Disruption in Mattresses and Medicine

I live in central New Hampshire, so I don’t have a lot of experience with two of the more disruptive companies of the last few years:  Uber and AirBnB.  I use Uber when I travel, and, although I’m years late to the game, I’m amazed by the “disruptive*” nature of its business.

I’ve written multiple times on these pages about how much I love being a customer of Amazon.com ($AMZN: no positions).  My wife and I buy a veritable crapload of stuff from Amazon, from ladders to toilet paper, and I’ve opined previously that I expect I’ll eventually buy my electricity from them.

My wife has been wanting to replace our 6 1/2 year old mattress.   I, however, hate the hassle of mattress shopping, delivery, etc.   If only there was a way I could buy a mattress like I buy everything else: with a few online clicks.  Lo and behold, I came across Casper, who seems to be one of the leaders in pioneering this niche of online mattress buying.   A little research showed me that Casper isn’t alone in this market segment: there’s Leesa, YogaBed, Tuft & Needle, to name a few.    How does one buy a mattress online without trying it? Well, as these companies will tell you, their 100 night money-back-guarantees are, in their view, far superior to the 5 minutes you spend sampling a mattress when you go to a physical store.

I went with Casper, basically because it was the first I came across and seemed to me to be the most “established” of the companies.   If I’m relying on a no-risk 100 day trial, and have any plans to place value on their 10 year warranty, I at least want a company that seems like it may last.   Will Casper be around in 10 years?  I have no idea, but for me, the experience was pretty impressive (there are all sorts of interesting logistical intricacies here that you can discover on your own:  Casper only makes one mattress, which makes the shopping experience easy: the only choice is size).   After a few clicks and my credit card number, my king-sized mattress was shipped out UPS, in a box that measured roughly 4 ft  x 3 ft  x 3 ft.   It’s a “latex and dense memory-foam” mattress, but it’s not like the sink-into-quicksand type of memory foam which I definitely didn’t want.   Users unanimously described it as much firmer than that, which is good for me, although not desirable for my wife, who prefers a much softer mattress.

Anyway, the Casper mattress came yesterday, and after freeing it from its box – you unfurl a thick plastic wrapper and the mattress pops open, like a much less violent version of Pillsbury dinner rolls – we easily set it up on our old box spring.

It’s far too early for me to tell if we’ll keep this mattress: I’m not so picky as long as I don’t sink into the mattress (which I didn’t),  but as noted above, The Wife prefers a softer mattress.  We previously solved this soft-mattress-conflict by getting a split-mattress: it was one king-size mattress (ie: no split down the middle) that was soft on her side and firm on mine.

What prompted this post, however, was not merely buying a mattress online.  On the same day my online mattress delivery showed up, I used DoctorOnDemand to replace my primary care physician who wasn’t getting the job done the way I wanted.    Regular readers will know that as much as I love Amazon.com as a customer, I hate being a user of the healthcare system.

I’ve had issues with my lower back and sacrum for several years.   One of the things that helps is a muscle relaxer (ie: cyclobenzaprine – generic Flexeril), that I take on occasion – less than once a week.  I got a prescription last May from the orthopedist, who, after exams and x-rays, had asked me “what do you want me to do for you?” – a fantastic question because it described the reason I usually don’t go to the doctor: there’s not much he can do, other than write me a ‘script and tell me to go to physical therapy (which I did).  So I had my primary care physician write me a refill for this prescription later in the year at my once-every-three-years physical exam.

Friday I called my PCP to ask for a refill, and his nurse told me that she’d check with him, but that he didn’t like to refill scripts without seeing the patient.  She called me back Monday to tell me that my doctor wanted me to follow up with the orthopedist – the doctor who’d already given me the “what do you want me to do for you?” line.   I should also add, by the way, that cyclobenzaprine is not a controlled substance, and that when my PCP initially went to write me a prescription for 10mg, I’d told him that I only needed 5mg:  in other words, I thought it was clear that I wasn’t exhibiting textbook drug-seeking behavior – although I don’t even know if that’s a concern for this drug since, as noted, it’s not a controlled substance.

Solution: download DoctorOnDemand, enter some brief info, and within minutes I was on a video chat on my phone with a medical doctor who listened to my tale of back pain history, and quickly complied with my request for a prescription refill.   Talk about disruption!   DoctorOnDemand charges $40 for 15 minutes (you can continue for another 15 minutes and $40 more if you need to), although I had a coupon, and for me was far superior than going in to see the orthopedist, which would have cost me $200+ for the office visit, and then more for X-rays on top of that – not to mention the hassle of setting up and going to the appointment!

Obviously, this type of video-conference medical care won’t eliminate traditional medicine, but it certainly has a place in my future care.   In my few spare minutes at the end of my consultation, I asked the doctor if their service was suitable for when I was feeling sick, inevitably, later in the winter.  “You can’t look down my throat,” I said, and she interrupted me “sure I can – we use your phone’s camera!”  As good as being in the doctor’s office? Probably not.   Much easier for diagnosing common winter flu/cold bugs without leaving your bed?  I would guess so.   I left my DoctorOnDemand experience in awe of this “disruption” of an industry that is in desperate need of disruption.

I have not been compensated by Casper or Doctor on Demand for this article.  I may write more about my experience with my Casper mattress in the first place.   I have referral codes for $10 off DoctorOnDemand and $50 off Casper for readers who are interested.


* Disclosure: I hate tech buzzwords like “disruptive”  – but the experiences I had that prompted this blog post really epitomize the word DISRUPTIVE for me.  These technologies are truly changing the way we do things.

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