Texas mattress merchant lost $8.93m Super Bowl bet with customers

HOUSTON (REUTERS) - A Houston furniture store owner is out an estimated US$7 million (S$8.93 million) due to the Seattle Seahawks' win in the Super Bowl on Sunday after losing a bet with customers who made hefty purchases at his stores.

Mr Jim McIngvale, known as "Mattress Mack", ran a 10-day promotion at his two Gallery Furniture stores promising customers their money back if the Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos in the National Football League championship. To win, customers needed to have purchased US$6,000 worth of furniture and had it delivered before kick-off on Sunday night.

Mr McIngvale said about 1,000 people participated, buying an average of US$7,000 worth of furniture.

"It's a big hit, but it's a marketing expense. But more importantly, it's a brand-builder," Mr McIngvale said in a phone interview.

The loss makes up about 6 per cent of the annual income of his privately owned company, which Mr McIngvale put at about US$120 million.

The 62-year-old Texan was hoping for some word-of-mouth buzz to make up for his lost millions.

"The customers who have won this are tweeting about it, they're Facebooking about it, they're talking about it to people at work," he said. "That type of viral media, you can hardly put a price on it."

Earlier this year, Mr McIngvale gave back about US$685,000 in refunds to customers who chose the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos as play-off victors.

The publicity stunt is nothing new for the businessman, who has run similar promotions, although not with as large a refund.

Mr McIngvale is well known in the Houston area for attention-grabbing commercials over the past three decades.

In December, he was honoured for his anti-drug efforts by former President George H.W. Bush with a Points of Light humanitarian award. Mr McIngvale has given talks to generations of Houston-area youth about his experience with addiction.

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