Two days after leaving Las Vegas with a wheelbarrow of cash, Mattress Mack began giving back $72.6 million in winnings from his World Series wagers on the Astros.
Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale hosted the first of three refund parties Sunday for about 7,000 customers who took part in a promotion that guaranteed up to double their money back on purchases of $3,000 or more if the Astros won the World Series.
“Several of them were in tears and said it changed their life,” said McIngvale, 71. “It’s a big deal to these customers.”
Jesse Martinez, 23, bought a $4,000 mattress set as a gift for his parents in July and got $8,000 back.
“They were complaining about their mattress being stiff and having back problems,” he said. “It was really good luck to have the Astros win and be part of the promotion.
“If you do something nice for someone, it will always come back to you.”
Martinez, who works in his family’s auto repair business, was almost as excited to meet McIngvale as he was to get his refund check.
“I’ve been seeing him on TV from as young as I can remember. It was really cool meeting him in person. He was super genuine,” he said. “Mattress Mack has got our backs.
“Everybody’s calling him ‘Uncle Mack’ or ‘Grandpa Mack.’ When I got a photo with him, I sent it to my family, and even my parents said, ‘Abuelo Mack,’ which means ‘Grandpa Mack’ in Spanish.”
‘A living saint’
Elyssa Horvath, a married mother of two, had been using lawn chairs in her living room when she spent $4,700 on a living room set last summer. She got back $9,400.
“At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about the World Series,” said Horvath, 50. “Since I was a kid watching his commercials, he said ‘Gallery Furniture will save you money,’ and he absolutely came through on that.
“It was ‘Free, free, free’ as he likes to say. It made me a lifelong customer of Gallery Furniture.”
Lisa Haas-Cristoph is an Ironman triathlete who had been sleeping on an air mattress for the past year when she broke her ribs in a bike accident in October. She continued to train through the pain but wanted a good night’s sleep, so she bought a $5,000 mattress set.
The day after the Astros won, she celebrated by completing a 70.3-mile Half Ironman.
“I thought it would be great if I could actually get that refund because it would help me out tremendously,” said Cristoph, 59. “I have so much admiration for Mr. McIngvale and the ethics he has for his customers and for our community.
“He’s almost like a living saint. I really feel that way.”
Several other customers also expressed admiration for McIngvale, especially for how he turned his stores into shelters for refugees during hurricanes Harvey and Katrina.
‘Ferrari of beds’
Edgar Ruben Reyes said McIngvale has long been an inspiration to him.
Reyes, 48, has taken part in three promotions and is a two-time winner after collecting a pair of checks this week for $13,396 each.
He also won $9,000 worth of furniture in a 2011 Super Bowl promotion when he picked the Packers to beat the Steelers.
“The hardest thing was convincing my wife to make the bet because I bought a $13,500 king size adjustable split bed,” he said. “I call it the Ferrari of beds.”
Reyes and his wife, Lorena, sweated out every game together.
“We were 100 percent invested, emotionally and financially,” he said. “Every time Bryce Harper came to bat, I was sweating. We were super sweating down 2-1.
“Thank you Mattress Mack. You took the gamble on us. We took the risk on the Astros.”
‘Gamblers at heart’
Many people, including Darlene Taylor, weren’t aware of the promotion when they purchased their furniture.
She received a refund check for $19,999 after buying $10,000 worth of furniture in August.
“When we checked out, they told us about this deal,” she said. “We were already Astros fans. But it definitely made the games more exciting. It got to the point where I couldn’t watch. They made me too nervous.
“We’re gamblers at heart. But we never dreamed in a million years that we would win something like that. It was pretty incredible.”
Michael Schaefer, 56, also didn’t know about the promotion when he spent $12,500 on furniture in May. He got back $25,000 and also had the good fortune of getting two free tickets to the World Series-clinching Game 6 in Houston.
“At this point, I don’t know if I’m more excited about the Astros winning or me getting my $25,000,” he said. “Mattress Mack is a legend. I don’t think they’ll ever make another one like him.”