Do not Remove your Mattress Tag Under Penalty of Law

By: Mitch Endick

The infamous little tag on your mattress, bedding and other upholstered furniture has been the butt of jokes for decades. For years, many people actually believed that they would be breaking the law if the tag were removed. The phrase remove a tag and go to jail would make a hilarious public service announcement.

What made the phrase so funny was conjuring up the image of the mattress police arriving at your house in the middle of the night. After breaking down the door, jack booted law men would haul you off to the hoosegow for trimming the tag from the mattress. Pleading your innocence, you have been nabbed by the long arm of the law. A close examination of the tag would reveal what information it contains and why the tag is there to begin with.

In the early part of the twentieth century, a common practice among certain unscrupulous merchants was to sell bedding that was stuffed with everything from straw and horse hair to paper and old rags. As laws protecting the rights of consumers begin to evolve so did the need to provide consumers with easy to understand information. This need led to the requirement to list the contents of bedding materials like mattresses and pillows. Serious public health issues were at stake and officials reacted with what turned out to be relatively simple, common sense regulations.

It is important to remember that during the late eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds the population of the country grew very rapidly. It was also a time when many communicable diseases were rampant, antibiotics had not been invented and early antitoxins had a limited efficacy. There was a very real public health crisis especially in overcrowded urban areas and public health authorities and policy makers knew that bedding was a prime suspect in spreading diseases such as small pox. Given these circumstances there was more than enough impetuous to target mattress manufacturers and retailers with rules that protected consumers and were not overly burdensome on business.

The purpose of the tag was to provide consumers with information about the material content of the mattress and to aid public health inspectors in the enforcement of health and safety laws. The statement warning that removing the tag would have legal consequences was aimed solely at merchants and removal of the tag. Without the tag, consumers would be denied to vital information. Many people have medical conditions such as allergies to certain chemicals and materials that make the information on these ubiquitous little tags more important still.

The warning was never intended to prevent the end user from removing the tag. Still the tag has provided comedians and the rest of us with years of fodder for jokes and gags. So free yourself from any residual guilt and remove the tags if you wish. If the mattress police are any where to be found it is at the proverbial donut shop. They will not be breaking down your door and raiding your bedroom at time soon.

On the serious side, the tags and others information provided by manufacturers and retailers is very important. The last few years has seen an emphasis on incorporating more fire safe materials into the production of mattress, bedding, upholstered furniture, clothing and a variety of other household items. The funny tag is a very important way to communicate vital information to consumers and reassure them that the products they buy are indeed safe.

Consumers need to feel confident about the products they buy. Reputable businesses are more than willing to self regulate and understand the need for business to provide accurate information that benefits everyone.

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