Tag Archives: BAD Customer Service

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

Legitimate Free, Quality Alternatives to Adobe Products

Yes, Lightroom CAN be that bad…

I was reading a blog earlier today with yet another story of inexcusably horrific customer service from Adobe. Since Photoshop and their other products have a huge market share, Adobe tends to treat it’s customers with utter contempt. The post inspired me to go through multiple articles and links, and post the best alternatives to Adobe, their bad service and even worse prices. I worked on this post eight hours and found FREE alternatives to almost everything Adobe makes.

Almost everything I’m posting here is legitimately free, often open source coding based, and frequently just as good if not close to Adobe products in quality. Many of them are available in Linux, and Windows versions, sometimes Mac as well. I’ll note accordingly where I can. Many of them also have at least a few tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere also.

This will be a LONG post since Adobe has several products. Worth the read though if you’re paying $50 a month plus for access to the full Creative Cloud. Let’s get started.

PHOTOSHOP REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

GIMP: Probably the most well known alternative to Photoshop. Early versions were pretty crude with clumsy interfaces / controls. Newer versions are very close to Photoshop in every regard. Very much worth a look, and it has several tutorial videos and sites out there, even at it’s home site. Just search GIMP Tutorials. GIMP also comes in versions for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Unix-like machines.

GIMP Home Page and Download Page Links

Photopea: Is a cloud based photo editor. While not as nice as GIMP, it does do a fair amount, and is good for people using less powerful PCs. It’s good for people using the ChromeOS (ChromeBooks, etc...)

Photopea Home Page Link

LIGHTROOM REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Lightroom is a simplified photo editing program that allows applying filters and other effects quickly with professional results. There are alternatives however.

Darktable: Consistently named the best free alternative to Lightroom. It does everything, or nearly everything, that Lightroom does. The only drawback is a slightly less polished interface. Available for Windows, Mac, and multiple versions of Linux have custom versions. A fair number of tutorials available as well.

Darktable Home Page and Download Page Links

RawTherapee: Another Lightroom replacement with very similar features to Darktable. There are also a decent amount of tutorials out for this program, so for Mac and Windows users, it’s largely a matter of style / interface appearance. Linux users can download an Applmage version.

RawTherapee Home Page and Download Page Links

ILLUSTRATOR REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics program typically used for creating logos and other digital artwork.

Inkscape: Is a full featured vector graphics program with an impressive set of drawing tools and effects. It can do anything Illustrator can do. Some lists claim Inkscape’s interface is fairly dated, but it was recently overhauled a few months ago. Decide for yourselves. There are several tutorials out there but I’m not sure how well they carry over to the new release. Inkscape has Windows, Mac and Linux versions available.

Inkscape Home Page and Download Page Links

Vectr: A web based vector graphics “program” (site). It’s been described as sleek and responsive, with the ability to collaborate online on a project.

Vectr Home Page Link

Gravit Designer: A second impressive web based alternative to Illustrator and Inkscape. Said to be great for UI design.

Gravit Designer Home Page Link

PREMIERE PRO REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Premiere is their video editing software, used by everyone from movie professionals to YouTubers and vloggers.

DaVinci Resolve 16: Full featured video editor that’s capable of even editing 8K definition videos. Professional quality and more than enough for the average YouTuber or video blogger. There is a paid version if you really want to go Hollywood level. Numerous tutorials available, which attests to it’s popularity as a substitute for Premiere. Mac, Windows and Linux versions available for download.

DaVinci Resolve 16 Home Page Link. Button in middle of home page will open a download window.

OpenShot: A little more basic than DaVinci, but still with a wide array of features that include adding as many layers as you need for watermarks, background videos, audio tracks, and so on. Features like video effects, slow motion and time effects are available on this tool. The program has a simple, clean interface, and is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Plenty of tutorials available also

OpenShot Home Page and Download Page Links

HitFilm Express: Another full service video editor that promises to combine the best of Premiere and After Effects into one package. Some features are only available as paid add-ons though. Available for Windows and Mac, but not Linux. A goodly number of tutorials available for it as well

HitFilm Express Home Page (download link there) and Add-On Store Page Link (so you can see what’s a paid extra)

AFTER EFFECTS REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

After Effects is for adding visual effects and motion graphics editing. Probably more advanced than most readers will deal with. None the less, there are options out there. Perhaps it’s best to say ONE option that’s free and isn’t tied to a specific video editor.

