing and this story is just one more example of news gone wrong. Pitiful. Well done, George. Keep after it.

  55. George,

    I am so sorry and angry about what happened to you. Don’t let them get away with anything. I have bookmarked your new site and will go there often. I’m not sure how many more disappointments I can take from the Courant.

    As far as the Sleepy’s issue goes, they don’t have the most sterling reputation, but of course deserve the time to have their case heard. The AG’s report will tell the tale.

    • George Gombossy | August 18, 2009 at 9:17 am |

      Absolutely – I will be publishing the FULL AG report when it comes out.
      The dog

  56. George,

    Good to see journalists taking the ball and running with it. Journalism is a necessity in America, not something to be controlled by dollars. I too am a journalist with 30 years of experience. It gives me great pleasure to publish each day.

    Write great stories, keep the community informed, and they will support you.

    Keep up the good work!

  57. So happy to see you have this site! Now I’ll no longer need to buy the Courant to read your columns. Reading what they have done really ticks me off. I wonder how many of their other columns are bogus and twisted to their liking.

    You’ll do AWESOME with this site and for the record; I would purchase from an advertiser who advertises here vs. w/the Courant anytime!

    • Still at the Courant | August 18, 2009 at 1:28 pm |

      I think this comment is offensive to the people who remain at this newspaper. While what has happened to George’s column — and the hoopla and negative attention around it — makes me somewhat ill, the columnists still here are upstanding people who would not have their work “twisted”. And the columns they produce every week are certainly not bogus.

      • Okay, so maybe the words “bogus” and “twisted” were a little harsh. However, I certainly feel as though the writers do not have final say in their material if people like the ones running it now are trying to bend information to the liking of advertisers and others. What’s next that they say the person you’re covering is a friend or contributor some how and you can’t say the truth. I will not be able to put 100% faith into the stories. This is my opinion you’re entitled to yours.

  58. I learned of this story from the Consumerist, and suspect that I’m one of thousands readers — perhaps tens of thousands — who now know and respect a name that was unfamiliar to us a few days ago: George Gombossy, a courageous Connecticut columnist who ignored risk to his livelihood to write a story he felt the public deserved to know.

    I don’t know Hartford, but something tells me that the grateful people of your town are going to take care of you, Mr. Gombossy. Thank you.

  59. OscardelaRentaCat | August 18, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    Never mind GI Joe and the Transformers – you are Connecticut’s – if not all of America’s – summertime hero, George. Great reporting in an always-informative and well-edited column. Your actions ought to make everyone wonder what other news they have been missing both on the television station as well as in all other corporate-owned new products. Perhaps, if the publisher’s secretary comes down with a rash from a mattress, they might order up a front-page interactive series with charts and sidebars and crawly video on the bedbug crisis facing all of us while we innocently sleep. Or hold hands in the dark driving range parking lots of Farmington.
    Your colleagues will certainly miss having you as part of the newspaper’s reporting team. I know I will miss reading your column in the newspaper.
    I will bookmark your new website. Keep on being a big pest to those who need a chomp in their corporate, customer-unfriendly butts.

  60. Sleepy's Customer | August 18, 2009 at 9:04 pm |

    Part of this story might be the fact that Sleepy’s has a 30 day return policy. I bought a mattress from Sleepy’s and returned it after 30 days for a replacement. They indicated that the 30-day-old mattress would be taken apart and recycled. However, when they came to pick up my return, they carefully inspected it, wrapped it in plastic and treated it like a very valued commodity. I have always assumed they resold it as new. Note that if your mattress is ripped or soiled, you cannot return it within the 30 days. Why would that be the rule if they are going to tear them apart and recycle them?

    • The majority of customers are told that used mattresses are recycled. There is a hugh markup in matresses. No matress retailer is poor. Sleepys makes money at both ends. In order to keep returns to a minimum they charge a hefty fee for the privilege of returning. They do give you 30 days so long as you pay sometimes upwards of an extra $400.00 plus pay for re-delivery. If you put up a big enough stink they’ll take it back long after that period. Also, after the 30 day period the manufacturer should be responsible as long as the mattress has a 1 1/2 inch depression. It can take months and months for the manufacturer to act. THEY ALL CLAIM A LESS THEN 1 PER CENT RETURN RATE. That is because they refuse 99 per cent of consumer complaints. Most depressions are more than 1 inch but less than 1 1/2 inches. When that 1% is returned the mattress ends up in a clearance center to be re-sold. Yes, to be re-sold. Been there done that.

