This mattress discount was too good to be true. Should the company honor it?

Amerisleep mattress pricing error

If a customer service representative offers a massive mattress discount by mistake, is the company required to honor it?

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb. Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

This story highlights the need for basic tolerance and understanding of human fallibility — even when it happens on the other side of the consumer/merchant equation.

A massive mattress discount mistake

Kimber Ashrafi contacted the Elliott Advocacy team because she was angry that Amerisleep had recently botched the delivery of her mattress and headboard. She had paid several hundred dollars extra for the specialized delivery service, called “white glove.” This service included pickup and removal of all debris associated with the delivery.

Instead, the delivery company arrived on the wrong day and was far from a “white glove” service. Ashrafi described a scenario in which the delivery people were assembling her bed “in the dirt and grass” of her front yard.

Ashrafi immediately called Amerisleep. Because she was having floors installed in her house, she could not take delivery of the bed that day. So the mattress company agreed to pack up the mattress and bring it back on the originally scheduled date.

For your troubles: A mattress discount — a big one

Ashrafi then went on Amerisleep’s online chat feature and spoke to one of the representatives named Eric.  She complained about the lack of the “white glove” service. And she was concerned that the furniture might have been damaged during this initial delivery attempt.

Eric apologized and said that Amerisleep could not provide “white glove” service in her area. He told Ashrafi that that fee would be refunded. When she pressed the issue, he then said that the company would offer a 50 percent discount on part of the order. He told her that Amerisleep would refund a total of $1,759.

We will issue you a refund for the white glove ($299), along with a 50 percent refund for the adjustable bed ($1,440). Total refund being $1,739.

Ashrafi’s total order was $4,528.

This huge discount seemed completely out of line with the “inconvenience” that she had suffered. The delivery was attempted one day early. That can certainly be annoying. But in terms of her other complaint about the lack of white-glove service, I discovered that she had been informed before the delivery that it was not available. She had already been assured that she would receive a refund for that service. So for a one-day early delivery attempt, she was being offered a $1,739 discount.

All signs pointed to the Amerisleep agent making a mistake with the value of the mattress discount.

A quick correction by this agent: “I made an error”

This first chat occurred at 2:09 p.m. At 2:55 p.m., Eric came back, corrected himself and said he had made a mistake with the mattress discount:

I want to let you know that I misunderstood my upper management communication and we are simply not in a position to offer this type of deal.

We are offering to refund your order in full for the inconvenience, but cannot sell the adjustable bed any lower.

Please kindly accept our apology and let me know how you would like to proceed.

Ashrafi did anything but “kindly accept” Eric’s apology and began a campaign to hold the company to his mistake.

By the time Ashrafi had contacted the Elliott Advocacy team she had already escalated her complaint to the top level of the company. She told me that the CEO had responded to her. She said that he was firm and told her that she would not be receiving the giant discount on the mattress. He explained that the discount offer was a simple error — corrected within minutes.

When I read Ashrafi’s request for help I pointed out to her what the company was offering to make her whole.

People make mistakes. That’s a fact. In this case, the error was quickly corrected (within 50 minutes) and Ashrafi suffered no damages. So I was puzzled by her continued pursuit to force the company to give her something that she has been told was a misunderstanding.

The company offered her two options:

  • Cancel the entire order and receive a complete refund.
  • Accept delivery and have the white-glove service payment refunded. The company also threw in an offer of a discount for accessories.

A fair and reasonable resolution?

I thought the offer from Amerisleep seemed like a reasonable resolution to Ashrafi’s complaint.

Ashrafi disagreed with my assessment and continued to press the issue.

“My question to you is that since the original delivery was totally screwed up … and then they promised the discount in writing, how can [my request be rejected],” Ashrafi asked. “I am just asking for what he promised — the discount of $1,739.”

I reiterated that the best resolution here would be to void the transaction and receive a refund.

Two months later, I was surprised that she was still on this quest to receive the mistakenly-offered mattress discount.  She told me that she had returned the furniture for a full refund. Now she wanted to repurchase the furniture and apply the “discount.” She provided a chat transcript that showed that she was threatening the company with a negative publicity campaign.

We never suggest these tactics. The company refunded her completely. When a company makes a mistake, apologizes and makes the consumer whole, we call that a successful case.

24 thoughts on “This mattress discount was too good to be true. Should the company honor it?

  1. What would possibly cause a delivery crew to assemble a bed in the front yard? Most beds are too big to get through a house or apartment fully assembled.

