Here's What Happens to Returned Mail-Order Mattresses

Returning a mail-order mattress is more complicated than it sounds.
Returning a mail-order mattress is more complicated than it sounds.
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Thanks to the compressive properties of foam, mail-order mattresses have become a big business in recent years. Companies like Casper and Tuft send rolled-up beds to consumers, who typically have 30 to 100 days to literally sleep on it before committing to the purchase.

While most seem satisfied, a percentage end up sending the mattress back for a refund. The problem is that it’s difficult to roll a decompressed mattress back up into a shipping tube. In short, an industry built on promising easy returns can’t often accept the returned merchandise. So what happens?

Maggie Koerth of FiveThirtyEight recently investigated. She purchased a mattress from Tulo, and, like many consumers, decided the firmness wasn’t to her liking. She wanted to exchange her medium-firm for a firm. The company told her she was best off simply donating the mattress to a charitable organization, though it was essentially hers to do with as she wished.

Thinking of reselling it, she eventually stumbled across a third-party service, Sharetown, that’s growing in popularity among mattress companies. Sharetown is a networking tool that connects a mattress retailer with a resale agent. The agent picks the mattress up from the customer and resells it via a community site like Facebook or Craigslist. If it sells, everyone gets a cut. (Except the customer, who received a refund from the mattress company.)

But not all mattress companies take this approach. Others, like Tuft & Needle, urge consumers to donate their unwanted mattress to a local charity or recycle it. Then they process a refund once the customer has delivered proof, like a donation receipt. They promise to enlist a third party to handle pick-up if necessary. Casper has a similar policy.

If all else fails, companies sometimes encourage buyers to donate to a friend or family member or simply give it away for free.

So does anyone actually try to stuff their rejected mattress back into a box and deliver it right back to the company? At least one guy did. Early on, Tuft & Needle found that someone was able to perform this challenging task. He then billed the company $300 for shipping.

[h/t FiveThirtyEight]

The Reason Toilet Paper Is Always White

Toilet paper keeps it simple.
Toilet paper keeps it simple.
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It doesn't matter whether you grab it at Costco or Walmart or whether it's Cottonelle or Charmin. Toilet paper is always stark white, which makes every bit of residue from its selfless mission to clean one’s rear end visible. But assessing whether a proper wipe job has been done is not why toilet paper is white.

According to Reader’s Digest, toilet paper is made from cellulose fiber harvested from trees or recycled paper and then mixed with water to create wood pulp. Manufacturers then bleach the pulp to remove the polymer lignin, a process that creates softer tissue. (Removing lignin also extends the life of the paper. With it, your tissue might age as poorly as newspaper.) Naturally, that same bleach also renders the pulp white. Otherwise, there would be brown streaks—and not the kind you’re thinking of. The glue holding the cellulose together is usually darker in color.

Obviously, white toilet paper makes it easier to determine when a person has finished cleaning up after themselves. But it’s not unheard of to find colored toilet tissue. In the 1950s, pastels were popular, with people looking to match the color of the paper with their bathroom design. Consumers picked up lavender and beige rolls until the 1980s, at which point concerns over skin irritation and possible environmental damage due to the dyes saw them disappear from the market. Other countries, like South America and Europe, offer toilet paper in different colors. In France, even scented toilet paper can be found on shelves, which seems like it would be a losing battle considering what the fragrance is up against.

As festive as that all sounds, Americans seem to be pleased with white bathroom tissue. Considering dyes only add to the cost, it would be like flushing money down the toilet.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

What Does 'State of Emergency' Really Mean?

Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
Firefighters battle a state of emergency.
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Local and state officials across the U.S. are declaring states of emergency in their efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic. Some entire countries, including Italy and Japan, have also declared a state of emergency. But what does this phrase really entail?

Local and State Response

The answer varies a bit from state to state. Essentially, declaring a state of emergency gives the governor and his or her emergency management team a bit of extra latitude to deal with a situation quickly and with maximum coordination. Most of these powers are straightforward: The governor can close state offices, deploy the National Guard and other emergency responders, and make evacuation recommendations.

Other powers are specific to a certain situation. For example, in a blizzard, a governor can impose travel restrictions to clear roads for snowplows and other emergency vehicles.

Calling in the Feds

If a disaster is so severe that state and local governments don’t have the cash or the logistical ability to adequately respond, the governor can ask for a declaration of a federal emergency. In this case, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does a preliminary damage assessment to help determine whether the governor should petition the president for a federal emergency declaration.

When the declaration from the president comes through, state and local governments can get funding and logistical help from the feds. What makes a crisis a federal emergency? The list is pretty broad, but FEMA shares some criteria here.