Pillow seller’s puffed-up ad claims offer wake-up call to shoppers

CONSUMER FORUM

Posted Jan. 09, 2017, at 6:42 a.m.

The first network news coverage we saw on the MyPillow flap told only half the story.

Yes, the headline was that the Better Business Bureau, or BBB, had pulled the company’s accreditation and lowered its rating from A-plus to F because of the firm’s advertising practices. The story cited the “buy-one-get-one-free” offer that runs continuously, meaning the “sale” price was actually the “regular” price.

The BBB said it acted because of a “pattern of complaints” over the BOGO offer, both on TV and online. MyPillow owner and CEO Mike Lindell said he was “terribly disappointed” and that his goal is still to give “as many people as possible the chance to have a great night’s sleep.”

What the initial network news story did not cover was MyPillow’s settlement last fall of a lawsuit brought by consumer advocacy groups in California. The groups took issue with health claims on its website that MyPillow could help sufferers of sleep apnea, fibromyalgia and insomnia.

While admitting no wrongdoing, the company paid just less than $1 million in civil penalties and promised another $100,000 for homeless shelters. It also dropped the health claims.

Earlier last year, the company settled a suit brought by the state of New York, which claimed that MyPillow had knowingly failed to pay sales taxes on purchases by New Yorkers. Again admitting no wrongdoing, the company entered into a $1.1 million settlement.

Lindell said he’s planning to change his advertising early this year but has not said how.

Consumer Reports bought three MyPillows last fall. Testers gave them mixed reviews (www.consumerreports.org/mattresses/should-my-pillow-become-your-pillow/).

Consumers should know that the BOGO offer applied to the firm’s “premium” series ($90 for two pillows). The pillows sold in retail stores have no gusset, fewer loft levels and retail for $49 to $69 each.

If companies make false health claims and are warned to stop, they “are going to pay the price if they don’t comply,” Bonnie Patton, executive director of Truth in Advertising Inc., said. The Connecticut-based nonprofit fights misleading ads and investigates complaints ( www.truthinadvertising.org).

TINA published a report on its investigation of MyPillow’s ads in February of 2016.

Consumers who sleep restfully may scoff at others who have paid millions over the years seeking a good night’s sleep. But they may be among the millions of consumers who spend billions of dollars on health products, many with dubious claims and sketchy performance.

It’s not too late for resolutions in the early days of this year.

Let’s all promise ourselves that we’ll look hard at ad claims, scientific research, real testimonials and the experience of friends or relatives. Let’s put our skepticism on high and our spending on low, which searching for the true bargains in the marketplace.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

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