Updated on August 6, 2013
How To Buy A Mattress
If they list the 10 worst things that people hate doing, buying a mattress is probably right between going to the dentist and divorce court. There are few things as dreaded as negotiating the terror that is finding the correct mattress.
I have had the pleasure of selling mattresses for almost a decade. I tell customers that I sell sleep, not mattresses. What I mean by that statement is I sell based on the Golden Rule – treat people the way I wanted to be treated. How does that work in practice?
I do not lie. If there is way to solve their sleeping challenge other than buying a new mattress, I would share that with them in a heartbeat. I always put the customer’s needs first.
I do not play pricing/discounting games. Everyone should pay the same low price. I do not work at the bazaar in some 3rd world country. I am a professional at matching customers with the correct sleeping solution. If there is a comparable mattress for less at a competitor, a will gladly beat the price. That is the only legitimate reason for discounting
I never sold a mattress because it made me more money. This is the most annoying practice in the industry. Some salespeople will push certain models/brands because they earn higher commissions. If my $200 queen set, that earns me nothing, truly is the best solution for you, I will be happy to sell it to you.
Having said all that, let’s examine the most common challenges people face with mattresses:
Poor Alignment – This can be the result of a mattress that is too soft, excessive body impressions, lack of support, or all of the above. If you are waking up with lower back pain, this is most likely the result of poor alignment. The only real solution is a new mattress. You might be able to prolong the life, by flipping it (if it is older than 6 years it might be two-sided) or by rotating. Always rotate a new mattress BTW. This will prolong the life of any innerspring mattress. Simply turn it from head-to-toe about every 3 months.
Pressure Points – If you find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night, or if you have excessive pain in your hip or shoulders, or if you find that an arm or leg gets numb during the night, your mattress is too hard. Adding a foam topper may be a short term fix, but a low quality one may not help.
Body Impressions/Sagging – When comfort layers compress and stay compressed, it is called a body impression. If the “valley” is greater than 1.5″ and the mattress is under warranty, file a warranty claim. This is the least expensive route. Measure from the natural mattress surface into the deepest valley while nobody is in the bed.
If you find you must purchase a new mattress, here are some things to consider.
#1 – Do not shop expecting to pay what you paid 10 years ago – Everything goes up in price over time – mattresses included. What you got for $1,000 in 1990, is probably closer to $2,000 now. Manufacturers have continued to “cut corners” to keep some low price points, but that has naturally lowered the quality of those mattresses. Some examples of cost cutting – no more box springs (they use platform boxes), one-sided mattresses, zoned foam etc.
#2 – Ignore XX% off or WAS pricing– It does not matter what they tell you was the original price or that it is 90% off today only, the only thing that matters is the bottom line price.
#3 – If you find a good salesperson, they are worth every penny of commission they earn– A mattress salesperson that can walk you through the process of fitting you for the right mattress is priceless. If you have to work with Ed the used car salesman turned mattress guy, who “has a coupon” or has to “call my supervisor for approval” you will not get the correct mattress. Find someone who is knowledgeable and milk them for all they have.
#4 – Visit at least two mattress stores – If you find the correct mattress, visit a competitor and have them show you similar products. I would not necessarily start trying new brands or repeat the process. If you are confident you have found the right brand/model, stay focused. The salesperson may be simply trying to confuse you and sow seeds of doubt. However, if you have not found the right mattress at the first stop, you may need to try other brands and go through the process all over.
#5 – If your salesperson is fixated on prices and budget, they are not helping – Price will need to be addressed at some point, but hopefully well after all comfort needs are considered. If the salesperson is “hard closing” you or continuing to bring up prices, discounts and gimmicky sales tactics, it might be best to leave.
#6 – Ignore “Big Sales” – There is always a sale, there will always be a sale. From my experience the price rarely strays throughout the year. Shop when its time to replace your mattress. If you are convinced that a big sale will get you the best savings – shop during Memorial Day or Labor Day. Those are the two biggies. Every other holiday there will be sales events, but those first two are the best. Although again, the prices don’t change that dramatically from week-to-week.
#7 – Discounting is not selling – If a salesperson can magically drop the price $500 dollars “just for you” the mattress is way overpriced. You will never win playing the discounting game. Do some comparison shopping before ever buying from a chain using this sales tactic. A price match of a comparable mattress at a competitor is the only legit discount in my opinion. And there should be a written policy to protect you after the sale.
#8 – Avoid Buying Online – I could write a book of horror stories I have heard over the years on this subject. You MUST lie on mattresses before buying one. And you should have an easy process to return if it does not work. A local merchant will be much easier to work with than a call center that takes your money and drop ships to you.
#9 – Don’t overcompensate – If you have a mattress that is too soft, don’t go out and buy the hardest one you can find. Too hard and too soft can be equally problematic. You need to find the correct support, correct conformance that fits your body, your sleep position, your preference and your budget.
#10 – There are few identical mattresses– It is challenging to compare mattresses, but not impossible. For a manufacturer like Sealy or Simmons, there will be thousands of mattresses that might be similar, but are not exactly alike. There will be many factors that will influence cost – coil count, type of coil, foam layers, depth of mattress etc. Once you find one you like, take as much information with you as you compare other models. Unfortunately, a minor foam layer tweak can create a very different feel and price.
There are certainly many more things I could say. For more advice visit mattress advice for even more details on buying the right mattress.