Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thread Counts

Sometimes Lilly will bring up a subject -- maybe some factoid about some celebrity I don't know and don't want to know -- and my response has evolved into, "I'll put that on my list." She knows what this means: my list of things I don't care about. It's chock-full of celebrities, for one thing. I'd go into more detail about the concept, but that would mean writing about things I don't care about.

Occasionally I'll pull something off the list and spend some time thinking about it because of a random incident. Such as the following:

"I never paid any attention to how many threads," the woman said. "I buy sheets and sleep on them, and I sleep pretty well."

Just a bit of conversation I heard recently when walking by two people, including the middle-aged woman who made the comment, at a store that offered an array of sheets, among other things. The sentiment seemed reasonable to me, and stuck in my mind, so back home I Googled "thread count." The very first hit was a place that sells sheets, but doesn't put a lot of stock in the concept of thread count either.

"In a quality product, the incremental comfort value of thread counts over 300 is very little," the site asserts. "A 300 thread count can feel far superior to a 1000 thread count. Thread count has become a simple metric used by marketing people to capture interest and impress with high numbers. The problem with mass-produced high thread-count sheets is that to keep the price down, [other] important elements of quality must be sacrificed, meaning in the end the customer gets a product with an impressive thread count but that probably feels no better (or even worse) than something with a lower thread count."

I still don't care enough about thread count to investigate how accurate that assessment is, but it sounds right. It wouldn't be the first time that marketing focused on something simple and only partly accurate in the interest of characterizing an ordinary item as a luxury good, and charging accordingly.

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