State Lawmaker Wants Used Mattress Enforcement

State Lawmaker Wants Used Mattress Enforcement

CREATED Nov 22, 2010

By Jennifer Kraus
Consumer Investigator

A state lawmaker now wants changes after seeing what a NewsChannel 5 investigation uncovered about used mattresses being sold as new.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates sent undercover shoppers into stores to buy mattresses where employees assured us the mattresses were brand new. But we discovered they weren't new at all. Not only had other people had slept on these mattresses, but one mattress we purchased turned out to be really disgusting.

"I'm offended by that," said state Sen. Joe Haynes, D- Nashville. "I think it's gross. This is deplorable."

Haynes got the law passed four years ago that was supposed to protect consumers. But our undercover investigation found it's simply not working.

"Our intention was to ensure the consumer that they would know what they were buying when they walked in," Hayes recalled.

The law says stores must attach large yellow tags to used mattresses so shoppers know the bed has been used. But, in the stores we visited, we didn't see a single yellow tag -- even though the stores later admitted they do sell used mattresses.

It's also against the law for stores to offer something called a "comfort exchange" -- which means if you get the bed home and find you don't like the mattress you've bought for any reason, you can bring it back.

Yet, at Mattress Firm, that's exactly what employees told our undercover shoppers they could do.

One salesman explained, "Anything up here that's brand new has a comfort guarantee for 100 days and if you have to swap it (the mattress) out three or four times to get it right, we do that."

"That's a violation of the law. They can't do it," Haynes said.

In fact, back in September, the state sent a letter warning the company that comfort exchanges are illegal.

Yet, three months later, we found Mattress Firm was still breaking the law.

On another recent visit to Mattress Firm, another employee offered, "If they (customers) don't like it (the mattress), something you purchased, you have up to 100 days to switch it out to something you do."

"The problem is since no one's enforcing it, they don't care," said Keith Crenshaw, a 16-year veteran of the mattress industry who believes the law just doesn't have any teeth.

The fine for breaking it is just $50 -- and retailers know it's highly unlikely they'll ever have to pay it.

And, as it turns out, no where in the law does it say who's supposed to enforce it.

"We probably are a little guilty of not allowing an enforcement mechanism as we should have," Sen. Haynes admitted.

And, Haynes added, that as our investigation found, that's obviously a problem that needs to be fixed.

"The public deserves better and I hope we can give 'em better," Haynes said.

Haynes now says he plans to talk with the Attorney General's Office, the state Division of Consumer Affairs and the state Health Department to figure out how they can enforce the law and who specifically will do it.

And, he says, if the law needs to be tweaked in order to make that possible, he'll take care of that when the legislature reconvenes in January.

E-mail: jkraus@newschannel5.com

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