Just How Many Threads Do We Need?

I have a bed. On that bed are sheets. Please don’t ask me what the thread count is; I’m not about to start counting. I don’t particularly care about the thread count. Clean? Yes. Cool in summer and warm in winter? Absolutely. Free of static and feeling soft? You betcha.

Maybe I should be more of a snob and buy sheets based on the number of threads. But I’m not. So I have to say I was taken aback when I received an e-mail titled “Thread Count Settlement” from Bed Bath and Beyond. My first reaction was to take it as a sign of the Apocalypse. Then, being my nerd self, I investigated further.

It appears that a plaintiff accused Bed Bath and Beyond and co-defendant Synergy, Inc., of mislabeling the bedsheets it sold between August 1, 2000, and November 9, 2007. The defendants deny the claims and any wrongdoing. Understandably so.

In the settlement documents, there is a reference to ASTM Fabric Standards. A clarification in the standard for thread count came about in 2003, which apparently addresses what is claimed in the lawsuit. A less technical explanation appears in Wikipedia. In that explanation, however, is a telling quote: “For marketing purposes, a fabric with 250 yarns (per square inch) in both the vertical and horizontal direction could have the component threads counted to a 1,000 thread count.” So called “standard” cotton thread counts are 150. Over 180 indicates good quality. Some would even argue that the quality of the fiber is more important anyway.

I can imagine how the conversation started way back when:

“What’s the thread count on these bedsheets?”

“Well, technically, it’s 150. But the standard is a little vague. If we use two-ply yarns, we’ll say it’s 600.”

“That’s why you’re in marketing!”

The American Textile Manufacturing Institute sees this practice as misleading. Also, understandably so.

While they may not have stepped outside of a strict reading of the standard (at the time), the defendants, allegedly, overlooked the spirit of the standard. And in the process, Bed Bath and Beyond has damaged its credibility.

Would I have put even this much effort into learning about thread counts if I hadn’t gotten that e-mail? No. But the next time I’m in the market for sheets, I’ll give the label close scrutiny. Not because I want a specific thread count. I just don’t want to give anyone much wiggle room.

The philosophy is simple. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.

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