Monthly Archives: April 2010

Taking Stock

            After living in my bedroom for seven years, my Sealy Posturepedic Crown of Thorns pillowtop mattress now resembles a graceful sinking curve or the bottom of a bloated horse belly. Since it began to sink, I’ve rotated it every two weeks. This is how the mattress manufacturers give you a sense of control—-moving around the lower mattress sinkhole to replace the upper mattress sinkhole.

            I hate buying a new mattress, sorting through the sales claims. I’d do just as well putting money in the stock market: In both cases, mattress or stocks, I’ll be told what a great investment I’ve chosen, that for sure I’ll sleep better at night, and then predictably, my investment ends up sinking.

            There’s a timely parallel to my theory: I recently read that King Chuen Tang, the former chief financial officer of a San Francisco-based investment company, pled guilty to indecent behavior involving mattresses. Admittedly, that’s not unusual conduct, but Tang shared inside information about Temper-Pedic mattresses. Tang tipped off friends that the share price of Temper-Pedic would fall because the media had just learned Temper-Pedic’s mattresses, made from “memory foam,” had a worse memory than Sealy Posturepedics whose mattresses could name all 50 state capitols. 

            Temper-Pedic’s stock fell 37%, which also threatened the company’s low profile. Few people have heard of Temper-Pedic, assuming it to be related to rectal thermometers. The only thing I remember was hearing stories from friends told to walk on their new Temper-Pedic mattresses for three weeks who suddenly realized they did just as well walking on a treadmill.

            Why are people so surprised at Wall Street’s transgressors like mattress King Chuen Tang?  The first time I was coaxed by a stockbroker (“Brad”), he assured me he’d warn me if my mutual funds were about to take a dive. On his advice I invested in conservative funds like Salton Sea Luxury Hotels. A month after my portfolio evaporated, a stockbroker called to report the market didn’t look too good. The new person called because Brad “was now involved in foreign trade.” I found out later he’d moved to Toronto.

            Wall Street gets away with murder and always has partly because people are trusting and don’t understand what they’re really investing in. But any ten year old child who watches Ben Bernanke on Dancing with the Stars can tell you that the main subject of Congressional scrutiny— “derivatives”—- which the Senate Agriculture Committee wants to crack down on, is merely stock that involves farms. In Xining, China, for example, there’s a derivative called “purine derivative excretion” that’s been measured in the urine of three dry yak cows, collected after the animals were fed oat hay for 17 days. The “purine” is a “heterocyclic aromatic organic compound, consisting of a pyrimidine ring fused to an imidazole ring.” It’s that simple.

            For people who’ve been burned in the stock market graft, there is one sure investment—mattresses. Not only people need mattresses, but cows, too, and there’s money to be made in that: Consider that cows spends 16-20 hours a day lying, one cow claiming chocolate causes acne, another that crossing your eyes will make them stick.

             Improving cattle comfort theoretically encourages cows to contribute more milk. Since 1990 L & L Sales and Service of Kaukauna, Wisconsin has provided cows with PastureMat, mattresses stuffed with rubber crumbs from old car tires. Which beats my current pillowtop mattress, apparently stuffed with synthetics and recycled pinecones. For extra insurance, on top of the PastureMat cow mattress is a foam pad “with tremendous memory life,” so that the mattress not only molds to the warm cow body, but also remembers that Madison is the State Capitol.

            However, the makers of PastureMat warn of the importance of bedding maintenance. “Dairymen have found that bedding less and more often” is the routine that works for both cows and Charlie Sheen. In addition, the PastureMat must be cleaned by removing dirtied bedding. “As you can see,” the company’s literature says, when it comes to stock, “nothing can eliminate proper manure management.”

            Which, come to think of it, is basically the same Wall Street reform goal of the Senate Agriculture Committee.