Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: mattresses

The Mattress Expert

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With blogs and bloggers becoming more important in the media, it’s become common to hear about a blogger interviewed by the New York Times or chatting on the Today show.  I don’t want to sound like I have sour grapes, but my opportunities in the “real” media world have been pretty thin.   That’s why I jumped out of my chair on Friday when I received an email from the The Dr. Phil Show. 

The email began —

“My name is Emily and I work with the Senior Producer at the Dr. Phil Show here at Paramount in LA…”

Emily continued on about some post I had written in 2006 about Sophia’s parents getting ripped off at a local mattress store.   She wanted me to call, so we could discuss this post. 

Woo-hoo!  I imagined fame and fortune and everything that goes with it…

But there was one red flag.  The letter was hastily written, with several spelling errors.  Was it spam or just written by  a very busy individual.  I googled Emily and was she legit.   My success was back on track.

I took a deep breath before calling the show.   I was a little anxious… for a very good reason.  I have made fun of Dr. Phil several times on my blog, even mocking his son’s marriage to a Playboy bunny. 

Then I remembered that he is a forgiving guy. 

“Isn’t that what his show is all about?”  I said to myself.

The past is the past.  Especially, if the Dr, Phil show wanted me as a guest.  I imagined an important show about “Senior Citizen Rip-offs” and Dr. Phil calling me from the audience:

Dr. Phil:  “And now, with more ways for seniors to protect themselves against shady mattress store franchises, I’d like to bring up blogger/consumer expert, Neil “Neilochka” Kramer, who writes the hugely-successful blog, Citizen of the Month.”

The female crowd goes wild.  Many lift  banners and signs, ala American Idol, reading “Take My Bra Off, Neilochka!”

With my mind jam-packed with these vivid images, I called up Emily at her Paramount office.  She quickly answered the phone.  She was waiting for my call. 

For me?!   My ego rose to heights never seen before.

“Thank you, thank you for calling back!” she said, somewhat frantically.

Wow!  Was the show that desperate to have me as a guest?   She seemed almost in awe of me, as if she was on the phone with Tom Cruise, begging him to come on the show for an exclusive interview.

“How can I help you?” I asked, speaking in a deeper than usual voice, trying to hide my New York accent.

“I’m so glad I found you,” she continued.  “You see, my boss is in the hospital.  A few days ago, she asked me to buy her a new mattress for her home, so I went to Ortho-mattress, and they ended up ripping me off on the price, not promising what they said, and then charging me too much for shipping.  The mattress cost hundreds of dollars more than she allocated and now I don’t know what to do.  I haven’t told her yet — and I’m afraid of getting fired.  So, I googled mattress rip-offs in Los Angeles and found your blog, and I ‘m hoping that you can give me some advice!”

Advice on mattress rip-offs?!  So you won’t get fired?  This is what the email was all about?!   You mean, Dr. Phil didn’t want me ON the show?!

I had this tight feeling in my stomach.  I remember the first time I felt it.   During grad school, I went out with this cute girl, thinking she wanted to take off my clothes, but all she wanted was to “pick my brain” to learn how she and her boyfriend could find a agent for some sci-fi screenplay they wrote together about a war with some crazed robots.

Luckily, Emily was quite nice, despite her reason for calling me.  We talked for fifteen minutes.  Well, mostly she talked.  She just moved to a new apartment and she couldn’t get fired because she has all these debts, and it wasn’t fair that she got ripped off by the mattress store, and now she has to face the producer, and she is very very nervous…etc.  We chatted like old friends, which was odd considering that she just found my blog on a Google search.  But maybe Dr. Phil only hires very friendly staff members.

I told Emily that mattress stores are the last refuge of sleazy salesmen.  For instance, when you buy a car nowadays, you usually know how much the sticker price is from looking it up on the internet.  Sealy and Serta intentionally name the same mattresses different names depending on the store, so it is difficult for the consumer to do a price check.  I advised Emily to call the Better Business Bureau, the store’s corporate office, and lastly, to contest the charges with her credit card. 

After I hung up the phone, it occurred to me that I actually WAS helpful.  Google DID bring her to the right person to speak to about mattresses.  The internet worked.

