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My Pillow, the infomercial sensation, flunks out of Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau has changed My Pillow's rating from A-plus to F after the company continually ran "buy one, get one free" deals. (Video: My Pillow)
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The list of problems keeps growing for My Pillow, the popular Minnesota-based pillow maker known for its late-night TV infomercials and celebrity endorsements.

Just months after settling a consumer protection lawsuit alleging false and deceptive advertising, My Pillow has taken a hit over a different set of consumer complaints.

On Tuesday, the Better Business Bureau announced that it had revoked My Pillow’s accreditation and lowered its rating from an A-plus to an F, saying the company’s longstanding “buy one, get one free” offer was unfair and confusing to customers.

The BBB said the offer violated the organization’s code of advertising by marketing pillows in a two-for-one “deal” that was in fact the regular price. Consumers might have thought they were getting a special deal, the BBB found, but they were really paying the full cost of the product, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

“Continuous BOGO offers, which can then be construed as an item’s regular, everyday price, violate not only BBB’s Code of Advertising, which all BBB Accredited Businesses agree to abide by, but also other state and national organizations’ rules,” said Dana Badgerow, president of BBB in Minnesota and North Dakota.

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Losing BBB accreditation doesn’t carry any legal or financial penalties, but it does strip My Pillow of a widely used industry certification designed to help establish consumer trust in a company. The F rating is the lowest mark a company can receive in the BBB’s rating system based on a company’s complaint history. A company’s rating can be lowered when the bureau “determines that the business is not being transparent about its marketplace conduct,” among other reasons, according to the BBB website.

Founded in 2005, My Pillow touts its product as the “most comfortable pillow you’ll ever own.” Founder and spokesman Michael J. Lindell’s infomercials, a staple of late-night television, have claimed the pillow can prevent sleep loss associated with a range of ailments. The company has sold some 18 million pillows in the past decade at about $50 each, pulling in $100 million annually, as the Star Tribune has reported.

The BBB said it received a “pattern of complaints” about My Pillow’s buy one, get one offer. Bureau officials said they began urging Lindell to discontinue the marketing ploy and were left with no choice but to dock the company’s rating when he didn’t respond, the Star Tribune reported.

Barb Grieman, senior vice president for the BBB in Minnesota, said the bureau seldom gives out F ratings because companies tend to comply.

“We can’t understand why he’s not making the changes,” Grieman told the Star Tribune. “We’re not saying he can’t offer a BOGO, just not continuously all year long.”

According to the BBB, My Pillow should have ended the offer after 30 days.

“It’s unfair to businesses in the same industry,” Grieman said. “We want advertising to be clear.”

Lindell said Tuesday he was disappointed in the BBB’s decision. He told the local NBC affiliate, KARE, that he wouldn’t be able to stop the sale at the moment but would make unspecified changes later this year. In a tweet Tuesday he said he was “sorry about the new rating as my customer service is the most important thing to me.”

The BBB said it has received 232 complaints about My Pillow in the past three years. Most have related to the buy one, get one offer, the BBB said, but the organization said consumers raised other issues as well. Among them were complaints that the pillow advertised on TV was not the same as the one they received and that a “full warranty” required purchasers to pay a fee to return the product, according to KARE.

The bureau’s announcement comes just a few months after My Pillow agreed to pay $1 million to settle a consumer protection lawsuit alleging the company overstated the benefits of its products. The company had claimed — without evidence — that its pillows could prevent sleep loss from insomnia, restless leg syndrome, neck pain, fibromyalgia, sleep apnea and migraines, raising alarms at the consumer watchdog Truth in, as The Washington Post reported. The organization also objected to Lindell’s claim that he was a “sleep expert,” when he had no such training. Lindell said he chose to settle the case rather than pay the legal fees to fight it. The company did not admit fault.

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