Second Hand Mattress Salesman

Second Hand Mattress Salesman

The close of the election season brings with it, if nothing else, a joyous end to the constant barrage of door-to-door canvassing and shredder bursting election materials. Between Amazon deliveries and election materials, the front doors and postal service has seen more action in the early half of December than the rest of the year combined.

Photo by Neha Deshmukh on Unsplash

Surprisingly, in an election season, just a single visitor was an outright scam artist looking for an easy mark.

The insistent and near glass-shattering three goes knocking at the door indicated either a passer-by in some distress or delivery driver implementing dire time management. I feared the latter when I saw the visitor’s unmarked but battered white transit van parked across the drive.

Instead of an oversized shoebox for three AA batteries, a short and balding man launched into a fast-paced spiel about leftover mattresses, delightful memory foam, and the psychological importance of a good nights rest. He was, as it happens, ready to sell off a high-grade mattress at a discount price to save the fuel costs of transporting it all the way to Newcastle.

For a brief second I was utterly baffled. The scam, one of the most common on the planet, I was very aware of; in that moment however, I could not for the life of me see how it could possibly work. Both the idea and execution was insane, aside from making no sense at all — who buys a mattress at the side of the road?

Thanks But No Thanks

I made my own feeble excuses, lamenting that if only he had arrived perhaps 12 months ago when I imagined I had last bought a mattress then we’d both be in luck.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that a scam so odd, shonky and obvious couldn’t possibly be a scam at all. He must surely just be a well-meaning man with a surplus of mattresses which he would be happy to sell off at a vastly discounted rate. Logically, since no-one could possibly fall for it, the offer must have surely been genuine.

Photo by Marian Kroell on Unsplash

The idea amused me so much I had to find out. Almost as soon as he had left I was online to find out how and why the scam worked at all. A moments research brought me to story after story of people who had been visited by a door-to-door mattress salesman and purchased a street mattress in a spontaneous moment.

Most were people looking for recourse either in law or vigilante justice. The police, it turns out, are largely disinterested if you happen to get in touch dissatisfied with the discount mattress you bought on the street. They claim you are simply an unhappy customer, not the victim of an overly clever ruse to scam you for cash.

A few broadcast their own story as a warning for others to learn from, a message to look out and be wary if someone offers you a deal or opportunity too good to be true. Even if it is to test a bedspring on the kerb. Reports of the products finally delivered range from ‘lumpy, questionably filled and dangerous’ to ‘actually reasonably pleasant for the money.’ A few rare cases seemed to indicate they were happy with their chosen product, that they would buy another if only he would call again.

Thanks, Come Again Soon?

Overall the balding rip-off mattress salesman was a welcome break from disappointing little old ladies with my voting choices or shredding more campaign leaflets seemingly printed on Teflon. Every day in December averaged six visits from morning till night. The election itself began to undermine the very point of working from home.

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

It wasn’t until Thursday evening that the tale of the door-to-door mattress salesman rung home again. While I couldn’t imagine willingly purchasing a mattress in an opportune moment at the side of the road — it did make marginally more sense than voting for a Conservative candidate at the end of one of the most bizarre campaigns I can remember.

Yet, somehow, that too was a sales pitch which was going over well everywhere south of the central belt. England overwhelmingly appeared to endorse the Tory part message, voting in Johnson’s government with a Conservative majority which hadn’t previously been won in my own lifetime.

People voted despite knowing more than 85% of the parties advertising contained proven lies, watching as they doctored and published fake interviews from opposition candidates, and brandished weird and wacky figures made of nonsense about the NHS. The UK public seemingly looked at Johnson’s campaign and decided to take a punt on the shady looking package out the back of the van.

This too may be something I will never hope to understand. It’s not something I would ever consider myself and it’s something which baffles me in the behaviour of others. If I have one consolation it’s that the mattress man faced slamming door after slamming door as he pitched up and down the street. No one in my own neighbourhood was buying and the same held for Scotland too.

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