This is a great idea for a thread and can serve as a reference because I think everyone may not always realize at the outset what the pros and cons of each may be.
I thought I’d add pieces to it one at a time instead of making up a whole list … and the list you’ve already come up with is already pretty extensive.
I think that the size of a company will have an effect on the level and consistency of service regardless of whether they are online or bricks and mortar (or both) and in my experience larger companies of course have more outlets and employees which don’t all have the same consistent level of knowledge and service throughout the organization as smaller companies. When I originally put the site together I tended to categorize companies by local, regional, or national to somewhat reflect their size, reach, and the number of outlets and employees. As a rule … local businesses with one or a few outlets tend to have the most consistent and highest level of service followed by regional with national at the end.
Smaller online manufacturers or businesses that are in the “better” group and have some history behind them tend to rank with the “local” group in their service levels in my experience. Larger online outlets service many more customers but they also tend to work together in a common work area or service center and in my experience they tend to be more consistently good or bad among the group because they tend to share a common attitude. The down side of a larger online outlet is that they seem to have more time constraints so they sometimes tend not to be as willing to spend the same amount of time or go into the same level of detail with each customer knowing that there is another customer waiting to be served. The smaller ones will take more time and go into more detail … and will often be more knowledgeable and willing to share their knowledge. If they have to go to another customer or task that is more urgent … they will usually be happy to call back and pick up where you left off … sometimes after hours when there is less pressure. Of course there is a wide variance in every category so this is all just based on the “norms” and my experience.
The type of ownership also seems to make a difference and private or family ownership where the owners are more responsive and “hands on” seem to be consistently more responsive in my experience than companies that are public or responsible to shareholders or executive boards or more “corporate” in their operations. For example I was talking to Park Place which is a fairly large manufacturer which you would think was more corporate and was surprised that if someone wanted to make an appointment at their local showroom in Greenville, which is not normally open to the public, that that they could talk to Jay Orders (part of the family that owns it) who would meet them there while they tested mattresses. Maybe I’m easily impressed but it did impress me. Other mid size companies have also been surprisingly willing to take the time to help me or other consumers even though they may not sell to consumers directly. They are what I call “mattress people” instead of "money machines and the entire company seems to love to talk about their mattresses and their company. Many of the largest companies on the other hand have horrible customer service and think nothing of hanging up the phone if the conversation doesn’t have an obvious benefit to the company or if you are just a small fish in the pond. The type of ownership and the values they hold is a big part of the company culture and this tends to show through all levels of the company regardless of size although with the bigger ones this effect can be more diluted.
Personal involvement by the owners at all levels tends to create better levels of service than ownership that is less involved as a general rule. Manufacturers or businesses that have “roots” in the industry and have stayed more true to their roots are also much easier to deal with than those whose primary interest is corporate profit, have a more rigid hierarchy, or those whose main goal is to emulate the “big guys” and put size and corporate profit ahead of everything else.
I think that’s enough for this post :).
Thanks again for a great thread.
PS: A few reference posts that may also be helpful in terms of comparing quality, value, and service and relative risk between local and online retailers or manufacturers.
Post #46 here talks about your “personal value equation” and the many tradeoffs involved in a mattress purchase that may be more or less important for each person. Some of these directly relate to whether you purchase locally or online.
Post #1 here has some great guidelines for making a “safe” online purchase.
Post #2 here has some general guidelines about choosing a suitable mattress online vs locally and the different levels of risk that may be involved.
Post #2 here includes some of the important criteria I would look for in an online purchase.
There is also more about the different ways to choose the most suitable mattress (locally and online) that can help you assess and minimize the risks involved of making a choice that isn’t as suitable for you as you hoped for in post #2 here.