BY BARBARA T. NELLES
Check out these strategies for discouraging do-it-yourselfers
When is a mattress delivery hazardous to your health? When it’s handled by an amateur. In a little more than two years, the editors of Sleep Savvy have bookmarked close to 50 mattress-related crashes and mishaps related to people transporting mattresses on roads or expressways. Our anecdotal research is backed by grave statistics from AAA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The amount of flying debris from improperly secured loads is on the rise—and mattresses often are held up as prime suspects.
How can bedding retailers persuade shoppers to select professional home delivery without losing the sale? What other options can you offer in-a-rush customers aside from helping them strap a bed and box spring to the car roof? We try to answer these questions so retailers can do their part to make viral videos of flying mattresses a thing of the past.
Many mishaps appear to involve the transport of used bedding, but often those airborne beds are new, plastic-wrapped models. They’re clearance items, floor samples and special closeouts all readily available at any sleep shop or bedding department. They’re bed sets from big box stores that are sold in-stock, in a stand-up format. Home delivery may be available, but it’s so easy for consumers to grab a large cart and wheel that new bed out to their car or truck.
Most mishaps occur on highways when high speeds, sudden braking and avoidance maneuvers cause cargo to dislodge from the roof or get flung from a vehicle.
Sell, sell, sell your store’s delivery services
Retailers can start by doing a great job of promoting home delivery—and offering a range of delivery options. From white glove to same day to threshold drop-off, create tiered services that will be attractive to every type of shopper.
Free home delivery is a powerful incentive. In a large-scale 2016 study on mattress shopping behavior conducted by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, free delivery was found to be an even stronger enticement in the final purchase decision than price. Ninety-one percent of respondents ranked free home delivery as “very important,” compared with 82% who rated price “very important.” (The complete BSC research can be downloaded here.)
In addition, make it as easy as possible for customers to consent to the removal of old bedding as part of the delivery. It lessens the likelihood their old bed will one day end up as roadway debris, whether it’s deliberately tossed or accidentally dropped on the way to landfill, or to another person’s home.
If customers balk at the thought of tossing an old bed, it’s smart to discuss hygiene, allergies and comfort. Old mattresses don’t belong in the guest room, and they certainly don’t belong in a child’s bedroom.
Take a refresher course on selling children’s bedding by reading the May/June 2016 Sleep Savvy cover story, “Selling Juvenile Bedding Isn’t Child’s Play” at SleepSavvyMagazine.com. It encourages retailers to carry at least a modest selection of youth bedding to discourage hand-me-down mattresses for kids. It reads, in part: “If you’re selling a new sleep set to shoppers who mention that they won’t need you to pick up the old set and take it away for recycling because they plan to move it into a child’s room, that’s an opening to discuss the need for all members of the household—no matter their age—to have a comfortable, supportive mattress that’s right for their body type and sleep needs.”
Package deals: The safest kind of carryout
Yes, good things come in small boxes. Providing instant mattress gratification with a mattress that fits neatly and safely in the trunk or backseat is a no-brainer. The good news is that every major brand now offers convenient buy-and-carry boxed-bed programs. Check out Sleep Savvy’s coverage of the Winter Las Vegas Market in the March issue to view some of the collections available now. We found that boxed beds for brick-and-mortar retailers were one of the top four trends at the year’s biggest sleep products market.
Many mattress makers offer convenient drop-shipping direct to consumers, but be sure to keep several queens and kings in stock. Whether branded or private label, those pretty boxes—sitting right on the retail floor—help sell the beds and reinforce branding.
Take a lesson in effectively selling boxed bedding in-store and online by reading the April issue of Sleep Savvy. In particular, check out the profile of Albany, California-based retailer Nest Bedding, which has smoothly integrated physical stores with internet sales. For in-store purchases, boxed products can be shipped directly to consumers’ homes, taken home by the customer in a box or, for an upcharge, delivered and set up through a white-glove service.