    1. She was having her floors done, but you’re right they likely wouldn’t have been able to get it in the front door.

  2. The OP is being completely unreasonable. The Elliott definitions of a solution are more than acceptable. The mindset of holding the company accountable to a mistaken statement is just a way to get oneself stressed out over nothing. It is not the path to a happy life. Remember the golden rule.

  3. I voted yes, but only because I’d like to see Chris find out what the miscommunication was. Was it really an error in communication between the CSR and management or was it discount remorse on the side of the company?
    50% while a very generous discount, still isn’t robbery, it’s probably close to costs but the company isn’t going to lose money on the transaction.
    My problem is the company shouldn’t have offered anything to begin with. They delivered the mattress early, they came back to deliver it another day and they didn’t charge/refunded for the unavailable white glove service she couldn’t get anyway. This is otherwise a good call, this LW is trying to take advantage of from what I can tell is a company providing pretty good CS.

    1. I think they shouldda given her the 50%. What are they gonna do with a used, dirty mattress? If they took 50%, that’s better than nothing. When she cancelled, they got bupkis. They’d rather get bupkis than covering the cost of the goods?

      I bought a log splitter from Hope Desperate. When I got it home, I discovered that some toad had bought it, used it [ covered in sawdust ], brought it back. They re-stocked it. I tried it; it worked fine. I called the manager of the Home Despot store and told him what happened. He told me to come in with the receipt, and he’d give me back 50%. That’s more than I expected. To him, it’s cost-effective rather than taking it back and trying to sell it used, or dumping it. I’m happy; he’s happy.

      So, the mattress company lost all the money on the goods by being stubborn. They might have negotiated a lesser refund but they stood pat. Bad business practice.

      I’ve experienced instances where merchants would rather lose a sale than obtain for me the goods I wanted. One guy was gonna over-charge me [ more than I’d paid before “Oh, you must be mistaken!” Like I have a pea for a brain? ] for shoes one size too small – he’d make it fit. How about ordering the right size? No, he was gonna make me take his stock. Wrong. Thanks, toad. Found the shoes for cheaper than he’d sold to me before. He’d rather get bupkis than get a reasonable sale. Not very bright.

        1. read my reply to R. below on taking care of customers and your people.

          Watching out for your people is the correct thing to do. Sometimes, it even comes back to you in spades. Even if it doesn’t, you still did right.

          1. I meant the company was being penny wise and pound foolish by not giving the discount and making a sale they can’t recoup on the mattress.

      1. They could have sold it to an employee for the 50% discount. That would get them more goodwill than making a greedy customer happy.

  4. I feel bad for poor Eric. Mistakes happen, we’re all human. This poor guy had to deal with this for months, probably had to have several meetings about it. Poor guy.

    1. Shouldda given her the 50%. Both were stubborn; they got stuck with a good they couldn’t sell as new no more……. Probably couldn’t sell it at all……

      1. The thing is, if you cave, your employees are going to remember that. The loss of morale is probably greater than the loss on the TV. One of the many lessons I learned very quickly – and fortunately I had the best manager ever at my high school job – was that when you have a disposable job, the only way to get good employees, and thus happy customers, was not only to treat the employees well but to back them up against rude customers. A manager standing up to a rude customer is worth about 1000 compliments to a customer service employee.

        1. Customer wasn’t rude. Company PROMISED something, then upper ranking toads reneged on it. Cave? Treating customer correctly is caving?

          See my post above. The mattress is now worthless to them; they couldda got 50%. Now, they get bupkis.

          I don’t feel sorry for poor Eric. I feel sorry for the lady who paid for good service and didn’t get it. I feel sorry for her in that they promised something, then didn’t give it. They LIED. A company to avoid.

          Anyone who shafts the customer for “morale” will go bust. People who take care of the customers get rich. I had a friend who was in travel in Scotland. The tour he arranged for a group evaporated. He made it good out of his pocket. Word spread. He had ’em flocking to him. He retired RICH RICH RICH! A 5-story palace on one whole block in Pattaya Beach, Rolls Royce, the first hard top convertible Volvo in the Kingdom, large staff, etc etc. All because he TOOK CARE OF THE CUSTOMERS. Take care of your customers. Take care of your troops. It always comes back to you when you are honorable. When you are not, it also comes back, but not in a nice way.

          1. I will qualify why I said that. Because as a general rule, I’m on the side of a business honoring it’s promise. Honestly, I get it. But this is a significant amount of money. Per the article, the OP got belligerent, despite the fact the company made a good faith effort to rectify the error. It isn’t like they just said no and ignored her.

