• The Bed Boss

Why Mattress Tag Removal Is Illegal

Ever wondered why the label says, “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law”? Special guest post by our support specialist Chris.

The first memory I have of the infamous mattress tags—or “law tags”—is from when I was a very young boy back in the early 90s. I felt a strong urge to rip the tag off my mattress one day. So I ripped it off. Children have very poor self control. I remember hearing a gasp across the room from my grandmother and uncle. “Oh no,” they said, “you are too young to spend the rest of your life in jail”. 

I could feel my face turn a ghostly pale as my grandmother and uncle pointed out the “Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law” text on the tag. They went on to explain that ripping the tag off a mattress was very illegal and advised me to say my last farewells before the cops pulled up to throw me in the slammer. My grandmother and uncle dropped the funny act after seeing my very real grief. I was relieved to hear that they were only pulling my leg. 

I never fully understood the purpose of the law tags, or why it was illegal to remove them, until much later in life—and now I am here to pass that knowledge along to you.

You Deserve to Know What’s Inside Your Mattress

Before widespread consumer protections in the United States, a lot of unscrupulous businessmen were taking advantage of their customers in a variety of ways. It was not uncommon for mattress manufacturers to reuse old, discarded materials in their “new” products. Some were stuffing everything from old rags and corn husks to food scraps and horse hair into their mattresses and stitching them up. These shady business practices were causing a lot of problems for consumers. Bugs, vermin, and diseases were among the worst problems people faced.

One way our government combatted these dangerous and repulsive business practices was by making manufacturers include a tag on their mattresses clearly stating the materials used. All materials involved, whether new or used, had to be on the label. Of course, this level of knowledge meant that some mattresses were just not going to sell due to the questionable construction. 

So, what do you do if you are a morally ambiguous salesman with a bunch of unsold mattresses filled with dirty old rags? Apparently, you rip the tags off so that your customers have no idea what is inside the mattresses... And by the way, "All sales are final!”

Introduction of the Notoriously Threatening Message

Inevitably, the U.S. government saw right through the anti-consumer tactics manufacturers and retailers were using to sell their products. The government made it illegal to remove the mattress tags and prosecuted anyone caught selling or distributing mattresses without the tags. It was a hugely beneficial move to the American public and honest mattress manufacturers. 

Still, the verbiage on the law tag was ambiguous back in the day—and hilariously so. I can’t be the only kid growing up in the late 80s and early 90s that was pranked by their family after removing a law tag. It is a running joke that you can see in many popular forms of media throughout that era.

Much to the disappointment of jokester dads across the country, the government has since updated the wording on law tags to specify the tags are illegal to remove “unless removed by the consumer.”

This generation will never know what it feels like to face serious jail time for ripping off a mattress or pillow tag, but maybe that is for the best.

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