Europeans have tossed and turned at night since the continent's sovereign debt crisis began three years ago. Right now it’s the Cypriots, surprised earlier this month by an announcement that some personal bank accounts could be taxed in order to raise the needed contribution for a bailout.
But Greeks, Irish, and Spaniards know the drill all too well themselves. Spanish bank deposits, for instance, dropped by 4.7 percent between June and July 2012, as faith in the country’s banking system plummeted.
In banks, it’s safe to say, many Europeans do not trust.
So what better way to slip soundly into sleep each night than knowing the precise status of one’s life savings? That’s the idea behind the simple and inventive Caja MiColchón, or My Mattress Safe, a bed manufactured in northwestern Spain that is outfitted with a safety deposit box.
Francisco “Paco” Santos worked in the mattress business for 14 years before losing his job in 2009. Unemployed, he tapped a dormant entrepreneurial spirit, designing this mattress that stands out from the rest.
My Mattress Safe was released by Mr. Santos' company Descanso Santos Sueños (DESS) three weeks ago, in step with the Cyprus banking saga. It sells for about $1,120.
Set to upbeat, jazzy music, one promotional video on the company’s website shows the ins and outs of production. The mattress is made with “the best materials” and implanted at the foot of the bed is a digital-entry safety box (there's no mention of whether or not it’s fireproof).
In the video, Mr. Santos parodies a bank commercial, calling My Mattress Safe a “financial institution” with a new, imaginative take on saving. Not to fear, he says – this approach to savings doesn’t come with the threat of bankruptcy, mergers, or market fluctuations.
That could be a powerful selling point, with the safety of bank deposits high on the mind in Europe once again this month. According to The Christian Science Monitor, the European Union “raised serious doubts about its promise to guarantee citizens’ savings – a vital pillar of any financial sector that underpins savers’ trust – when it went along with a plan to levy small Cypriot depositors.”
DESS hasn’t released sales figures, but the company said they’ve exceeded expectations. And despite the initial double take, there may be a larger audience for a Mattress Safe than one might expect.
In Argentina, for example, many keep their US dollars (a popular currency because of high rates of inflation) out of Argentine banks after “harsh lessons” learned from past economic crises. The Monitor met one Argentine last summer who keeps his dollars in a safety deposit box.
“I know that the dollars in my box are actually there,” says Francisco, an IT worker in Buenos Aires. “If you have a bank account in dollars your money doesn’t exist – it’s just virtual money."
The My Mattress Safe tagline feeds into this mentality: “Your money, very close to you.”
For customers looking for assurance that their money isn't going anywhere with the Caja MiColchón, there’s a calculator on the website where customers can work out their savings over time. Enter the deposit amount, the number of months of planned investment, and voila: The same number of euros deposited in a My Mattress Safe is at the investor’s disposal a month, year, or decade later. (“What you deposit is what you have. So easy, so simple,” reads the website.)
"History repeats itself,” Santos told Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
“Older generations thought the safest place to keep their money was under the mattress. Now we’re proposing the same thing as we've seen people's uneasiness about the current situation. I'm not going to deny that the idea is a little crazy, but we believe that people with this mattress not only will sleep well, but also will be more relaxed because their savings are safe."