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Can You Trust The Mattress Review Sites?

Isn’t the mattress industry already tough enough to navigate for the consumer? Lack of transparency on products, thousands of companies screaming product/price/promotion advertising at them, the never-ending sale/used car sales approach for some retailers, producers with long warranties and bad service?

Let’s add to this list of problems, shall we? Fast Company recently published this article titled “The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare.” David Zax, the author, takes a look inside what he calls a “bizarre industry.” The story starts out with David needing a mattress and is eventually exposed to the “expert” mattress review sites out there claiming to know what products are good or bad in our category. David then tells the story about Dereck Hales of Sleepopolis mixing it up with Casper which goes something like this.

Dereck does a review of a Casper mattress and pretty much says that it is a nice bed. Casper has an affiliate relationship with Dereck as they do with several other affiliate sites so all is well. It is reported that Phillip Krim, CEO of Casper, was getting a little heavy handed with these review guys asking for more business to be directed his way, but in fairness to Phillip, he was willing to compensate them for their trouble. Dereck from Sleepopolis had made deals with other mattress brands and declined that offer and so Casper withdrew its affiliate program with Dereck and others. After that, in April of 2016, Sleepopolis revises its opinion of Casper saying now that “after 18 months of reviewing competing mattresses he could no longer recommend Casper as a good sleep solution.” Not only that, but he inserts a yellow box on his site that says, “Thinking about buying a Casper? Do your homework! Check out these 4 mattress companies that Sleepopolis Loves.” That may not sound like a big deal but when you are Dereck and driving 500,000 qualified mattress buyers a month to your site, the negative press starts to make an impact if your Casper. Not to mention the fact that he is now pushing that consumer to your competition! So what caused Dereck to have a sudden change of heart? Did Casper change their specifications? Did his Caper develop body impressions that caused him to rethink his original opinion?

So Casper sues Sleepopolis over it, the two settle and both go back to living life right? Not hardly. Casper then provides a loan to a different mattress review site to purchase Sleepopolis and guess what…a new Casper mattress review is posted supporting the mattress as a great product to own. I am NOT suggesting that Casper influenced this review in any way. Phillip Krim even says himself, “We exert no influence and have no influence over the site, other than that we lent them money.” Alrighty then. (If you have not read this article by Fast Company there is much more to it and you really need to give it a look so click on the link above.)

Here is my question to you… at what point do consumers stop trusting the consumer review or the so-called “expert” opinion like those of Sleepopolis? My wife has been asked to review products on retail sites and after she does they will give her the product for free. Where is the integrity in that? “Expert” reviewers are getting paid BIG MONEY if a consumer buys a bed based on that review sites affiliate link. How many of those reviews are going to be negative towards that product knowing a bad review will deter the consumer from clicking? I’m not saying Sleepopolis did anything wrong or is doing anything wrong, HOWEVER, there are affiliate review sites out there that are without a doubt COIN OPERATED. (Thank you Barry Kahn, still love that expression.) The best affiliate payment gets you the best placement on their site and a glowing recommendation, so how much value should be placed on that “expert review”?

I asked my buddy Mike Magnuson from goodbed.com this question and he had plenty to say. “I have struggled with this problem from the beginning. Delivering an honest opinion about the products that we review is at the core of who we are and we feel if we don’t do that right, we will break a trust with the consumer. The good thing about the internet is that there are essentially no barriers to entry. Anyone can come out and create their own content. The downside of that is you are going to get some bad actors taking advantage of the consumer in order to generate profits.”

So now we have to figure out what retailer to buy a mattress from, understand all of the mattress options out there, and then decide of all of the “experts” offering their assessment, which ones aren’t totally full of crap and just saying what they say to get the affiliate fee? At what point will the consumer review or the expert opinion not have any value at all? When you think about it, isn’t it the same way on some of the retail floors out there? Is an rsa selling a bed because of the larger spiff OR because they really think that it is the right bed for the consumer?

Riddle me this Batman, who in the hell crowned some of these jokers experts anyway? Explain to me what qualifies some of these guys to render a verdict on what bed has the best edge support or will last the longest in the home? Do they have some testing equipment in their basement spitting out scientific measurements on firmness loss and foam density to arrive at these conclusions? How about when they tell their audience that the bed they tested is comfortable? Who are they to define comfort!

So what do we as an industry do to combat this? We support the good guys. Find the review sites that work hard to do their best at representing products in an honest way. There is nothing wrong with people making money on affiliate fees or with advertising dollars, HOWEVER, those things should not get in the way of an honest representation of the products they talk about.  Is that asking too much?

