Milwaukee-area Mattress Store Tries "Employee-Free" Showrooms

Jan 30, 2015

"Hassless Mattress" is attempting to lure customers by offering an employee-free shopping experience.
Credit Erin Toner

A Milwaukee-area company says it's removing the hassle from mattress shopping, by removing the employees.

The gimmick might appeal to you if you don’t like aggressive salespeople following your every move. Sue Stefanowski and her 15-year-old daughter, Sydney, heard a radio commercial for Hassless Mattress and stopped in to the Greenfield store, one of four locations.

“I didn’t really know that they really didn’t have anybody here,” Stefanowski says.

She keeps expecting salespeople to pop out of back rooms. No one does, and that’s 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 to test out a few mattresses, she says she’s glad there’s no sales person hovering.

“And then you have to like, give them your opinion right away and they’re like hovering over you waiting. It’s really awkward,” Sydney says.

Sydney’s mom’s happy because she expects a great deal.

She’s right, says Hassless Mattress co-owner Weston Huth.

“A good 13 percent is kind of what we’re actually taking off,” he says.

Huth is related to the folks who own Penny Mustard Furniture. He says his mattresses are cheaper because he’s not paying anyone to sell them. His stores even open and close remotely and he monitors them using web cams. So how do customers actually 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.

The company says it can offer lower prices because it's not paying anyone to sell mattresses.
Credit Erin Toner

Customers can also place orders at an in-store kiosk. And for those who do want help from a human being, Huth has plastered his cell phone number all over the stores.

One observer is surprised by the concept.

“Well, it’s very experimental,” says Mara Devitt, a partner at McMillanDoolittle, a retail consulting firm in Chicago.

She says while self-serve stores might work for mattresses, the concept probably won’t catch on with other items, like appliances.

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

The Hassless Mattress stores have been open a few months, and the owners say business is not yet where they had hoped. While they are saving on overhead, they’re spending a ton on marketing, hoping to turn their quirky idea into profits.