Recently a friend of mine treated himself and his wife to a new mattress, which is the most boring way to begin an article that I can think of. Dinner? No. A romantic vacation? No. How about shopping for a way to more comfortably be unconscious? Woo-hoo!
Oh, and by the way, I’m not saying ‘a friend of mine’ to cover up the fact that this happened to me. It actually did happen to a friend of mine.
Anyway, I didn’t realize how psychotically expensive mattresses can be until he told me that the bed they bought cost $6,500. I’m assuming it was a bed with memory foam, Craftmatic adjustability, built-in speakers, running lights around the frame, and the ability to gently turn you in the middle of the night so that you’ll stop snoring. At the very least I assumed it would be comfortable.
But apparently not. A week after sleeping on their gold-encrusted mattress, my friend and his wife decided that they hated it. They were dissatisfied, and wanted to return it.
Here’s where two roads diverged in the woods.
First my friend called the store to return their mattress, where he was told that all sales were final. Now officially enraged (has that sentence ever soothed a dissatisfied customer?), he countered by saying that was a stupid policy. The customer service representative then said that they couldn’t process a return even if they wanted to, because it hadn’t been 30 days yet, and it takes around 30 days for people to properly adjust to a new mattress. My friend was obviously silly for believing that a mattress more expensive than many people’s cars should provide a delightful night’s sleep right off the bat. I don’t think the customer service person actually said that part, because by then my friend had hung up in a rage. He called his wife, said they were stuck with their terrible mattress for the rest of time, and waited for her to share in his anger.
Instead, though, she asked if she could try calling back.
Of course she could, he said. If she wanted to experience the same sense of futility he’d just gone through, she was welcome to. Knock yourself out, honey.
Twenty minutes later she called him back. “It’s all taken care of,” she said. “They’re going to come pick the mattress up next week.”
My friend was astonished. What had she done? Had she threatened to sue them? Used language he didn’t know she knew?
None of the above, she assured him. “I just asked to speak to a supervisor and made sure I called them by their first name. And when they started in on their return policy I asked how they would feel if they’d made a similarly expensive purchase that wasn’t working out and someone told them they couldn’t do anything about it. That was basically it. The rest of it was easy and they made an exception to their policy.”
There are several things you can take away from this story – women make better negotiators, $6,500 mattresses are only worth the price if there’s $6,000 hiding inside of it, and so on – but the biggest lesson for me is how much tone and language actually matters. My friend and his wife wanted the same thing, they both asked for the same thing, but they did it in very different ways. One worked, and one didn’t.
So the next time you need something that you’re not able to get, don’t give up. Just try again in a different way, with different words and a different tone. You know, the ways kids do when they really, really, really want some ice cream before dinner.
Happy mattress shopping!