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 Sleepyâ€™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 Sleepyâ€™s, the largest mattress chain in the United States, with 74 stores in Connecticut.
â€œWe have received a number of complaints, up to 10, that mattresses maybe have been used, with groves and deep depressions,â€ 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.
â€œSleepyâ€™s was the only oneâ€ the attorney general replied.
Sleepyâ€™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.
Sleepyâ€™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.
Blumenthalâ€™s investigation into Sleepyâ€™s operations is the second in Connecticut since 2004 when the company paid a $4,000 fine to consumer protection.
Two years ago Sleepyâ€™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 â€œdeceptive 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 Sleepyâ€™s last December because he and his wife had a â€˜â€™severeâ€™â€™ bedbug infestation that Maier said was the result of buying what appeared to be a used box spring from the Stamford Sleepyâ€™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 â€“ 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 Groupâ€™s report, made available to me, states that the â€œbox spring … was the culprit. There were bedbugs inside and the box spring did not look like it was new.â€
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 Sleepyâ€™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, Sleepyâ€™s general counsel and chief operating officer, said last month Sleepyâ€™s was unaware of Blumenthalâ€™s investigation and said bedbugs do not originate in beds, but come from people.
If Sleepyâ€™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.
â€œSleepyâ€™s does not now, has never, and will never, sell a used mattress. Any claim to the contrary we find to be defamatory,â€ wrote Blank.
The BBB report state that in the past three years, 633 complaints were filed against Sleepyâ€™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.
â€œComplaints 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,â€ 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 Sleepyâ€™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, Sleepyâ€™s did not admit to any wrongdoing, which is common in out-of-court settlements.
The report from Stern, Sleepyâ€™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.
- No Evidence Of Sleepy’s Systematically Selling Old Mattresses As New
- Ct Atty Gen Investigating Sleepy’s on 25 Customer Allegations Of Bedbugs
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- Buying a mattress? Consumer Reports finally weighs in – guess which largest retailer came in last
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