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For most of us, those "do not remove under the penalty of law" tags on mattresses and other bedding items are humorous. But for Ed Cramer of New London County it became a major issue.
No, he didn't get arrested for removing what is known in the industry as the "law tag." But when his mattress started sagging, he was initially blocked from getting a new mattress under the warranty because he could not find the law tag.
Cramer's tale begins 10 years ago when he purchased a mattress and a box spring from Cardi's Furniture store in Warwick, R.I. A year and a half later he found that the Stearns & Foster mattress was sagging in the middle of the bed.
Cardi's came to his house, measured the mattress and made good on the 10-year warranty by giving him not only a new mattress but also a new box spring.
Fast forward to last fall when Cramer found the second mattress was sagging. By this time Sealy had taken over Stearns & Foster, and Cardi's no longer sold that brand.
As a courtesy, Cardi's sent its representative to Cramer's home, who measured the bed and found that it was sagging in the middle by about 2 inches.
The 10-year warranty still applied, but because the mattress did not have a law tag, Cardi's told Cramer that the warranty would be considered void by Sealy.
The warranty specifically says in small print that the owner must have the law tag, which Cramer said he didn't realize until recently.
"They tell me that the attached law tag is the only method that they have to insure that the mattress in question is the one that is still under warrantee," Cramer said.
Cramer said he attempted to contact Sealy by phone and through its web site, but both required the serial number from the law tag.
Cardi's instead offered Cramer a 10 percent discount on a new mattress and box spring set. Cramer passed on the offer and contacted CtWatchdog questioning whether he was fairly treated.
Cramer concedes that he probably removed the law tag while making the bed one day, but he said the tag states it can't be removed by anyone else but the consumer.
"Why doesn't the tag say 'warranty void without?'" Cramer asked. "Is this a sneaky way for the manufacturer to avoid honoring the guarantee?"
Cramer said there should be no question that he purchased the mattress and box spring from Cardi's. He still has the bill of sale as well as the documentation on the replacement mattress and box spring. The box spring still has its law tag sewn on and the mattress has a second tag - called the silk tag - that says it's a Sterns & Foster mattress.
Plus, Cramer said he kept track of every conversation he had about the mattress.
I thought Cramer had a good point. I contacted Sealy and Cardi's.
This time Cardi's Customer Service Manager Alyson Pimental went to bat for Cramer with Sealy. She said normally Sealy will void a mattress warranty if the law tag is missing.
"We have proof that we sold this mattress," she said "This person did not find it on the street."
Within a couple of weeks Sealy agreed to honor the warranty.
Sealy said there is a good reason for why it requires consumers to keep their law tags.
"Mattress law labels help us provide better service to our consumers since the information contained on each tag identifies not just the individual mattress but also the manufacturing facility where it was produced. Tracking this information allows us to determine if the defect reported is unique or if larger production issues need to be addressed," the company said in a prepared statement.
"Additionally, as consumers often request to keep or donate their defective mattress after a replacement has been coordinated, the information provided on law labels ensures another warranty claim cannot be placed on the same product. So it is very important for customers to keep the law label affixed to their mattress to keep their warranty valid."