San Antonio, Texas mattress retailer Miracle Mattress faced severe backlash and reputation damage during the weekend of September 11, 2016. A distasteful commercial from the company advertised its “Twin Tower Sale” for that weekend commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The commercial features store manager Cherise Bonanno, daughter of store owner Mike Bonanno, advertising any size mattress retailed at a twin size mattress price. The end of the commercial shows Bonanno knocking over two men in the background who then topple over two stacks of mattresses as she looks into the camera and says “we’ll never forget.” The ad was met with national outrage, disgust and even death threats to the store owner and manager. Mike Bonanno issued an official apology statement to Miracle Mattress’ Facebook page, asking for forgiveness and stating how the company “has struggled with how to respond to the pain we caused and the deserved national outrage.” The store then closed its doors “indefinitely” and vowed silence for the remainder of the anniversary. As of Sept. 15, Miracle Mattress has planned to reopen following the fiasco. The company has also reached out to a widow who lost her husband in the attacks that day, as well as donating to the nonprofit Tuesday’s Children charity in New York, which offers support to youth, families and communities impacted by terrorism, trauma and loss. The events that occurred prior to this advertising nightmare were the actual terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001. The militant group al-Qaeda, in a series of four coordinated attacks, flew two planes into the North and South Tower of the World Trade Center, a third into the Pentagon and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania. In what took the lives of nearly 3,000 people, cost $10 billion in property damage (Morgan, 2009) and $3 trillion in total costs (Carter & Cox, 2011) the attacks have been described as one of the deadliest incidents in the history of the United States. The destruction of the Towers and of the Pentagon damaged the economy, shut down Wall Street, affected the health of the population nearby and caused a cultural shift for the United States.
While the advertising blunder was neither anticipated nor expected from Miracle Mattress, it does not diminish the severe mistake that it made. There were no precipitating events that occurred prior to this except for the terrorist attacks itself. In a very apologetic move by Miracle Mattress, Mike Bonanno and the store expressed great regret for the incident and asked for forgiveness from not only San Antonio, but from the entire nation for its “disgrace.” Mike Bonanno stressed that there will be “checks and balances” in place for any further advertising, as well as training for new employees going further. It is unclear as of now whether or not his daughter Cherise Bonanno and the two employees in the commercial were fired, disciplined or voluntary exited from the store.
In building and managing a reputation for a company, these are lessons learned. Everything that a company puts out is a reflection of itself, including its employees and it would do well to have a crisis team, a contingency plan and a plan for the worst social media nightmare that it could face. This incident however was a mistake that could have been easily prevented by simply using common sense. It is lost on most, obviously demonstrated by the backlash, that the tragedy this nation suffered is no laughing matter and certainly not an event off of which to make a profit. Miracle Mattress has hopefully learned its lesson and with its hopeful “renewed focus on community support and humility,” it can move forward from the damage.
- Carter, S., & Cox, A. (2011). One 9/11 Tally: $3.3 Trillion. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/09/08/us/sept-11-reckoning/cost-graphic.html?_r=0
- Fretcher, J. (2016, September 16). San Antonio mattress store to reopen after controversial 9/11 parody ad sparks national outrage. Retrieved September 28, 2016, from http://www.mysanantonio.com/business/local/article/San-Antonio-mattress-store-to-reopen-after-9225858.php
- Morgan, M. J. (2009). The impact of 9/11 on politics and war. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.