    • just wanted to make a statement, the reason they inspected your mattress is because it was going on a truck with other mattresses that have to go to other customers. If you had your mattress in your home for 30 days and you had bed bugs it would have then been in your mattress and box spring and would be put into the truck. If they had seen anything like that they would have refused to take the mattress with them. I used to work in bedding and I will say that when there is an exchange many of the vendors will give the company credit for the return. They get the mattresses back and recycle them, not the retailer. That is why they inspected your bed the way they did, if they didn’t they wouldn’t have gotten the credit for the mattress they swapped out for you.

  61. Phil Stephens | August 18, 2009 at 9:35 pm |

    Go George Go!!!

    It’s hard- and sad- to believe that one of the country’s great newspapers has sunk to such a shame. The Courant has much to answer for.

    I deeply admire your courage, determination, and commitment to the truth and the public good. Be proud of what you’re doing…a lot of folks are proud of you too.

    Never give up,

  62. You did the right thing and the newspaper didn’t.

  63. Vikram Desai | August 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm |

    I am SO glad to read this story. I purchased 2 identical (expensive) King mattress sets within about a week from Sleepy’s this year – one for a home in CT and one for a home on LI. The mattresses carry identical tags and appear the same, however that’s where the similarities end. The bed in CT is so soft that I can’t lay on it for more than a handful of hours at a time without getting a back ache whereas the set in LI is consistently firm – just as it’s supposed to be. Sleepy’s doesn’t want to hear from me and cannot answer my question as to why the 2 sets are different, nor will they replace the soft set…until I can show that the depression is at least 2 inches deep, and then they’ll gladly replace my mattress for a fee under warranty. Sleepy’s is a dishonest, disreputable operation.

    I’d welcome any information that you may have as to how I can report my experience to Atty Blumenthal.

    Thanks, and keep reporting the truth!

  64. The Courant is famous for coverups and management interference with the truth. It goes back to the 80’s when the Courant had staff that used drugs at employee parties and also endorsed the selling drugs among it’s advertising staff.

    Once again, money and coverups mean more to the Courant than the truth being told.

    Fight on George, I am glad to see that someone can tell their story and have the Courant have to answer for their actions

  65. Theresa Smith | August 18, 2009 at 10:25 pm |

    Oh, No, George –
    And just when I had what I thought was the perfect story that needed to be told via your column! I hope somehow that you and your consumer work will carry on?

  66. I guess what suprises me here is that I do not think this story is THAT negative or deflaming. It has a pretty moderate tone. I mean, if they fired you for this, then forgot about any really investigative stories.

    I grew up w/ the Courant, and the realization that its no longer a decent paper saddens me greatly.

  67. Damn, George, I was just thinking about sending you a “40 years ago this summer” note to congratulate you on outlasting most of our incoming class of Couranteers… then I saw the Times piece about your sudden departure.

    I hate to think that the old firewall between advertising and the news department has gotten as thin as this suggests. Reminds me of The Brass Check, written back in 1919. (If anyone wants to read about the really bad old days in journalism, see

    From 600 or 700 miles away from Hartford, I’ve still been dismayed by what I’ve read about the Courant in recent years, especially the loss of so many good professional reporters — and old friends.

    Keep fighting the good fight. Hope you don’t have to take it to the mattresses.

  68. Thank you for exposing Sleepy’s and the Courant. Keep up the fantastic work.

  69. This would be the same Courant that took the idea of the Patriots coming to Hartford seriously, still thinks of Hartford as being on the same map as NYC and Boston, was johnny-come-lately to the ennui of the public towards the Whalers’ leaving, and thought Colin McEnroe was amusing many years after readers stopped thinking he was? That Courant?

    I must be living on a different planet or something because this is about as surprising to me as someone saying that the sun will come up in the east tomorrow morning. I’ve taken it as a fact of life and article of faith that the Courant is about as sanely managed and honestly run as their more successful if less influential friends over at the capitol.

    Sad to hear of the spiking and the job loss, but you really should see it as amazing that you lasted this long without being fired for being honest, and never let yourself be disabused of the sense of a need for honesty. Integrity still there? Check. Good. You’re lucky. Some people never do come away from proximity to the Courant or Hartford with sanity or integrity intact. I say run and don’t look back. I’ve always felt that a truly smart artist would erect pillars of salt at the Wethersfield line shaped like businessmen looking over their shoulders.

