What to look for before buying a mattress online; Airline regulator questioned: CBC's Marketplace cheat sheet

CBC's Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need from the week.

Consumer and health news you need from the week

Peter Learn says he was impressed by rave reviews on GhostBed’s website but should have checked the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau instead — an F. (Curtis Allen/CBC)

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Frustrated online mattress buyers say 'hassle-free' return policy is anything but

Many mattress-in-a-box companies offer a compelling sales pitch: free shipping, reasonable prices, and a money-back guarantee if you're not satisfied with your purchase

But some clients who purchased beds from GhostBed — a competitor of companies like Casper and Endy — say that after trying to make use of their "hassle-free" return policy, they've been left in the lurch.

Peter Learn and his wife Paula, of Kelowna, B.C., purchased a GhostBed last year and found it a bad fit for their sleeping habits. But when they requested a refund, they say the company gave them the run-around.

Learn was told that instead of having a pickup crew come and get the mattress from his home as advertised, he would have to find a "donation solution." 

That is, find a charity willing to take a mattress — during a pandemic, no less — transport it to the charity, obtain a receipt — made out to GhostBed — for the price he paid, and send that receipt to the company, which would then provide a refund.

"The whole thing was just so ludicrous," said Learn. "We would have to hire a truck to deliver it to a non-existent charity which wouldn't want the mattress, either."

In a statement to Go Public, the company said it takes customer service and satisfaction seriously but that when customers don't get the resolution they seek, they often "blame the business" and feel the company's policies "are unfair." Read more

Learn believed that if he didn’t find his GhostBed mattress comfortable, the company would arrange to take it away and give him a refund. (Submitted by Peter Learn)

Emails raise questions about regulator's independence amid COVID-related flight refunds

When the pandemic abruptly laid siege to the travel plans of thousands of Canadians back in March 2020, many would-be travellers questioned the Canadian Transportation Agency's (CTA) decision to allow airlines to offer consumers vouchers instead of cash refunds.

Nearly two years later, correspondence between the CTA and Transport Canada from that time period is raising new questions about the relationship between the regulator and the airlines it operates at arm's length from. 

Unredacted emails show senior officials spoke with the agency's top brass in March of 2020 about pressure from airlines to let them avoid passenger refunds for trips cancelled because of COVID-19.

Days later, the CTA posted a "Statement on Vouchers" establishing that airlines could generally issue flight credits or vouchers to customers whose flights had been called off due to the pandemic, instead of reimbursing them.

The CTA falls under the purview of Transport Canada, and regular communication between them to keep the minister briefed on relevant matters is an established practice, a spokesman for the department said.

But some critics disagree on the meaning of this correspondence. 

"It's a troubling view into the way in which the government was putting pressure on the CTA and doing the bidding of the big airlines at a time when they should have been standing up for Canadian passengers," said NDP transport critic Taylor Bachrach, who called the revelations "disturbing," and said Canadians would be "shocked and disappointed" to learn of the nexus among industry, government and regulator. Read more

Canada's airline regulator, the Canadian Transportation Agency, at one point said that vouchers for future flights would be OK as compensation for flights cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic. That's different from what happened in other countries, where full refunds were mandated. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images)

Snacks and sodas and so much more. Why there's a vending machine for everything these days

They're not just for chips and pop anymore.

Vending machines are increasingly taking on a new, upscale form across Canada, selling everything from gadgets, to Build-a-Bears, and even cake from the cake boss himself.

Globally, the industry is expected to see 10 per cent annual growth each year until 2027, and big Canadian companies like Sport Chek, Canadian Tire, Rexall and The Source have all started to invest.

Kersi Antia, a marketing professor at the Ivey Business School at Western University, calls it's a perfect storm due to social isolation from the COVID-19 pandemic

"We'd rather not do with the awkwardness of human interaction," he said. "It may be impersonal, but not everybody wants personal service." Read more

Vending machines have increased in popularity in the past few years and now sell everything from baked goods to high-end electronics. Experts say this shift in shopping may be related to the pandemic and new social norms. (Natalie Valleau/CBC)

What else is going on?

'It just sucks': Service workers in Quebec say they aren't paid enough for all the stress, abuse
Rude customers and low pay are pushing people out of service jobs, say workers.

Long-term Statistics Canada research shows cities across country losing green space
Canada's cities are growing browner, satellite survey shows.

Matrix T1 and T3 Treadmills recalled due to fire hazard
Immediately stop using and unplug the units and contact Johnson to schedule a service call.

Hankook (Korean characters only) brand Original Kimchi recalled due to E. coli O157:H7
Do not consume the recalled product.

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