Natron: Most sites I searched listed this as “having the same basic features as After Effects”, for what that’s worth. SO, it might not be ideal for somebody producing the next Star Wars movie, but I imagine it will be fine for most other folks. It’s site has several community created plug-ins available also. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux. As usual, plenty of tutorials are available via YouTube and elsewhere.

Natron Home Page Link (download available from home page)

AUDITION REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Audition is Adobe’s sound editing program. I found three potential replacements here of varying complexity & features

Ardour: The closest thing to a match in terms of features, and capable of supporting almost any audio editing need. As with almost every program I’ve listed today, it’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Only a modest amount of tutorials, so it’s probably not suited for a rank novice, but if you’re familiar with sound editing already, the controls are very standard.

Ardour Home Page and Download Page Links

Audacity: Has been around 20 years with it’s latest version released last month. It at least comes close to Ardour in features level. With more tutorials available on YouTube and elsewhere, it may be better suited for somebody with less experience recording and editing audio. Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and other platforms.

Audacity Home Page and Download Page Links

Sodaphonic: A more basic audio editor that’s web based, again making it ideal for people with older PCs or using Chromebooks. Availability of tutorials seems limited however. It should be capable of handling basic audio editing needs.

Sodaphonic Web Page

ANIMATE REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Animate, AKA Flash rebranded, is Adobe’s 2D animation software. Once again, I have options for you.

Synfig Studios: described by multiple sites as a great all around animator with powerful tools. It even allows some vector art editing as well. Synfig has it’s own wiki and several tutorials. That makes it an ideal option for beginners or experts. You’ll be asked for a VOLUNTARY donation at the download screen but it’s not required. Available for Windows and Linux, and I believe Mac also, but I was having trouble verifying that.

Synfig Studios Home Page and Download Page Links

Pencil2D: A more simple 2D animation tool with an an interface similar to Animate’s (or so I read). Described as fairly basic but easy to work with. A good option for complete beginners and users who just want to play around with 2D animation occasionally. There are a fair number of tutorials available also despite the program’s simplicity. Available for Windows, Mac and Linux

Pencil2D Home Page and Download Page Links

OpenToonz: A truly professional quality animation tool with numerous features, some provided via free plug-ins. Numerous tutorials available also. It looks like it would have a little bit steeper learning curve than the other two, but give you powerful creative options in the end. While it is supposed to be Windows and Mac compatible, one of it’s plug-ins is available for Windows only. No Linux version.

OpenToonz Home Page Link (downloads available from home page)

INDESIGN REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Adobe Indesign is the company’s desktop publishing app; similar to MS Publisher. It’s used primarily for creating posters, flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, books etc… I have two options here, depending upon intended use. One is my only paid recommend of this post, but it’s fairly inexpensive.

Scribus: If you’re doing any sort of simple desktop publishing for emails, flyers, magazines, etc… this looks like an absolutely amazing program with a ton of features, and it is free. It makes my copy of Microsoft Publisher look pretty pale by comparison. It’s Scrivener for desktop publishing. Tutorials abound, and it’s available for Windows, Mac, several flavors of Linux and a few other OS as well.

Scribus Home Page and Download Page Links

Scrivener: If you’re writing a book, even a short one, this is THE way to go. You’d need Microsoft Office’s most expensive edition to do everything that Scrivener does. You can even organize notes on characters, locations, etc… right in the program, all the way up to detailed storyboarding. The price has currently been bumped up to $50. Not as cheap as it used to be, but still worth the investment, and still less than half the price of MS Office Home and Student Edition. Available for Mac, Windows and iOS. Tutorials abound also.

Scrivener Home Page and Download Page Links

ACROBAT REPLACEMENT OPTIONS:

Here is the one program where replacement options are fairly limited. PDF readers are a dime a dozen, and even most browsers can open PDF files. If you’re trying to create a PDF file, Microsoft Word and similar programs will allow you to save your work in PDF format.

Actually EDITING a PDF file like the full version of Acrobat will do… that’s more limited.

There are a few free options though:

First, the previously mentioned Inkscape can be used to do a moderate degree of editing of PDFs.

Microsoft Word (2013 or newer) will also let you edit a PDF, *if* you convert it to a DocX format first. Convert, edit and save back as a PDF. To be honest, I’ve had mixed results with the program’s ability to do this properly.

