The Bizarre Theory About Mattress Firm Explained

We've probably all seen a Mattress Firm on a street corner or in a shopping plaza, but most of us probably don't pay too much attention to it. Like any other shop, they tend to blend into the background unless we happen to be shopping for the items they carry. Mattress Firm, as the name suggests, is a chain that sells mattresses, and since many people don't purchase new mattresses every week, you might think it would be an easy store to ignore.

However, if you happen to see two or three of the same store in a single plaza or half-mile stretch of road, you might start to take notice. Over the past few years, people have begun to take more and more notice of Mattress Firm stores, precisely because there seems to be so many of them. In fact, one could say there appears to be a suspicious number of Mattress Firm locations, often in very close proximity to each other. It is not unusual to see several Mattress Firm stores located within just a few miles of each other, clustered around the same block, or even one store right next to another, as was the case in Houston in 2015 (via Reddit). The unusual placement of their brick-and-mortar locations has led some conspiracy-minded people to theorize that Mattress Firm is not a legit business, but really serves as a front for illegal money laundering.

An alleged money laundering scheme

The money laundering theory seems to have originated on online message boards. People began posting about Mattress Firm on sites like Reddit as far back as 2015, speculating in conspiracy subreddits as to why the company could possibly be opening so many new stores so close to one another. 

"Mattress firm is some sort of giant money laundering scheme," one Reddit user asserted in 2018, saying they were "everywhere and always empty. I remember seeing four mattress firms all on each corner of an intersection once, there is no way there is such a demand for mattresses." Many other users agreed that this theory made a lot of sense. "There's definitely something going on with those mattress firms. All of a sudden they popped up literally everywhere ... And they are always empty," posted another user. 

The Times of Northwest Indiana even noted in December 2015 that a single eight-tenths of a mile-long stretch between the border of Schererville and Highland, Indiana, had five separate Mattress Firm locations, while the nearby Indianapolis Boulevard had six locations within 2.5 miles of each other, according to Snopes. These stores seemed to keep popping up close to each other, adding fuel to the conspiracy that these eerily omnipresent, largely empty stores had to be a front for something else. After all, people don't need to buy new mattresses that often, so what could all these storefronts really be for?

The company denied any involvement in money laundering

For its part, the company has vehemently denied all claims that they have been involved in any money laundering activities. Although it acknowledges that store location arrangements may seem strange, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why people often see so many Mattress Firms so close together. 

"In the early 2000s, Mattress Firm set a goal to become the first border-to-border, coast-to-coast specialty mattress retailer. To achieve that goal, the company intentionally grew very quickly over a span of nine years through acquisitions and organic growth. As part of the acquisition of several competitors, sometimes with multiple acquisitions in a single market, we inherited existing, long-term leases for store locations. Many of these inherited lease locations happened to be near our existing store base. Once the stores were rebranded with Mattress Firm, a shopping center with two different competing mattress stores took on a new look," a Mattress Firm spokesperson explained to Snopes. The representative noted that the company has since been working to "rationalize our store fleet" and vehemently stated that money laundering is "absolutely not the reason why we have so many stores." But these assertions haven't necessarily done much to stop the conspiracy theories.

The company has had financial problems

In fact, this theory may have more staying power than most because the connection between Mattress Firm and shady money practices isn't entirely unfounded. In December 2017, Mattress Firm's parent company, Steinhoff International, was accused of accounting fraud, although there was no evidence of money laundering and Mattress Firm itself was never mentioned in the involvement, according to Reuters

In 2018, the company faced accusations of fraud and kickbacks, as former employees alleged that some Mattress Firm in-house real estate executives were engaged in a kickback scheme with real estate brokers and developers, who offered them bribes for setting up costly property deals, according to Forbes. The company then declared bankruptcy in October 2018. 

Although none of these activities involved money laundering, the lingering financial worries could only fuel the long-running theory that Mattress Firm stores are really fronts for money laundering. While the company has said that it "continues to see positive growth and profitability in 2021," the conspiracies surrounding the store likely won't completely disappear anytime soon (via Snopes).