When ordering a bed-in-a-box online became popular a few years ago, grass-roots blogs and review sites popped up to evaluate mattresses from Casper, Leesa, Purple, Saatva and others. Consumers liked foam mattress options that were cheaper and easier to buy, deliver and return. They felt more in control.

Yet “buyer beware” might also come into play.

A Fast Co. article earlier this month showed the business side of the exchange: Reviewers might not disclose that they accepted money from the mattress makers they review. It pointed out online reviewers are required to disclose how they get paid under Federal Trade Commission guidelines

Minneapolis-based mattress reviewer Ben Trapskin said he gets paid about $75 per mattress when a shopper purchases a mattress through a link on SleepSherpa.com, a site he started in 2015. His disclaimer page does say he gets paid for reviewing, but does not disclose exact amounts because often his contracts forbid that, he said.

“It’s important that consumers know we get paid affiliate’s fees,” he said.

His policy is to “ only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.” In other words, don’t look for a negative review on his site.

Some reviewers, including Trapskin, have learned that less-than-enthusiastic reviews can bring a lawsuit. In 2016, Sleep Sherpa was one of three websites sued by Casper for alleged false advertising and deceptive practices.

Trapskin’s case was settled out of court. “I can’t say much about it,” he said. “It’s fair to say that I won’t ever be carrying Casper in the store.”

Last year, he opened a showroom in Edina so people can try out the mattresses he reviews on the site. That is another way to increase transparency — to allow consumers to test mattresses free from ratings or reviews, he said.


Augmented reality

Target is stepping up its game in augmented reality.

When perusing select furniture items on Target.com’s mobile website, shoppers can now tap a “See It In Your Space” button. Users are then directed to take a picture of the room in their home where they want to place the item (or choose a picture from their photo library). A digital version of the product then pops up in the picture and users can move it around the room, make it bigger or smaller and rotate it, to get a better sense of how it would look in that space.

For now, the feature is limited to about 200 items in ­Target’s new Project 62 home line, but plans are in the works for it to be rolled out to ­hundreds more items by the end of the year, and thousands by next year.

The technology was built in-house by Target’s tech teams in India and the Twin Cities. The retailer has been quietly testing the capability since the summer on a handful of items on the website. After getting feedback and making tweaks, Target announced Tuesday it has begun to expand its use.

Target is not the first retailer to dabble in this area. Pottery Barn, Wayfair and others have rolled out similar capabilities in apps, but most of them have been in partnership with Google’s Project Tango technology, which means it has been limited it to certain models of phones (sorry iPhone users).

Lowe’s also has recently released new apps that allow users to envision pieces of furniture in a room at scale. Houzz home design app has as well.

But Eddie Baeb, a Target spokesman, said the retailer believes it’s one of only a few to have an augmented reality experience in a mobile web environment.

“You don’t need to have an app or a special device — you just need a smartphone with a browser,” he said. “So we’re really excited about it.”

He added that there are plans to add the capability to the Target app down the road. And Target is hoping to refine how well it shows the piece of furniture at scale in the room.



Point of Sale gives readers an inside look at retail trends, the area’s top retailers and the consumers they covet. It can be found at startribune.com/Point_of_Sale