Listen To The Story

If you hate car shopping because of aggressive salespeople, buying a mattress might be equally unpleasant. For one thing, it feels kind of gross to lie down on well-worn showroom mattresses. Plus, salespeople follow your every move, trying to snag the commission on your new firm or pillowtop set.

A Wisconsin company says it has removed the hassle from mattress shopping – by removing the employees.

“I didn’t really know that they didn’t have anybody here,” says Sue Stefanowski,who walked through one of the new Hassless Mattress shows in Milwaukee with her daughter Sydney, 15. Stefanowski kept expecting salespeople to pop out from back rooms. But no one did, and that was just fine.

“Because it’s not like I have big questions about a mattress. No, this doesn’t bother me one bit. This is kind of nice. I’d come back here,” she says.

As Sydney plops down on a few mattresses, she says she likes that there's no salesperson standing over her. “And then you have to like give them your opinion right away, and they’re like hovering over you waiting. It’s really awkward,” she says.

Sydney’s mom is happy because she thinks this employee-free concept means she’s getting a better deal.

Hassless Mattress co-owner Weston Huth says his mattresses are cheaper because he doesn’t have to pay anyone to push them. “A good 13 percent is kind of what we’re actually taking off,” Huth says.

The goal of the new venture is to give customers a good deal and a comfortable experience, Huth says. He opens and closes the stores remotely and monitors them using webcams.

How do customers buy the products, without sales staff or cashiers?

“Mostly they go home, kind of think about it a little bit and order from their own computer. They don’t talk to me until I’m scheduling the delivery,” Huth says.

Customers also place orders at an in-store kiosk. For those who do want help from a human, Huth's cellphone number is  plastered all over the stores.

Wally Lecocq and his wife say they called Huth’s number while shopping, and their questions were answered right away. “We like looking at things without being bothered, or information from salespeople,” Lecocq said.

Industry analysts say they’ve never seen anything like Hassless Mattress’ sales tactic.

“It’s very experimental,” says Mara Devitt, a partner at the Chicago retail consulting firm, McMillanDoolittle.

While the concept might work for mattresses – a pretty uncomplicated product – it’s probably not something that will catch on for other items, such as appliances, Devitt says.

“It would be very difficult, I think, to go into a showroom where you didn’t have someone who could explain the features and benefits of one over the other,” Devitt said.

Hassless Mattress owners says business is not yet where they hoped it would be. While they’re saving on overhead, they’re spending a ton on marketing as they try to profit from their quirky idea. 

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.