Saturday, January 11, 2014



The SleepCountry ads, stressing the company is Proudly Canadian and growing, certainly send a reassuring message. So does the Wikipedia story on it which is so nice that the Wikipedia monitors complain it reads like an ad.
Still, the last thing I wanted to do on the last day of the year was go to one of its 161 stores to buy a mattress.
But any husband who has been married for 52 years knows that some things are just not negotiable when SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED wants to sail into the new year with no hollows in the master bed.
So there I was at the east end of Bloor West Village trying to find some place to park where Mary, cane and all, could actually manoeuvre through the Himalayas of ice that merchants and the city leave behind when they pretend to clear the sidewalks and a few roads.
We marched into 2100 Bloor Street West and right to the back. My duty, I was told sternly, was to recline on the chosen king-sized foam mattress, verify Mary had made the right choice as to softness, take out my Visa, and leave.
Only one clerk. A Michael Wright. Called a sales associate. But you could have called him anything because as he informed me later in cold tones, he was THE staff
He remembered Mary from the first scouting visit and verified what mattress I was supposed to sample as a sleep dummy. I laid down, told Mary it was okay, and felt for my charge card.
But in walked a woman that Wright immediately left to serve. They wandered around most of the store.  As they came near us, I said as sarcastically as I could muster - and Mary says I can be bad -  just go ahead and serve her while we wait.
Which he did.
 So I had plenty of opportunity to ask just how much comparison shopping Mary had done. After all, the price seemed high even for a sale. But I knew nothing about such prices. And Mary and Yolanda, the daughter-in-law, seemed to be talking about mattress prices for most of this decade as Mary wanted  one for her birthday, or anniversary, or Christmas etc.
I no longer get involved since I did research, including Consumers Report, on a new fridge, stove and dishwasher, and Mary bought the ones I said should be avoided. Then there is the sofa and love seat in our living room covered with what I said was the material I liked least. But that's the way it goes in a long marriage.
Our discussion was interrupted by the clerk-sales associate-manager-caretaker who shouted from half the store away his opinions about mattress sales and stores like the Brick.
About 15 minutes later, he finally finished a small sale and turned to us. I asked about the staffing. He was here alone, he said, because some days there were few customers, even stretches of several hours with no one.
I said I was surprised that such a chain operation with all those repetitious ads starring one owner, Christine Magee, would not have more staff around, considering all the unemployment and their preening about all the accolades they said they have received.
I asked if the customer he had served instead of us was just following up on a previous visit. He said she was new, but with so few people coming in, he had to deal with her too even if we were first.
Besides, he said, we hadn't been inconvenienced. Did I really have something else to do? An interesting tactic, I thought, his gambit was it was a weekday afternoon and obviously we were old farts, so why was I making a fuss? I said I did have other things to do. He went from chilly to hostile. He said he had never heard of anything as ridiculous as what I had said and why didn't I take my business elsewhere.
Fine, I said, and turned for the door. But Mary at that point was prepared to go through a war to get a new mattress, and paid the $2,247.42 on her Visa. Then she paid another $226 for new sheets, which I grumpily compared to gilding the lily or something.
 I thought that was the end of it, although I now knew I was dealing with a chain so successful that the clerk-sales associate- manager-caretaker could tell a customer with charge card in hand to take a hike, even when he knew I was a  journalist.
It was impressed on us that the next Wednesday at 8 a.m., we would be phoned and given the three-hour window for delivery that day.
This fact was told me again, several times, on Sunday morning when SleepCountry called. Strange timing, I thought.
On Wednesday, the early call said they would be there between noon and 3 p.m..
Two chaps with a big delivery truck that they parked practically in the middle of the street arrived inconveniently half an hour early. They played a good cop-bad cop routine, one informing me they couldn't get the mattress up the stairs to the second floor, the second saying they would do it if we signed a waiver to cover the expected damage.
I pointed out that over the years we have had two king-sized foam mattresses taken up the same stairs and pointed to the last one as proof. They said it was thinner than what we had bought, indeed a piece of junk
So I said let's just forget the whole thing and you take the mattress back. They glared.  Mary donned battle helmet and flak jacket and indicated she would wade through hellfire to keep this mattress.
So we were ordered to remove 29 paintings, family pictures and Donato cartoons along the carry route, and to remove their supporting hooks and nails too. Then they grunted, folded, pulled, huffed and puffed, and at one point almost swore at me for trying to help. (Once my job was moving machinery, each of which weighed several tonnes and were much more awkward than a bendable mattress.)
It really wasn't that much of a problem. So Mary's new bed was installed, and I imagine that somewhere trumpets sounded.
Off they went with the old mattress - we were charged a $10 "green" recycling fee - and the old frame was left strewn like dinosaur bones across the bedroom carpet. Some wrapping was still stuck to the mattress.
I laid down for the second time on Mary's dream and contemplated the ceiling as they drove away and no longer blocked the street to most traffic. My immediate thought was I must tell my family what a wonderful business SleepCountry is in, and maybe they should try to get into it too. After all, a clerk-sales associate-manager-caretaker and  delivery guys felt things are so prosperous with the company, they could tell some guy to go away with his $2,247.42 business. Plus $226 for sheets.
Not a great experience. I contemplated sleeping on the couch as a protest against it.  Except the mattress was so comfortable, I had a nap instead.

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