LibreOffice’s “Draw” program will let you do some PDF editing as well.

Sedja Online PDF Editor: This is a mostly full service PDF editor that’s web based. There are a handful of limitations to keep your PDF work free however. PDFs have to be smaller than 200 pages, less than 50 megs in size, and you can only work on three PDFs per hour. Beyond that, it seems to be able to do most everything Acrobat can do. Uploading PDFs from other websites is not an issue either.

Sedja PDF Editor Website Link

PDFelement: I could describe this as the least bad option as opposed to a good option. PDFelement does everything Acrobat will, BUT unless you’re paying the annual subscription fee, the program watermarks every page of your document. Annoying, but that’s the trade off for the free version of the program that truly will keep up with Acrobat.

PDFelement Home Page (download links on home page)

YOU’RE FIRED!!!

That’s right, all of you! Just kidding, LOL

It has been one of those weeks though, hence my being away. I occasionally joke about being a redhead and the moods that can come with it. Reality is, I hate turning into or channeling (figuratively) my grandmother. I’d prefer peaceful, reasonable conversations with people and to be able to maintain a Zen-like calm. It seems like there’s always somebody absolutely determined to throw a boulder into the pond however.

The last week plus, it’s been the Home Owner’s Association, My Acupuncturist and our Realtor.

The HOA:

has been a long running problem. Around 15 years ago, a previous owner took our midcentury modern style house, and put in new windows, widened the driveway, put in a security gate, and a few other minor things that put the house solidly outside of the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions).

Thing is, there’s a 5 year limit on any kind of enforcement action for these things in California. The HOA has made varying amounts of noise about them since we moved in 7 years ago. For the sake of being good neighbors, we’ve tried to work with them on the smaller stuff too. Now that they know we’re moving, suddenly they’re dropping veiled threats about screwing with the sale of our house. There’s a reason Association is abbreviated Ass.

So, net result here is I had to draft up a letter (well, email) to the HOA board and it’s property management company and tell them they were outside the law, even with the exceptions made for that 5 year limit, and that if they took any action to screw with our home sale, we’d sue the HOA, the individual board members and the PMC for tortious interference and anything… everything else our lawyer could come up with.

No word back from them yet, LOL. HOAs are like many ideas nowadays; a good concept to protect the value and quality of life of a neighborhood that’s far too often completely abused by power mad twits who selectively enforce rules.

Where ever we buy next time will NOT have an HOA.

The Acupuncturist:

This one is shorter. Parking at their office is an utter nightmare, like almost everywhere in downtown. They have a small garage with paid parking. The spaces are almost always full and they’re small enough to barely accommodate a Mazda Miata or Mini Cooper. Even when I can find a space, I have trouble fitting the Grand Marquis I drive in there.

Last time, I drove around 20 minutes trying to find any place to park. In and out of the garage twice also. At the point I was late for my appointment, I said screw it and cancelled. The acupuncturist emailed back and said there was plenty of parking and asked if I was sure I was in the right garage, etc… Apparently I’m mentally defective or senile. I kept my cool though. I emailed back and while I did say that talking down to customers wasn’t a good way to keep them, I also said that my treatments had always helped but I wouldn’t be coming any more because they don’t provide adequate parking and their front desk people have an attitude about helping people.

The Realtor:

Last and hardly least. We had to fire our Realtor after a week. Not just any Realtor either. My former boss, and a Dave Ramsey endorsed local provider. Communication was gawdawful, commitments weren’t being kept, we were lied to several times, and even called liars when we told him we verified things that weren’t being done by his agent holding open houses. When I pushed the issue of not receiving any sort of marketing plan outline despite several requests, his response was essentially “shut up, I know what I’m doing”.

At that point, I fired him. He was told to come get his sign out of our yard and email us an unconditional release of contract or I’d drag him in front of the state Department of Real Estate and the Realtor’s Association for multiple violations of his fiduciary duty.

The stories started changing at that point. As the country song goes though; “It’s a little too late to do the right thing now”. After a day of trying to get us to keep him as our Realtor he finally got the sign, removed the lock box and sent us the release.

NOW we get to start screening realtors all over again. You can bet the next one will NOT allow their agent to use our open house as his kid’s playground, will actually inform us that there IS an open house and will show up on time and not leave early.

Just another day in sunny, brain dead California…

So, any of you all ever wonder why I’m so stressed out and high strung all the time… It’s dealing with garbage like this every day.