Larry Miller took a vacation from work at his father’s foundering furniture store in the late 1970s. He went to Japan, where he slept on a futon. Miller was so impressed that he opened a futon store called Sit ’n Sleep at a Culver City strip mall in 1980. Since then, Miller has become the face – and voice – of Sit ’n Sleep, appearing in TV commercials to promise: “I’ll beat any advertised price or your mattress is FREEEE!” The ads have sold enough mattresses to bring Sit ’n Sleep to 22 retail locations throughout Southern California; the chain employs about 300. Miller’s success didn’t come easily. When growing up in the West L.A. area, he worked odd jobs. As a young father, he struggled to turn Sit ’n Sleep into a profitable business, using credit cards to keep the company going. Miller, 60, sat down with the Business Journal recently at his flagship Culver City store to discuss why he started Sit ’n Sleep, how it cost him his marriage and how those wacky TV ads came to be his calling card.
Question: Southern Californians know you as the man behind the slogan “We’ll beat any advertised price or your mattress is free!” So, have you ever given away a mattress for free?
Answer: I always beat the price. Let’s say I have a mattress for $999 and someone has it advertised for $959, I’m just going to beat the price. It makes more sense to beat the price than to give it away for free. And I’m sure there are times I’ve sold a mattress at my cost but I will do whatever it takes.
How often do customers come in with a cheaper advertised price?
Customers come in a few times a month. Retailers don’t generally advertise prices for less than wholesale costs, but if they do, I would rather do that than lose the customer.
How did the slogan come about?
I used to work in the store by myself on Thursdays. And every second or third Thursday of the month my radio representative would help me write a new commercial. A phone call came in from a lady who was in bed, pregnant and couldn’t sleep. I said, “I know the right mattress for you.” And she said, “How do I know I’m getting a good price from you?” And I said, “Ma’am, I will beat any advertised price or your mattress is free.” My representative heard it and said, “Why don’t we record that for your commercial?”
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