From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

How many people were involved with this ad for Miracle Mattress?? How did it get on the air without someone with a brain cell twitching pointing out that it was so offensive that it would spark significant, indeed company-threatening backlash on social media? The company owner has apologized abjectly, but this is a serious management botch. Unless he is lying in his apology and didn’t know about the ad or see it before it was launched, he has hired a bunch of incompetent who are given far too much power.

The woman who starred in the commercial is the San Antonio store’s manager. She, at very least, has proven herself to be an incompetent fool. It might help business recover if in addition to her being fired, her head was placed on a pike outside the store…but that would be wrong.

On the bright side, maybe Colin Kaepernick  will buy a mattress there.

63 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, History, Humor and Satire, Marketing and Advertising

63 responses to “From The “When Ethics Alarms Don’t Work” Files: The 9-11 Mattress Sale Ad

  1. Up until the end of the ad though it only warranted a “this is awful and inappropriate”. It wasn’t until the end that it really … Well … Good lord.

    By the way, if anyone comes to their defense I’m pretty sure I know who will.

  2. aliciamklein

    I honestly watched it with my mouth agape. There aren’t many things that leave me speechless…

  3. That level of “stupid” cannot be fixed.

  4. Ho……ly….shit…. My jaw hit my desk.

  5. Of course, the level of stupid is worse on second viewing. Her little half-hearted “we’ll never forget” suggests to me that someone said

    “hey maybe this is a bit much this probably toes the line on horribleness, maybe we ought to mollify the inevitably offended viewers by saying that we won’t forget”

    “Yeah, you’re right, this could be horribly inappropriate, good idea to add that closing statement of remembrance. Let’s roll with it!”

  6. Every idiot involved in this advertisement must have thought this was humorous or they wouldn’t have done it, and in doing so each one of them has glaringly shown a genuine lack of character.

    This is another case where the old adage comes into play…

    Nothing shows a persons’ character more than what that person is willing to laugh at.

    What’s sad is the people that put this together are so damned stupid that they will walk the walk of a public apology but when the get in their car to drive home they will scream at the top of their lungs that they didn’t do damn thing wrong.

    Side note: I think it’s interesting that I have gotten to use that old adage twice in two days.

  7. dragin_dragon

    Local bar owner nearly lost a T.V. when we, his customers, saw that ad. A retired Marine sitting at our table tried to throw a full beer at it. He, of course, was restrained by the rest of us, but it is a safe bet that the store’s customers will no longer buy there.

    • While I understand the soldier’s motivations, I wonder if that was a proper use of a perfectly fine beer. I think not. I am relieved you and your fellow patrons succeeded in restraining said soldier from committing such a heinous act against a member of the fermented hops family.

      jvb

  8. Wow. That is a whole new level of cynicism. Mock September 11th, but save face by uttering silly platitudes of “we’ll never forget” as a throw away patriotic line to stand with those who lost their lives in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania. I am surprised they didn’t toss in a “if you don’t support our mattress sale, you don’t support the troops!” for good measure. All to make a quick buck. Wow.

    That does beg the question, though: At what point such commerce step aside to allow citizens to honor the commitments of those in the armed forces? There are Fourth of July sales, Veterans’ Day sales, Memorial Day sales, Labor Day sales (yes, that fine national holiday where we honor the troops for sacrificing everything so that workers can get the first Monday of September off, or something . . . at least that is what the ad I heard last weekend say). Is there a point where the meaning of the day gets lost in the hustle for the almighty dollar?

    jvb

    • Meh. Commerce and Community go hand in hand (that is in healthy societies). I don’t really have a beef with holiday sales.

      Though many citizens take a holiday to observe and commemorate it’s meaning while others just take it as a day of leisure… a substantial portion of the Community sees holidays as an opportunity to catch up on tasks and purchases they’ve needed to complete.

      Well, that means the general market on that particular day is flooded with buyers. In a market saturated with goods (which ours is) that don’t clear out rapidly (which ours doesn’t for items such as mattresses), indicates that when the market also gets saturated with buyers looking for those particular items, one would expect price increases commensurate with demand, but that won’t fly as buyers would merely push off the purchase until later and in fact the opposite occurs… prices want to fall… and as long as one seller does so, all have to do so.

      Holiday sales are really just the community *working* just fine. You can have your sales AND have the meaning of the holiday also. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

      Has it occurred to you that, maybe just maybe, the sellers who put up the sales and the buyers who capitalize on them also still celebrate and understand the meaning of the holidays also?

      • Texagg04 asked,

        “Has it occurred to you that, maybe just maybe, the sellers who put up the sales and the buyers who capitalize on them also still celebrate and understand the meaning of the holidays also?”