  70. Bed Bugs are a big nuisance to deal with. The most effective way to deal with them is to maintain proper hygiene. They find it very difficult to survive in clean environments. Pest Control is another good option.

    • You are mistaken. A friend of mine got bed bugs from a 5 star hotel that was beautiful and clean. Bed bugs has nothing to do with hygiene

  71. When mattress shopping a few years ago, we stopped in Sleepy’s and knew after our look around the store and interactions with the store’s sales people that something was fishy. After doing some research, we uncovered a number of unethical business practices and other practices Sleepy’s practices. Thank you for writing about this topic; it’s a shame the Courant decided to part ways over this but doing the right thing is never easy. I am so excited for your new site and will certainly be a regular as you were the best thing the Courant had to offer anyway :).

  72. Hi and thanks for the candor about a difficult item to shop for. We seem as a people to be easily pressed into selecting lowest cost avenues. Without a thorough look at the details of a product or a company, how can we tell the difference between one and another retailer? It does seem odd to see the COO of a bedding chain as the man in charge of their legal department.

    Thanks again and I hope I am subscribed now because you have a valuable story to tell.

  73. George – thanks so much for adding me to the distribution list for your new site. I am the guy that had the John Deere transmission problem from earlier this year and I have to say I was shocked and dismayed when I opened the Courant that day and saw your last column. I wondered what happened and didn’t know until I read this. I assumed the Courant pushed you into retirement as another bone-headed cost-cutting move. I can’t even read the main news section of the Courant anymore. First you get one paragraph of interest about your town in the first 10 pages, then you are bombarded by ads which just look like wallpaper patterns to me – you know they are there but you don’t notice them. Then you get to two pages in which they try to cram all the world’s news before you get to the only two pages I actually read – the editorials and letters. The fact that they allowed you, one of the only columnists actually adding value to people’s lives, to leave, is another example of the Courant abandoning its journalistic integrity for the sake of its finances. Next it’ll be Jon Lender and Kevin Rennie.

    Anyway-I am so glad you are keeping up the good fight to protect the public from getting ripped off.

  74. Cheryl Delldonna | September 23, 2009 at 5:55 pm |

    You helped me out last year when I had a problem with a stove we purchased at Home Depot. You were in my corner all the way, and I thank you. It is the Courant’s loss, not yours.

  75. I am truly sickened to hear how low The Courant has sunk. I have long had little respect for them as a paper due to the plethora of mistakes found in each and every issue, e.g.: fragments of a paragraph embedded within another paragraph at mid sentence (with the remainder of the sentence/paragraph you were reading never to be found), malapropisms and other just plain laughable mistakes (a food column once referred to egg “yokes”, and the Career Builder section advised people when dressing for an interview to “air” on the side of conservatism, etc, etc). But the complete lack of ethics in both refusing to print your column, and in actually using it as grounds for dismissal, are beyond the pale. Thank you for standing up for what is right. Bravo, George! I wish you all the best.
    Deanna Swanson

  76. I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  77. Urgent! Thanks for a very ‘timely’ article, especially since we’ve now found bed bugs in our sofa sleeper, and two other mattresses. Does ‘anyone’ know if there are ‘reputable’ places to buy mattresses, couches, sleepers, etc. from and not get stuck like this? We don’t have the money for a bug service to get rid of these pests, and need to find another alternative is possible. Thanks.

    • Jeanne, DO NOT start buying new furniture! You need to get rid of bedbugs first. I had this problem 2 years ago and changing furniture did not help. I used to find bedbugs under picture frames, under the carpet, inside electric wall sockets! If you buy new furniture, they will get to it as well.
      I managed to find a spray can in Home Depot that worked well against bedbugs. It was not in the regular pesticide section though. You will have to search a little harder. It is purple and gray can called ‘Sprayaway – Good Night Sleep’. It will take some time. You will probably spend a month or two of spraying contaminated places every few days. Note keep looking for black dots on your walls and furniture. Those will show you where the bedbugs are or where they walk. There is a lot of documentation online about this. I will repeat though, buying new furniture will not solve your problem with bedbugs! Good luck

  78. In answer to Jeanns’ question….Call any mattress company and ask if they remove the old mattress. If they say yes…even for a fee…there’s a higher chance you will get bed bugs. One of the main reason people are buying new mattresses these days is to get rid of the bugs. So once the old bed bug ridden mattress is on the truck the critters will move into the truck or other mattresses. The only place I found in NYC is Longs Mattress on 79th Street in Manhattan. They do NOT remove old mattresses. Even then…purchase a bed bug proof mattress & box spring cover…which may eliminate the need for a new mattress entirely.

