Texas furniture dealer gets burned on costly football promotion

Give Houston furniture store owner Jim McIngvale credit for turning lemons into lemonade.

Earlier this month, McIngvale, known  to Houstonians as Mattress Mack, and several employees of Gallery Furniture came up with creative Super Bowl promotion. Customers who bought at least $5,000 worth of furniture and correctly predicted the winners of the AFC and NFC Championships were eligible for a full refund.

The idea wound up working too well. More than 100 customers, or about 80 percent of the entrants, correctly picked the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks to go to Super Bowl, far more than McIngvale ever dreamed would win. The refunds paid out by the furniture dealer now total more than $650,000.

“I was not only surprised,” he told CBS affiliate KHOU. “I was shocked. But after I got over it, I realized we'd made a lot of customers very happy."

McIngvale is not a typical merchant. Customers who visit his two stores are treated to chocolate cake, warm cookies, coffee and fresh-squeezed lemonade. He has a menagerie of monkeys and parrots living at Gallery Furniture.

“Mack works seven days a week, standing at his desk by the entrance to greet his customers,” according to the Gallery Furniture website. “Like his trademark commercials, Mack can be regularly heard on the store’s loud speakers, announcing the latest deals and specials."

That’s why its not surprising that McIngvale wouldn’t let a promotional slip-up slow him down. The store's website is now adorned with photos of Mack posing with jubilant customers picking up their refunds.

Now, he is taking an even bigger gamble on the NFL championship. If the Seahawks are victorious, customers who buy at least $6,000 worth of merchandise and have it delivered by 5 p.m. February 2 (Super Bowl Sunday) can either get 100 percent of their purchase price refunded or can receive a gift card valued at 120 percent of what they spent.

Unlike his earlier promotion, this one may turn out okay. The Broncos are favored by sports oddsmakers by 2.5 points. But even if the Seahawks are victorious, McIngvale will come out ahead. The publicity he has gotten for his marketing stunt is far more valuable than any furniture he might sell.