MyPillow®’s recent brush with the law has put a spot on the multi-million-dollar company’s relationship with their customers. The pillow company is a giant in the sleep accessories industry, MyPillow® made its mark with late night infomercials that helped to kick-start their pillow selling empire, their story is the quintessential American success story.
If you are interested, you can see our write-up on MyPillow Pillows and see whether they are a good fit for you. Of course, there are other types of pillows you can look out for as well such as memory foam pillows or you can even pick suitable pillows if you are a back sleeper.
Founded by Michael J. Lindell, a small time business man in Minnesota in 2004, MyPillow® was the result of Michael Lindell efforts of researching various open-cell poly foam in hopes to create the most comfortable pillow possible. After investing in late night ads that ran almost up to ten times daily, MyPillow®’s sales boomed and the company sold 18 million pillows by 2005. The company also had good publicity from select celebrities promoting their products on social media platforms and was even supported by Donald and Melania Trump.
MyPillow® marketed their pillows by confirming their products were guaranteed to provide comfort, support, cooling abilities and were able to cure certain ailments. Aside from their special feature of consumers being able to choose the pillow’s level of firmness, their website had claims that the MyPillow® pillows could heal and prevent sleep loss from sleep apnea, migraines, headaches, neck ache, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and other complaints.
Such claims made famous and popular from their website and infomercials finally caught the eye of the Truth In Advertising.org (TINA.org), an independent consumer rights advocating group. These claims seem to have no basis or research work to support the validity of the ability of the pillows to deliver the healing properties as the company claimed.
Michael Lindell also appeared in infomercials and interviews as a “sleep expert” and this claim was challenged by TINA.org as there were no records of Michael Lindell having any background in having any training or official certification is being a sleep expert. Many consumers were influenced by the label of “sleep expert” that was used by Michael Lindell and coupled with the extraordinary health benefits that the MyPillow® pillow claimed to have, TINA.org prompted an investigation against the company that kick started the civil lawsuit being filed against MyPillow® in California.
MyPillow® also used a tag that stated it was the “official pillow” of the National Sleep Foundation, the company failed to disclose to consumers that it had financial ties with the foundation. This was an added breach of trust towards their consumers and the financial relationship between MyPillow® and the foundation should have been public information. The financial ties that MyPillow® had with the National Sleep Foundation made their claim of being the “official pillow” of the foundation unethical and misleading.
These allegations hence resulted in an investigation being conducted in California with TINA.org supplying the information to help the case. TINA.org also helped to share the information on the lack of medical support on the health claims with other consumer groups based in California to prevent consumers from being mislead by claims that were not scientifically proven.
MyPillow®’s initial response to the investigation concerning the My Pillow lawsuit was to remove the health claims from their website and advertisements in the state of California and they were cautioned against making claims unless the claims were supported by clinical trials. It should be noted that before trial MyPillow® did remove such claims and stopped promoting the health benefits their products previously claimed to have had before the trial of the civil suit begun.
The removal of the health claims was a good move since it would have provided more accurate marketing information to new consumers but the damage was done as most of their clientele was gained by such extraordinary claims.
A group of district attorneys who filed the civil suit against the pillow empire in 2016, the lawsuit alleged that MyPillow® “knew or reasonably should have known” that their marketing claims had very high chances of misleading their customers and potential customers. This was not the only lawsuit that MyPillow® had to face, in August 2016 the New York attorney general announced a lawsuit that alleged the company failed to file taxes on sales made over the phone and online purchases.
The civil suit from California resulted in a stipulated judgement which essentially meant that the company would admit to no wrongdoing. MyPillow® choose to settle the civil lawsuit by paying $995,000 in civil penalties and also pledged to donate $100,000 to various shelters that housed domestic violence victims and homeless people in the state of California.
The founder of MyPillow® released a statement to the media stating that the company decided to pay out in settlement of the civil suit than spending millions to prove the innocence of the claims made. Michael Lindell also stated that “with the settlement we (MyPillow®) were able to avoid a costly and drawn out court case and turn our attention back to our number one passion, our customers.” Some parties viewed the decision of MyPillow® to settle out-of-court an admission of guilt but another group of consumers agreed with the business sense of settling the civil suit.
MyPillow® was also ordered to cease the promotion of its pillow as the “official pillow” of the National Sleep Foundation due to the hidden financial ties that was not disclosed beforehand to customers.
The lawsuit from New York stipulating MyPillow®’s failure to file for sales tax on purchases made online and over the phone, the total amount of taxes that failed to be collected was estimated to be around $537,000 (2011-2015) was settled by a payment of $1.1 million by the company and once again MyPillow® claimed no wrongdoing from their part.
The civil suit did more damage to MyPillow®’s reputation, even though the suit was filed in California the publicity from it affected their whole customer base around the nation. In addition to the civil suit, MyPillow® was confronted by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) regarding their marketing practices.
Better Business Bureau is a non-profit private organization that is primarily focused on advancing marketplace trust. They basically rate companies in various industries based on their standards of how business should be conducted. The rating system that is used by the BBB is a A to F school rating system.
The civil lawsuit that highlighted unsupported health claims from MyPillow® put BBB on their radar and the added factor of MyPillow®’s frequent use of “buy free get one free” offer made the Better Business Bureau change MyPillow®’s A rating to a F.
The continuous “buy one get one free” meant that the pillow’s normal pricing would be misconstrued as the regular price goes against the Better Business Bureau’s standard of advertising and the standards are required to be met by a Better Business Bureau accredited company. Michael Lindell expressed disappointment with the bureau after their decision to rate MyPillow® with the lowest rating possible as he felt the company has always put their customer’s needs and ability to purchase as a priority.
In hindsight, was MyPillow®’s claims about the pillow’s health benefits something brand new to world of advertising and marketing? There are countless products being advertised in many forms of channels like infomercials, the QVC channel and online advertisements that have made similar claims. The MyPillow® route of claiming that an ailment can be avoided or healed is an old school marketing tactic that has been used countless times by many companies, many are not backed by scientific research.
Some supporters of MyPillow® and Michael Lindell claim that the lawsuits and negative publicity are politically motivated since Michael Lindell is a staunch supporter of Donald Trump in his presidency campaign. MyPillow® is not the only sleep accessory company that has made health claims that seemed too good to be true but why was MyPillow® solely targeted with the civil suit?
MyPillow® has currently revamped their marketing claims, they now are known for the statement “guaranteed to be the most comfortable pillow you’ll ever own®”. The company sales seem to be doing better and the “buy one get one free one offer” is still ongoing for their “as seen on TV” pillow model.
The aftermath of the My Pillow lawsuit seems to have put MyPillow® on stronger ground in terms of their marketing approach and with the support of the current President, MyPillow®’s bounce back from the lawsuits and F rating from the Better Business Bureau has been short. There has not been any lasting impact towards the sales of their pillows and most consumers seem to be happy with their purchases after the health claims were removed from MyPillow®’s marketing campaign in California and their website.
MyPillow® has not been criticized based on their products, customers generally seem happy with the MyPillow® pillow with its memory foam filling, the four choices of comfort levels for different sort of sleepers. It would seem that consumer groups and other governing bodies had more issues with the company’s marketing practices rather than the main product itself. Perhaps MyPillow® will employ better strategies to get the attention of their customer base, even if their previous health claims were not something out of the ordinary in the advertising world.