Dr. Phil, I’m ready for my close-up!

From the archives:  An even earlier mattress store story.

My First Wife

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I’ve written a lot about my marriage to Sophia, and our separation.   But I was married and separated once before — for about fifteen minutes.  Here’s the story:

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I needed to buy a bed.  I didn’t realize that buying a bed was so complicated, with all the Sealys and Sertas and all the different foams and coils.  To make thing worse, the mattress industry makes it impossible to price match.  The Serta "Fenway Park" is only called this at Sears. The exact same mattress at 1-800-Mattress is called the Serta "New Yorker."  The mattress industry is the most consumer-unfriendly industry in the country, one notch below car dealerships.   Mattress stores also take their cue from car dealerships, with aggressive salespeople out to sell you more bed than you really need.

I read about some discount mattress store in the Valley and drove out there to check out the mattresses.   After trying out some beds, some flashy salesman tried to sell me this Serta mattress that was on sale.  It actually felt pretty good — it was comfortable and firm, but not too firm.   I didn’t yet know how difficult it was to price match, so I promised myself that I would "shop around" before I bought anything in the store.  The salesman pressed me hard to buy it NOW.  He offered me 300 dollars off, then 400 dollars off, then as I stared to leave, 500 dollars off if I bought it right NOW.   I’m not very good with salespeople or aggressive people, so I started to get nervous.  I needed to come up with a solution that would keep him off my back, without losing the bed. 

Me:  "I really like the bed, but I don’t want to buy it without my wife trying it first."

Salesman:  "Oh… Of course.  Of course." 

I noticed that he was wearing a wedding ring, so he knew how fickle women were.   Of course, I was not married.  I wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, but I guess he either didn’t notice or maybe he thought I was just some guy who didn’t wear one.  I did not have a girlfriend.  I actually knew few women. 

I left the store, feeling pretty satisfied with my little white lie.   I called up my friend in New York, who just bought a new bed.   He told me that this salesman was offering me was a terrific deal.  I went back to the mattress store and told him that I wanted to buy the bed.

Salesman:   "What about your wife?"

Me:   "Oh, she said it was fine.  If I like it, she’ll like it."

Salesman:  "It doesn’t work that way.  She really needs to come try it herself."

Me:  "It’s really OK.  She totally trusts me."

Salesman:   "How long have you been married?"

Me:  "Six months."

Salesman:  "You need to bring her here."

Me:  "It’s really not important that I do that."

Salesman:  "I’m telling you, for the sake of your marriage, you need to bring her here."

This salesperson, who a few minutes ago was aggressively selling me a bed, was now aggressively selling me marital advice.

Me:  "Fine."

I was stuck in my own lie.

I drove for a half hour, back to my apartment.   I knocked on the door of my next door neighbor, Nadine, and asked her if she could be my wife for an hour.  If she did this, I would buy her lunch.  She was an actress (an out of work actress) and thought the idea was funny.  It was like she was going to be in her own sitcom episode.

I went back to the mattress store with Nadine.  We climbed onto the bed together, to try out the Serta mattress that was on sale.  She said it was very comfortable, and a great price.  As we stretched out on the bed, our legs accidentally touched.  I thought about how pretty Nadine was.  She had a good sense of humor.  She was adventurous.  I visualized us, one day, being on this bed together, making love in my apartment.

Nadine:  "You know, I really could use a new bed.  Maybe I’ll buy one, too."

Me:   "You can’t buy a bed here.  We’re supposed to be married."

Nadine:   "What does he give a shit?  We’re paying him money."

Me:   "But I told him we were married.  Why are we buying two beds?  I’ll look like a lying idiot."

Nadine:  "You think he really cares?"

Nadine and I ended up having our first marital spat while lying on this Serta bed in the mattress store.  Eventually, I caved in — as all husband do with their wives.   We ordered two mattresses, one for each of our apartments.

As we ordered the mattresses, the salesman looked at us, confused.

Salesman:  "You mean you live in two different apartments, right next to each other?"

Me:  "We’re separated."

A few weeks later, I could hear Nadine next door having sex with her new boyfriend on her new Serta mattress.

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