            In this case, someone made an honest mistake. And then the customer went on a very, very insistent journey to have the mistake honored. For perspective, imagine you made an honest mistake at home, you corrected it and apologized profusely. And your spouse didn’t let it go. For months. And brought it up to throw in your face constantly. And told everyone that would listen about your mistake. That’s how you end up divorced. I know it’s not a perfect analogy. Just saying.

            Customers want ownership. I found that if I gave people my direct phone number, and stayed with them or checked in frequently, while I fixed a problem, 99% of the time that’s all they wanted. Someone to listen, take them seriously, and not pass the buck. But that 1% is impossible to please, no matter what you do. And showing you won’t let that 1% walk all over you just to get rid of them goes very far with customer service folks. Very very far. Just my experience.

          2. Honest mistake: Well, the SWAT team broke down your door in the middle of the night, shot the dog, terrorized the family, but it was the wrong house. Honest mistake, and you can fix your own door.

            They PROMISED her 50% and then upper management said NO. It’s not a mistake; it’s a shafting. She was RUDE for asking them to honor their promise? I dun’t thin so, Lucy. Significant amount of money? They will lose ALL of it, rather than giving her a 50% discount, they cover their costs, and she’d take the dirty mattress. They’re STUPID………

            Anyone agree? Please up-vote if yes; post reply if no.

          3. No. I absolutely don’t agree. I’m not certain if the details are what you seem to think. She merely said she “was concerned that her furniture may have been damaged during this initial delivery attempt.” If they offered no discount, I can fairly confidently suggest that there likely was no actual dirt or damage to the product at all and that it could be simply resold to someone else. In that case, why would anyone even consider selling it for 50% off?

          4. and I’m certain that your assumptions are incorrect.

            They assembled the stuff on the grass / dirt. I assume it got dirty. So much for “white glove” treatment.

            They DID offer a discount, but reneged. Liars……

            Why do you side with the merchant against the customer?

          5. I’m not siding against the customer, I’m just going with the facts in evidence. She never said that it was damaged, she said she was concerned that it might be. She wasn’t sure. If there was a loss to take, they would have offered a discount. Companies may make bad choices, but it’s rare that they throw money away and lose a customer at the same time instead of choosing one or the other.

          6. You say you aren’t siding against the customer, then you offer arguments against the customer.

            It was supposed to be “white glove”, for which she paid. They assembled it on the dirt. Maybe she just didn’t want to go and inspect it? Let’s drop a piece of pizza on the ground. Would YOU EAT it, assuming it didn’t get dirty? 5 second rule?

            The stuff was delivered. It’s now USED. They cannot sell it as new any more. I don’t know if they can even sell it as used unless they disinfect it. How much would that cost? As I said, they LIED, they are being stupid. They reneged on the discount because she complained too much? They are cutting off their noses…..

            Eric made a mistake? Eric was countermanded. That’s like the SWAT team who breaks down your door at 0300 hours, shoots your dog, cuffs your family and terrorizes them, smacks you in the snot-locker with a shotgun barrel asking “where are the drugs?” and then finding out that they are STUPIDS who got the WRONG ADDRESS. They say “Sorry”, and leave with your door smashed to splinters in the middle of the night. You have to get someone to fix it. Is that an OK human mistake? SAME LOGIC. Mistake isn’t fixed in either case.

  5. While I definitely don’t think you should have advocated for this OP, I’ve read posts in the past whose answers begin with “If so-and-so had offered you XYZ, then it should have kept the promise.”

    This extends to the same type of situation as this one – an employee who is not authorized to do so offers something, and the offer is later retracted. Most of the time, I’d say, the author refers to that mistake as a “promise” and advocates for the OP.

    Here is a case in point:
    http://elliott.org/the-troubleshooter/why-you-should-never-take-a-cochlear-implant-on-a-roller-coaster/

    Same situation – a person felt wronged (rightly or wrongly), a low level employee made a mistake, consumer wants an advocate to get what was originally “promised.”

    Perhaps a good topic for a future blog post is: What constitutes a “promise”? What should consumers expect to happen when an employee mistakenly offers compensation or a too-good-to-be-true discount? What leeway (if any) should consumers give companies whose lower level employees make such mistakes?

    To be clear – I’m not always on the companies’ side in these cases. Part of the business of running a company is to have competent first-line support. Companies give lip service to empowerment, but if you let first-line employee make hollow promises that can later be retracted, that’s another burden on the consumer.

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