        Yes. It has occurred to this writer and your point is well stated. The question is relevant, though, in my never-to-be-humble opinion. Is there a line drawn? Should it be drawn? Is the lamentation of over-commercialization of national holidays simply silly? Those are legitimate questions.

        jvb

        • The market responds to the community.

          The lament shouldn’t be: “Have we over-commercialized holidays as a people?”

          the lament should be “Have we become so secularized that we don’t apply proper reverence and sacredness to holidays as a people?”

          And the answer to that is probably, yes. But then again, we asked for it.

    • I’m very surprised that anyone took that “we’ll never forget” line as anything but more mockery.

  9. Chris Marschner

    Jack
    This is what you get when you put people in charge of marketing whose only training in the matter is what they see on local cable TV ads. Yes, the spot was more than ill conceived but laying 100% of the blame on the store personnel is a bit off base. To create such a commercial one uses the local cable firm or some local marketing firm of questionable quality who write or strongly suggest the copy or ad concept. You then have to place the ad on the airways. These small business owners may have little training in marketing and it always shows when they rely 100% on these “marketing pro’s” who represent the local broadcast channel or cable network.

    Our world is filled with bad taste. We enjoy watching people get hurt on TV programs. It is no wonder that some small business guy that sells mattresses in the suburbs of Podunk would think this would get his message out. Instead of vilifying these people I think we should accept the apology and move on. Are we any better if we cause this small business to go under because they made a mistake? How ethical was it of the news broadcast that made the world aware of this lame ad. Did they do it out of patriotism or to gin up outrage? Why are we not making the station that aired such an ad equally culpable? Was the money they made from airing it too good to give up? I wonder if the same local news channel that brought it to light was the same one that aired the spot.

    I don’t think these small business owners that make such mistakes have the resources to have trainers come and instruct them on the ethics of various actions. If ethics were innate then their would be no reason for ethics training.

    By the way: In the end this guy is getting more free publicity from this spot then he could have ever hoped to purchase. I would almost bet that even with the ad pulled it becomes highly effective because of the added notoriety created by the media’s horror at the ad. It would have been better to pull the ad and hope the few people that may have seen it soon forget the ad.

    • JimHodgson

      San Antonio is the 36th largest TV market in the nation, hardly Podunk. At least, If I were advertising in that market, I would be carefully reviewing ANYTHING my employees were considering putting on the airwaves. Obviously no intelligent management oversight here!

  10. One should note that, based on quick assumptions, the three idiots in the commercial and likely it’s brain trust (I really don’t think the mattress company outsourced any of this) were all probably 2-4 years old when we were attacked on 9-11.

    And no that isn’t an excuse. Rather a blanket grump targetted towards the generation.

  11. I find myself when faced with non-malicious acts of stupidity and ignorance not terribly inclined to allow myself to get angry. Though I can see why many people — and the closer to the event the more likely — would react with anger.

    I read the comments under the letter of apology that was posted and frankly those comments distressed me more. The intensity of the anger and the desire to see harm done.

    If it weren’t a ‘viral’ situation and millions of people were not brought in to judge, jury and execute, what would one do? One would make a reasoned effort to explain why it was wrong. And I think that one would then let the matter go. Pass over it. But one would not desire their death. Or that they lose a family business.

  12. luckyesteeyoreman

    I am probably the only person who has done this, or at least, the only one who will admit to it: I watched the video several times, then, read (again, several times) and pondered all that Jack and the commenters have said so far…and I could not help trying to answer the question: Is there ANY way to advertise a “Twin Towers Mattress Sale” that WOULD be ethical?

    The best I have imagined (in my opinion) that I can describe so far, shows ONLY the lady, with the two “towers” of mattresses behind her…and her script being reverent and somber, instead of so sunny-silly-and-hey-look-at-me, where she somehow connects the towers behind her with the actual towers that were destroyed, while explaining the sale offering matter-of-factly, and weaving in the concept that “We’ll never forget 9-11…and we hope you will never forget either…we are committed to providing you the best mattresses at the best prices” (or something like that) – where that middle clause between the ellipses links “never forgetting” to two things: (1) the 9-11 attacks and all they involved, and (2) the company’s commitment.

    I work in a business that is hard to promote. I am on a team that says (as we sometimes must say) “no” to some of the top performers in the organization – who take “no” for an answer like some members of some minorities take hateful slurs like a dare to retaliate with murder. So I have a few years of experience with getting the word out about what we do, why we do it, and why we are – contrary to any and all chatter beyond our team’s earshot – the “good guys,” and not the bad guys that it’s too easy to think we are, to a hostile in-house crowd, most of who would just as gladly behave as if our function did not exist, if they thought they could get away with it.