Sleep Savvy also provides a detailed how-to on selling boxed products in the September 2016 feature, “How Well Are You Competing with Online Retailers?” You’ll learn how to incorporate these products in your new omnichannel selling strategy. For example, writer Gary James provides detailed suggestions on how to select the right partner, offer the best mix for your customers, get to know SEO and how to use it, stimulate positive reviews, and plan on returns.
AAA, NHTSA cite enormous toll of roadway debris, offer advice for avoiding accidents
A 2016 study released by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety on road debris and traffic accidents found that more than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways from 2011 through 2014-—40% increase in crashes compared with the previous study in 2001. The crashes resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths during that period.
A 2012 U.S. Government Accountability Office study based on statistics gathered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, supports AAA’s accident and injury statistics, but cites a much higher death rate from flying road debris. The GAO reported 51,000 crashes, 10,000 injuries and 440 deaths in the United States in 2010 alone.
On highways, debris can cause chain-reaction accidents involving multiple vehicles and loads are far more likely to come loose where speed and quick maneuvering dislodge large, bulky items that have been improperly secured.
Three of four bystander videos at the web page depict mattresses flying off autos or out of truck beds.
“Drivers have a much bigger responsibility when it comes to preventing debris on the roads than most realize,” says Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations for AAA. “It’s important for drivers to know that many states have hefty fines and penalties for drivers who drop items from their vehicle onto the roadway, and in some cases states impose jail time.”
Currently, every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. In some states, fines are low, beginning at $10. They go up to about $5,000. In 16 states, jail also is a possible punishment for offenders.
AAA offers drivers tips for securing loads, as well as ways to practice defensive driving, to prevent debris-related crashes. When hauling a load, experts advise using strong ratchet straps—not bungee cords—and cargo netting. Also, avoid driving your load on the highway if local roads are an option.
Nearly 37% of all deaths in road debris crashes resulted from the driver swerving to avoid hitting an object. Defensive driving is key to avoiding accidents due to waste, according to William Van Tassel, manager of driver training programs for AAA. “Continually searching the road at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead can help drivers be prepared in the case of debris,” he says. Always try to maintain open space on at least one side of your vehicle in case you need to steer around an object. If you see you are unable to avoid debris on the roadway, safely reduce your speed as much as possible before making contact.”
Other steps to avoid debris-related crashes include:
- Don’t tailgate! By leaving at least 3 to 4 seconds of following distance, you can see potential objects in the road ahead easier.
- Be aware of open space around your vehicle. Drivers should maintain open space to the front and at least one side of their vehicle at all times. Should the need arise, a driver can steer into that open space to avoid contact with an object.
- Don’t overcorrect at the last minute. Doing so to avoid debris can increase a driver’s risk of losing control of the vehicle and make a bad situation worse.
- Reduce speed. If you see you are about to hit debris, say with a piece of tire, safely slow down as much as possible prior to making contact.
How to tie a mattress
If your store assists shoppers in securing loads to their vehicles, make certain team members are properly trained to help with the task. You also may want to ask your lawyer if your customers should sign a liability waiver that protects your store from any responsibility once the product leaves your premises.
AAA, insurance provider Geico and website MovingGuru.com all offer valuable advice on how to properly secure a mattress to a car roof. MovingGuru’s video (“How to Move a Mattress on Your Car”) is short and provides a simple schematic on how to tie the bed lengthwise and widthwise.
With new mattresses in plastic bags, use heavy-duty packing tape to close all openings in the wrapper and tape down any loose flaps. Use heavy rope or straps to tie the bed lengthwise and widthwise to the car roof. Start with all the windows down, except the driver’s window. (Car doors will not open once the mattress is tied down.)
Use strong rope that isn’t too thick, so that it can be easily knotted, or else use cinching straps. If using rope, someone on your team needs knot-tying prowess. Study this post with videos at Gizmodo, “How to Tie the Only Five Knots You’ll Ever Need,” and then practice them.