  79. Dr Don is wrong in that there is no problem with companies removing old bedding as long as they are delivering new bedding that is factory wrapped to customers.
    The bedbug problem is due to bedding stores that offer comfort guarantees and then resell that bedding to unsuspecting customers. I would never buy from a company that offers comfort guarantees which vendors do not take back! The other problem is stores that reburbish bedding which is taking used bedding, recovering, and selling as if it is new. I am in the industry and very well aware of the bedbug issues and its causes.

    • I just ordered a mattress from Sleepy’s. I am canceling it tomorrow. I had a very long conersation with someone the other night and told that I was disgusted to learn that my new mattress would be put on a truck with old mattresses. IT SHOULD BE THE LAW that old mattresses are picked up in a different truck after the new mattress is delivered. This is disgusting. I will order a mattress cover/pad to soften the mattress I have and buy new pillows and call it a day.

      Most stores even large reputable department stores like Macy’s Bloomingdale and Sears haul away on the same truck. They all offer the comfort guarantee. Maybe congress needs to step in???

      Thank you!

      P.S. I got a deal I will NEVER get again….and I don’t care…bedbugs are not worth it! Disgusting!

  80. It’s not necessarily true that you get bed bugs from people, not mattresses. Bed bugs can live up to 18 months without a food source, so they can live in mattresses and even empty apartments just waiting patiently for a host to come along. So be careful of where you buy mattresses and if they come wrapped in plastic – keep it on forever!

    If not, either buy encasements or to save money, buy a roll of sheeting plastic and lots of duct tape and wrap them up yourself.

  81. Former Employee of Sleepy's | February 23, 2010 at 2:20 am |

    I was a store manager for Sleepy’s for over two years at various stores in CT. The outlet mattresses were often times used and everyone knew it. If a customer wasn’t pleased with a mattress they sometimes would exchange them and then those would come back to the stores as outlet.

    I don’t think the new mattresses were used but the outlet ones definitely were.

  82. While their answer that they didn’t cause the problem could be true or false Sleepy’s response is inaccurate. New mattresses are shipped in plastic bags and one would assume if they shipped a used one it too would be in a sealed plastic bag also. Therefor the bugs could have been trapped in their own bag until opened. In their defense If they were shipping large quantities of used bedding their warehouse would likely become infested because bed bugs don’t just live in beds but in any dusty area even in some cases outside. If there were used bedding in the warehouse that was still not wrapped it would also infect the warehouse and there has been no report of that yet.

  83. I guess this is a call for consumers to be more discriminating. Just because they are a big mattress store does not mean they sell the best mattresses. The mattress you are buying should be delivered in their best condition–that means the plastic wrap is still intact. As to that, why would the deliverers open the plastic wrap anyway? Clearly, Sleepy’s has a responsibility to their every user.

  84. Jac Niklis | June 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm |

    Just goes to show how a big chain with big pockets and mob ties can have news like this swept under a rug and held from public view… for the most part. Thanks for your due diligence and excellent reporting Mr. Gombossy and shame to the Courant for firing you for doing your job. Hope that newspaper flops!

  85. Wow that is crazy i bought a mattress from them in July, and by the end of Aug. my 8 yeasr old son started to break out with what it looked like hives or bites, we were not sure. We thought of everything even bedbugs ,but we never saw them i looked in the mattress, and nothing. Then my husband started to break out we thought it waqs our dog at first, then saw 7 different doctors, and no one could give us an answer. Until now after 8 months of me reacking my brains out and cring not knowing what is hurting my family, i read about bedbugs leaving little black spots and i remembered when sleepys deleivered my boxspring had them that when i looked even closer and sure enough there they were. im glad we found out what it was but i will be talking to my lawyer.

  86. Carol Donovan | March 15, 2012 at 1:41 pm |

    Whether or not Sleepy’s sold used mattresses as new may not be the issue — I have witnessed Sleepy’s deliver new mattresses in trucks containing old, used mattresses they they remove from customers’ homes. It’s a disgusting practice — I would NEVER purchase anything from Sleepy’s for that reason alone. I’ve called their stores and have asked them point blank if they co-mingle used and new mattresses in their delivery trucks and was told “absolutely not” – they’re liars. They can keep their mattresses as far as I’m concerned.

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