    So it’s with that background that I could not resist spending a little time, trying to be the “ad guy” for the mattress-selling company. It looks like they made up the ad “on the fly,” without any consultation with any expert. Bad!

    • luckyesteeyoreman

      “#22 time:” The lady could have said something like, “FLY on down here for the TWIN TOWERS MATTRESS SALE! We’ll give you something WORTH CRASHING INTO!” while the two guys spread out their arms like airplane wings, made jet-whooshing noises, circled and plowed head-first into the stacks of mattresses. Yes: while trying to imagine how to make the ad ethical, I also imagined how to make it even more tacky.

      • Isaac

        “We declare jihad against high prices!”

      • Rich in CT

        I am not outraged. Mostly, because I am physically and emotionally exhausted by a new job.

        But consider, we may chuckle at the meta humor here, but how is chuckling at the black humor of what they *might* have said materially different from what they actually said? I offer no solemn condemnations, or proclamations of how avast and agape my mouth was while viewing. The ad was dumb, and little more. In the context of a TV ad, it was gross negligence of the local management’s part.

        I was 13 when the towers fell. Two years ago, I realized I was teaching 13 years who were not even born when they fell. The world moves on. The generation in that video failed to recognize the impact it had on the nation. People here think they will apologize in vain. I think not. They got a furious lesson. Teaching this is difficult. My students asked me about it on 9/11/14; and it is very difficult convey the deep, subtle and varied impacts.

        The content of the video is not objectively shocking. It is only a few steps over the bright red line that not even SNL would cross. The snarky comments here (mind you, not on TV) makes this quite evident. They harmed the company, and the featured store location might not even reopen, quite rightly due to a sudden lack of staff.

        They grossly acted in poor taste, and deserve plenty of consequences, including public criticism and loss of employment. But beware of hypocritical holier than thou condemnations.

      • Becky

        I was in a play reading in 2004 and there were a LOT of things made fun of: it was a modern-retelling of Ubu Roi- famous French play mocking everything. One thing that happened that divided the audience was the building of 2 towers of lego-like boxes, and then a character named Haughty Obabia (yes, all names were of this ilk), did exactly what you describe. There were those who said TOO SOON and didn’t forgive, those who said too soon and got back into the play, and those who laughed because they were rolling with it. We were at the Kennedy Center in DC on Labor Day weekend- just across and up the river from the Pentagon. Within the play itself, it worked, but there will always be some who don’t think so.

    • If they were offering the sale’s profits to a charity it might make it a bit less heinous. Perhaps they think enough time has passed that 9/11 can now be a holiday. You have Memorial Day sales in the US, do you not? That could be the line of thinking…

  13. You’ve got to admit it they could have made it much WORSE though. These are not very imaginative folks.

    I mean I just spent a minute with it and shudder to think if they might have included say:

    ‘Hunker down with us today and get free Coupons of Mass Deduction for your next mattress purchase!”

    Or if the’y have strung up fish line and had model airplanes swooping around.

    Or when those boys fell back on the mattresses if there would have been a rising cloud of flour dust …

    Or some Israelis introducing the commercial saying: “Pssssst! Pssssst! Don’t bother to go in to work today but HEAD ON DOWN to Miracle Mattress for the eXpLoSiVe 9-11 Twin Tower mattress sale!”

  14. Chris

    If this were an SNL sketch satirizing a terribly offensive ad, I would find it hilarious.

    As an actual ad, I can’t believe they actually did this.

    • Rich in CT

      You make a good point. The above ad is not funny, because is crass humor trivializing a national tragedy. SNL is funny, because it is crass humor ridiculing the crass consumerist culture that might produce such an ad.

      SNL is warning people not to look stupid, because 9-11 jokes look stupid, except when told in crass irony. No business should want to look crass.

  15. A clear-headed judge would find ignorance, childish stupidity, carelessness and thoughtlessness. But not malice. The question is: is an apology admitted today? I think not. And I wonder why this is. All that is admitted is punishment and infliction of harm.

    • Agreed: no malice. But gross negligence sufficient to implicate trust.

      • zoebrain

        Maybe I’m a cynic. I would not rule out deliberate sabotage.

        In any event, the store has closed indefinitely, the owner’s doing all that is humanly possible in the way of restitution, abd is obviously even more pissed off at the “commercial” than all but the most vehement critics.

        I suspect he would have paid for the jarhead’s beer, and another one to throw, and a third to drink. And a new TV for the bar.

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