The Horror of Being Haunted by Mattress Firm
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because you can't stay awake forever.
By Austin Bodetti
Most people don’t think about the U.S. bedding retailer Mattress Firm.
But I’m not most people.
For decades, I have thought about Mattress Firm constantly — when I’m brushing my teeth, when I’m crying silently at Arby’s and especially when I’m buying a new mattress.
Shockingly, I was a friendless child. I spent much of my lonely youth pondering a question that kept me up well past my 7:00 p.m. bedtime: Was Mattress Firm’s name a pun, with the word “firm” referring to both the type of business and the firmness of the mattress?
Immediately after Boston College made the dubious decision to give me a column at its top student publication in 2018, I launched an investigation into whether Mattress Firm’s name was a pun. Only after weeks of barraging potential interviewees with calls and emails — the most
underappreciated skill in journalism — did I get a response from Mattress Firm: “Much to the surprise of the public, Mattress Firm’s name is not a pun.”
What kind of investigative journalist would I be if I failed to determine the origins of the Sleepy’s theme song?
As a member of the public, I was indeed surprised. Even so, I had the answer to my question.
Over the next two years, I moved on with my journalistic career, but I never stopped thinking about Mattress Firm. After all, another question about its sleep-themed empire lingered: Was the jingle of the bedding chain Sleepy’s, which Mattress Firm acquired in 2015, a double entendre?
“Trust Sleepy’s for the rest of your life,” the company’s ominous tagline blared from my television throughout my childhood. While these advertisements disappeared after Mattress Firm bought Sleepy’s, the jingle still haunted my dreams. What kind of investigative journalist would I be if I failed to determine the origins of the Sleepy’s theme song?
“I need 600 words to solve the greatest mystery of our time,” I emailed my editor in June.
“You can have up to 900,” he replied.
By God, I would use all of them.
My latest mattress-focused investigation would begin the same place my last one ended — at BEDQuarters, Mattress Firm’s lazily named corporate headquarters. The company’s spokespeople had already demonstrated the superhuman patience necessary to deal with my prior inquiry. Surely they would be willing to entertain my questions about Sleepy’s.
Much like the people who thought buying a firm mattress was a good idea, I was quickly proven wrong. Mattress Firm never answered my emails, and my calls to its spokespeople went straight to voicemail. Only after two weeks did I get a response — not from Mattress Firm, but from Jackson Spalding, a marketing firm representing the company.
“I’m reaching out on behalf of my client, Mattress Firm,” a Jackson Spalding senior vice president emailed me. “They are going to pass on this opportunity.”
Mattress Firm’s spokespeople had deployed their own spokesperson to decline to comment. This struck me as the kind of bureaucratic inefficiency that drove the company to bankruptcy in 2018. In any case, it was clear that I wouldn’t be getting any answers from BEDQuarters.
I turned to LinkedIn, the Tinder of the monied elite. Adding as many former Sleepy’s executives as I could find, I hoped that some of them could confirm the pun behind the company’s eerie jingle. Only one added me back, though, and, just like my Tinder matches, he left me on read.
It was time to break out the big guns: I registered for a free trial of LinkedIn Premium.
The beauty of LinkedIn Premium is that it forces other LinkedIn users to read your messages whether they want to or not. My free trial gave me a monthlong window to slide into the DMs of the biggest names in bedding. I wasn’t going to waste the greatest opportunity of my life.
After I sent another round of LinkedIn messages, a former Sleepy’s executive agreed to speak to me off the record. I didn’t expect to need an anonymous source for my article on the theme song of a defunct purveyor of mattresses. Still, I wasn’t going to turn down a chance to learn one of the world’s most closely guarded secrets, second only to the KFC Original Recipe.
My source informed me that not only was the Sleepy’s jingle a pun, but customers and their children would also come into stores singing it. This was perhaps the strangest thing I had ever heard in a journalistic career that has included interviewing an Iranian presidential candidate about potatoes. At any rate, I had finally solved the legendary mystery of the Sleepy’s jingle.
As a journalist, I had a duty to find a corroborating source before closing my investigation. I could think of no one better than David Acker, Sleepy’s former chief executive. By all accounts, Acker was a charitable man. In 2015, he raised $131,000 for homeless youth. I hoped that he would do one final act of service and answer my extremely stupid question.
I tracked down Acker’s email address by crawling the bowels of the internet until I found a company where he served on the advisory board. Surprisingly, he replied to my query.
“The tagline was developed intentionally with the double meaning,” said Acker. “Plus, with our large advertising budget, it gave us brand recognition that we believed would influence consumers to think of us when they were ready for a new sleep system.”
This plan succeeded in at least one regard: I’ll be thinking about Sleepy’s for the rest of my life.
- Austin Bodetti, OZY Author Contact Austin Bodetti