As you guys may or may not know, my first really big piece on Tedium was a takedown of sorts on hipster mattresses. It pondered the idea of how the companies came to prominence, as well as what it would take to start up a company just like this. It was absurd, but it was fun to write. It’s currently the top-ranking item on Google for the term “hipster mattress.”
Since then, I’ve gotten, somewhat like clockwork, repeated emails asking if I might add links to my website to promote either other mattress companies, or websites that review mattresses. I have a general policy against adding links to old articles for non-editorial reasons, and I’m certainly not changing it for the purpose of improving someone else’s search engine mojo.
Perhaps that’s why I was truly excited when I saw Fast Company’s takedown of the hipster mattress phenomenon. While they never used the term “hipster mattress” in the piece, author David Zax definitely showed a deep understanding of the business, and why it might in fact have a dark side.
Long story short: The potential for affiliate revenue greatly influences the reviews on mattress review sites. And companies like Casper and Tuft and Needle tried to take advantage of this to influence the bloggers, by promising them extra money if they played ball.
And bloggers who didn’t play ball, who rated some of these brands negatively? Well, they got sued. They became the subjects of link attacks. And in some cases, they even got bought out, all in an effort to influence the commentary you see on these mattress brands.
Literally just yesterday, I got an email from one of these review sites, asking me to add a link to their “in-depth guide on how to buy the right mattress for your needs.” I immediately declined. There is simply no reason to encourage this sketchiness.
The fact of the matter is this: mattresses are basically the perfect product to buy through the internet if you’re a manufacturer. First off, they’re expensive; second off, they’re hard to return—even if you choose to go the charity donation route; and finally, the margins are such that they’re incredibly attractive from the standpoint of the marketer, who stands to make as much as $50 from a single sale. That means they can be marketed heavily, and it creates an entire ecosystem around it.
It’s a highly valuable product that can singlehandedly push around a lot of dollars in the digital economy. And for that reason, it’s good to be skeptical, no matter how comfortable the mattress actually is.
An honest review of a hipster mattress is hard to come by.