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. / FotoDuets/iStock via Getty Images

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]