Think about competition in the economy and big names come to mind, like Apple vs. Microsoft, Uber vs. Lyft, Walmart vs. Target. But in pretty much every industry, a secret war is raging, and not even your humble mattress is free of the grit and machinations of the capitalist struggle.
Just kidding, but only kind of: Casper, the startup which sells high-tech memory foam and latex mattresses, went to war with at least three online mattress review sites before bankrolling an effort to acquire one of them, Recode reported this weekend.
According to Recode, Casper sued the three review sites in April 2016, saying each of them ranked highly on search results for terms like “mattress reviews” but “did not conspicuously disclose” they were accepting money from its competitors. The mattress giant claimed the review sites were steering potential customers looking for fair reviews of Casper products away to competitors, which it said was a deceptive advertising practice.
All three sites ultimately ended up settling with Casper, though Casper then loaned an SEO and startup consultancy named JAKK Media money to buy out Sleepopolis—potentially putting itself in the awkward position of engaging in similar business practices to those it just sued. Per Recode, the financing has sparked gossip throughout the mattress industry:
They wonder what happens if the operators of Sleepopolis default on the Casper loan, giving the mattress company control of the site. Perhaps more importantly, they question why a company of Casper’s stature in the industry—the startup is believed to be the biggest of the so-called “bed-in-a-box” startups, recently raising a $170 million investment led by Target and with its products in Target stores—would risk the perception of impropriety. I have yet to get an answer.
According to Recode, disclosures now appear on many of Sleepopolis’ pages. But reviews which previously appeared on the site are now being replaced by updated ones which tout Casper products, like this very positive review marked as having a “2017 update.”
“Overall my experience with Casper was very positive—the comfort of the mattress definitely stands out from the pack in my mind,” the review now states. “With their generous sleep-trial, if the Casper mattress intrigues you, I say go for it!”
Just a quick look at the mattress industry, which is unexpectedly full of intrigue.