What do you think? Know any good mattress experts? I do and his name is Mike Magnuson and he is the founder of goodbed.com and contributor to this blog post. I have known Mike for several years now, meeting him fairly soon after he started goodbed.com. We have become good friends and have also done some business together and I can tell you with 100% certainty, that he works hard to keep things real. He did not ask me for an endorsement here but I offer it freely because we should all support people that get it right and want good things for this industry like he does. If you want to promote your retail stores or your bedding brand I encourage you to reach out to him and his 2 million visitors; it will likely lead to more business for you. And when you do, be sure to tell him Quinn sent you so that I can get my affiliate check in the mail. KIDDING!

 

13 thoughts on “Can You Trust The Mattress Review Sites?

  1. If mattresses reviews were based on laboratory tests there wouldn’t be half of this. By experience even lab tests might be interpreted, but the margin left it is very little.

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Goodbed.com is a fair & honest mattress evaluator. Having worked with them, they are also good people and you can trust their opinions.

    Too many sites ask how much I’m willing to pay for referrals and positive reviews.

    1. No doubt Wes. I get it and understand that those guys want to make money HOWEVER if you position yourself as a non-biased source of information, even if it is implied with a disclaimer in fine print at the bottom, there should be some integrity in that. Thanks for reading Wes!

  3. Mark: You raise a number of VERY valid issues here regarding mattress reviews. We at the Specialty Sleep Association (SSA) are so interested in this topic that we are scheduling a speaking seminar at the Winter Las Vegas market on the very topic of reviews. In fact even some of the so-called experts in the mattress performance and comfort issues have very different views about the quality and value of various mattresses. Over the past decade several trade journal editors who cover the mattress world have even criticized the editors at Consumer Reports for not really understanding the depth and breadth of the issues from components and materials to construction and various testing methods. The “pay-to-play” factor in various affiliation programs raises even more issues. And yes, you are 100% right when you raise the question of how and why these relatively young and surely, tech.-savvy reviewers know anything about ergonomics, physiology, physics, medicine, or for that matter, anything to do with the the industry and its suppliers. Affiliate programs have their purposes, but transparency and impartiality are ethical imperatives for a successful mattress review program. By the way we also posted the article by FAST Company, and you are cordially invited to our presentation on reviews and reviewers at Las Vegas.

    1. Thank you for reading as always Dale!!! I would love to come to your program so let me know when it is happening. Very tough to break away but would love to if I could. Glad you are also focused on this as it is something we should be paying attention to.

  4. Hi Mark,
    I’m just a consumer that stumbled across this post while researching mattresses. I don’t work in the industry. In fact, I don’t work in business. I took a stroll over to goodbed after reading this. It’s a very helpful site. Yet, I don’t see how Mike’s site fundamentally differs from all the other review sites other than you personally know him and that he is a person of integrity. Correct me if I misunderstand, but it looks like he also gets affiliate fees on the mattresses he reviews if one clicks on the promo code in his reviews? The problem for the consumer is that so many internet review sites are nothing more than marketing for various product lines. If money is changing hands then there is an inherent conflict of interest.

    1. No doubt Susan, that is an issue and is also the case for so many other consumer product categories. That is why I wrote about Mike and goodbed.com because I can say that I have known him for several years now and have seen what they do up close and I can 100% vouch for them-however if I’m you, I’m not sure what that actually means. These guys need to take affiliate fees to continue what they are doing, but they have to do that and not let those fees impact their opinion. (Not easy to do.) Goodbed.com has several ways to create revenue for their business so it is not all on links to products. Bottom line, look for consistencies across several review platforms on your front running brands and you should be good.

    2. I think that the idea is wrong that mattress reviewers receiving affiliate fees or even receiving pay-to-play fees for testing mattresses and bedding products, and then writing reviews is inherently a conflict of interest. The real conflict is a lack of transparency or open acknowledgement that they are receiving payment. Let’s face it, there are simply not dozens of unpaid , impartial reviewers who take in and test as an unpaid hobby the many hundreds of mattresses needed to provide meaningful comparisons. There were 104 mattress and bedding manufacturers showing at the last winter Las Vegas market many with dozens of mattress models, and at last count over 150 direct-to-consumer, bed-in-a box, online companies. Reviewing all these companies and mattress options at various price points is a BUSINESS to do it right, not a hobby! There are trade journals such as Furniture Today and Sleep Retailer both online and in hard copy , as well as Goodbed.com that have a fair and honest reputation. And of course consumers always have the option of going to a recognized furniture store or mattress shop and trying out a mattress giving it an in-person rest-test after doing online research. I know I’m Baby Boomer old school, but I still would not buy a car without driving it. Same thing with a mattress where I might spend 8 hours a day.

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