Mattress giant tells discount chain to give mattress claims a rest

Come On Down!

It’s always been about those commercials.

Former waterbed salesman Bob Kaufman built a discount furniture empire. It expanded outward from a single Connecticut warehouse in the early 1990s to reach more than 80 locations in 15 states by 2017. This successful expansion was anchored by the company’s ubiquitous television commercials, which are awkward and endearing in the unique way that only local television advertising can be.

The spots generally feature a mix of personalities, including Kaufman, Bob’s PR Director Cathy Poulin, local sports celebrities and “Little Bob,” a diminutive CGI caricature of Kaufman. And the spots have no shortage of cheesy taglines: “Come on down!” was a prominent early catchphrase.

Among the company’s tags is “dare to compare,” which highlights the price difference between a competitor’s product – a bedroom set, let’s say – and Bob’s much cheaper version of the same.

Go to the Mattresses

In September 2017, Simmons Bedding filed a complaint in the Northern District of Illinois against Bob’s Discount Furniture for just such a comparison. A Bob’s commercial dared consumers to compare its “Black Label Gel Euro Top” mattress against Simmons’ “Beautyrest Black Mariela.” Bob’s claimed that both products featured the same components: supportive latex foam, gel-infused memory foam and so forth. But the price tag was another matter: The Simmons mattress was $1,800 more than the Bob’s version. “You get the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t just spend $1800 on a fancy logo,” says the ad.

Simmons sent Bob’s a cease-and-desist letter in June to little effect: Bob’s released a new ad a fortnight later with a similar side-by-side comparison, which concluded by saying, “Sure, they’re not exactly the same, but you be the judge. Theirs is priced at a whopping $2799, while ours is priced at only $999. Dare to compare at Bob’s Discount Furniture…”

Not Sleeping Around

Simmons was unimpressed.

Simply put, Simmons and its sister company, Serta, do not take jabs about the impact of their mattress technologies lightly. The Simmons website boasts a “rich” history stretching back more than 100 years. The complaint against Bob’s references this history, including highlights like how it introduced the queen- and king-sized mattresses and the company’s more than 100 patents. At the heart of the complaint are some of these innovations. Despite the similar features highlighted in the commercial, Simmons claims its technology sets the Black Mariela product apart. “Bob’s [product] does not employ any of Simmons’ proprietary Micro Diamond™ Memory Foam, Simmons’ patented Advanced Pocketed Coil™ Technology, or the luxurious fabrics used in Simmons’ Beautyrest Black® mattress,” the complaint states.

The Takeaway

How will Bob’s respond? The addition of the “not exactly the same” phrase in the second ad may offer a hint; Bob’s may maintain that its ad is claiming the use of similar components rather than specific proprietary technology.

Simmons and Bob’s have tussled before. In 2013, Simmons’ sister company Serta sent a cease-and-desist letter to the discount chain, demanding that it discontinue commercials claiming that Bob’s mattresses contained “twice the gel-infused memory foam at half the price” of Serta’s product. In that instance, Bob’s complied.

In this case, Simmons seeks an end to the commercials, injunctive relief enjoining Bob’s from claiming its mattresses have the same components as Simmons’, corrective advertising addressing the alleged false claims, damages, and related fees, costs and expenses.