Toss the straps or ropes over the bed, pass them through the open windows and tie them inside the car. Take at least two passes over the item, side-to-side and front to back, and tie the rope tightly inside the car.
Geico says that you should give tie-down straps a twist before passing them through the open car windows so that they won’t vibrate and are more aerodynamically secure.
One final tip—drivers should avoid highways and high speeds.
Out with the old and in with the new
An important way to keep old bedding off the roads—down the road—is for retailers to encourage pickup and disposal of old bedding when they deliver a new bed set.
The Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, encourages consumers to check their mattress for wear after seven years of use. When a bed is worn, torn or dirty, it’s time to turn it in, the BSC says. Yet, 70% of old mattresses remain in use past the point when they’re still in good shape.
Retailers shouldn’t hesitate to strongly encourage customers to give up those old mattresses.
The BSC also advises consumers to contact their local municipality, sanitation department or garbage collector to have old bedding picked up. And the Mattress Recycling Council’s Bye Bye Mattress directory of recyclers makes it easy to find out if there is a recycling facility nearby.
California law requires that brick-and-mortar retailers in the state offer home-delivery customers the option to have a used mattress picked up when their new bed is delivered, at no additional cost beyond the delivery fee, if there is one. There are caveats as retailers can refuse to pick up a used mattress that is deemed a health or safety risk, and e-commerce sellers are exempt from the free mattress pick-up requirement.
Flying mattresses are no laughing matter
In a little more than two years, the editors of Sleep Savvy have collected dozens of stories and YouTube videos about improperly secured mattresses falling from car roofs or truck beds, causing crashes or near misses. Some of the videos have gone viral. In many, the videographers are giggling—there is something very silly about seeing a large object gradually lift off the roof of another car and about to become airborne. But, it’s also so very dangerous.
In one miraculous video, a motorcyclist in Australia is hit by a flying mattress that knocks him from his motorcycle while breaking his fall. But the deadly crash in May 2016, in Rockwall, Texas, when a motorcyclist lost control after being struck by a mattress from a truck bed is a far more likely scenario.
To get a handle on how foolish some do-it-yourselfers are, check social media. We’ve seen more than one candid shot of drivers gripping the steering wheel with one hand and holding onto an unsecured mattress on the roof with the other. In September 2016, a woman helping to transport a mattress by riding atop it on the roof of a van, fell to her death in Haymarket, Virginia, according to WTOP News.
For some customers, same-day delivery is all-important, and there’s an app for that. If your store can’t deliver, know which sharing-economy services are active in your area and recommend them to your customers who can’t wait.
For impulsive mattress purchases, companies such as Lugg, Fleetzen, Ghostruck or Wagon can get a spur-of-the-moment purchase to someone’s home quickly. The apps pair consumers with an individual who owns a pickup, cargo or box truck. With Fleetzen, a typical 30-minute delivery is $49. Pricing varies depending on the company. Consumers in major metropolitan areas have the most options.
Also good to know: There now are collaborative delivery services that target businesses. Cargomatic, Convoy, ShipHawk and uShip are among the new sharing-economy trucking services that pair companies that have less-than-truckload-size hauling needs with trucking companies and individual truck owners.
Prevent injury—to your back
Moving mattresses can cause injuries off the road, as well. The likelihood of back strain from helping customers hoist heavy mattresses onto car roofs is another good reason to promote your store’s home delivery options. Overhead lifting is a major cause of back injury and it’s just one more reason why consumers, themselves, should be told to think twice before trying to transport that very heavy new mattress home and into the bedroom.
Back pain is the No. 2 reason that Americans visit their doctor, second only to colds and the flu, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health.
If store staff assist customers with carry-out purchases, whether boxed beds or mattress sets, download the “Back Injury Prevention Training Guide” from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration website. Then make the information required reading. Give a copy to every employee, especially to delivery personnel.