Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Mattress Tag Police, Yes They Do Exist!


That's right folks, your worst nightmare, the Mattress Tag police do exist, according to the LATimes, where we will now turn for this slightly (dated and) lumpy story:

"The mattress tag police, whose job it is to keep tabs on the ubiquitous 'Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law' tags attached to furniture and bedding, do not carry weapons, other than a pen and a fistful of violation notices.  But these state inspectors from the Bureau of Home Furnishings do have police powers and are expected to have law enforcement backgrounds.

When they find a product in a shop or factory that has no tag--or one that they suspect contains materials different from those listed on the tag--they confiscate a sample and ship it to their home office in an industrial park on the outskirts of Sacramento.

Three of the bureau's five inspectors are assigned to cover Southern California, from Inyo County to the Mexican border. Fifteen years ago, seven inspectors policed the same territory, although they also were responsible for monitoring barbers, tax preparers, cosmetologists and dry cleaners.

They are a low-profile crew unknown to even some furniture retailers. 'They look at you and say, 'You're from where? Are you sure we're not on Candid Camera?'  said inspector Joann Johnson. They drive unmarked vans. One inspector, Craig E. Gephart, a tough-talking former prison guard, refuses to pose for photos that would allow manufacturers and retailers to identify him.

'We do some undercover work,' he explained.

The pride of the bureau is its state-of-the-art, 20,000 square-foot Sacramento laboratory. Experts term it the most comprehensive testing facility of its kind in the nation. To a layman, the lab is like a mad scientist's dream. In one room, a woman in a white lab coat separates feathers from down to determine whether the 'Do Not Remove' tag on a pricey quilt properly states the relative percentages of each substance.

Down the hall is the Cornell mattress pounder, a massive machine designed to test the durability and resiliency of bedding. The pounder, which bureau chief Gordon H. Damant says is used sparingly, simulates a decade of mattress use in two hours by slamming two rump-shaped bowling balls into a bedding sample thousands of times.

In other rooms, technicians go about the task considered their top priority, setting sofas, chairs, mattresses and futons afire to determine whether they meet state ignition safety standards.

The flammability lab is the first stop for rebuilt mattresses.

A technician places the bedding on a metal operating table and places nine lit king-sized unfiltered cigarettes on the edges and center of the test subject. For 30 minutes, the technician watches for signs of smoldering. The mattress is then flipped and the procedure is repeated.

Most mattresses pass the fire test.  The preponderance of rebuilt mattress violations are discovered when the bedding is eventually cut open to study the inner contents. Most frequently, staff chemists determine that the materials listed on the tags are not those found inside or that the mattresses have not been properly sterilized."

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