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This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Buying a Mattress

Posted By Paul

Not too long ago my wife and I went shopping for a new mattress. Our current bed had been given to us and even though the frame and box spring were great, we decided we preferred a firmer mattress.

So off we went to go mattress shopping, and wow, what a terrible industry that is. I know car salesmen get a bad reputation but they've got nothing on mattress salesmen. I had heard that one of the big reasons why mattress salesmen are such vultures is that no one goes shopping for a mattress unless they plan to buy one (which makes sense). You may just be looking around for fun when you walk around a jewelry store or a sporting goods store, but who thinks it's fun to browse around mattress stores? The sales people know that anyone in a mattress store is probably planning on buying a mattress in the very near future and they take full advantage of that.

After going to a couple of mattress stores and getting the same high pressure sales tactics my wife and I decided to try comparison shopping. We had made note of each mattress that we had found comfortable at the different stores. I think one was called the Royal Rest (or something like that) so I decided to go online and search for other prices. I was amazed that I couldn't find a link to that mattress anywhere that listed a price, and I couldn't even find the mattress listed on the website of the manufacturer. That struck me as odd. I tried calling 1-800-mattress for pricing, and the phone conversation went more or less like this:

Me: I'm interested in hearing a price on the Royal Rest.
Operator: Oh, sure, that's brand X, you must have seen it at Beds-R-Us.
Me: Yes, that's right, how did you know that?
Operator: They change the name of the mattress for each retailer.

So from the call I discovered that 1-800-mattress didn't service my state (I hear they're very popular on the east coast, and would be VERY interested to hear comments from people who have used them). I also discovered that mattress companies actually rename their mattresses for different retailers. So the Royal Rest at one store, will be called the Slumber King at another store. Why is this done? The main reasons are:

1) It keeps me from being able to easily comparison shop.
-and-
2) It makes it almost impossible for anyone to actually take advantage of the "If you find a comparable mattress at another store, then we'll give you the difference plus $100."

If anyone out there has ever taken advantage of such an offer, please post a comment or email us, so far I have yet to find anyone.

The mattress industry is perfectly designed to make it almost impossible for a consumer to make an informed decision. The mattresses are named different things at different stores, and on the surface all mattresses more or less look the same.

I've also heard that mattress stores that "save you money" on a mismatched set are often just giving you the illusion of savings. They'll offer a mismatch set discount which is really just a fictional discount that makes you think you're getting a deal. I've even heard (though I've only just heard) that mattress stores will often specifically mix up sets in their inventory so they can have these mismatch sets sales.

Considering my experiences with mattress stores, I would believe just about anything. The pressure tactics we received were so non-subtle that is was practically insulting. Everything from stories of "one day sales" to scare tactics of horrendous back problems from buying poor quality at another store.

One of my favorite techniques that you see at a mattress store is the "one or the other" tactic. Which is a pretty simple sales technique where they get you to try two mattresses and then ask which you like better. Then they bring in another one to compare to your current favorite and so on. The key is that you always have your favorite mattress in mind so the hope is that eventually that's the one you'll buy.

Oh, one technique if you ever decide to brave a mattress store that worked well for me was to go in and say that you were looking for a mattress and planned to buy one as soon as some windfall arrived. In our case the story was that we were getting a tax refund and planned to use the money for a new mattress. It provided us with a simple "no we won't buy today" story that kept the salesman from bothering us too much, plus in our case the story happened to be true.

So what did we end up doing? Well we ended up going to a CostCo where they not only had mattresses, they also had samples set up that you could lay down on just like at the mattress store (only without the vulture salespeople). Sure we felt a little silly laying down on mattresses in the middle of a crowded CostCo, but the mattress was so much cheaper that we didn't care.

In fact, the mattress was so much cheaper that we figured that even if we decided after a few months that our mattress was terrible and that we should have purchased a more expensive mattress from a mattress store, that it was worth the risk to try it.

The result? We love our mattress. We've had our mattress for almost two years and it's great. With part of the money we saved we bought a couple of fancy foam pillows and a foam pillow top for the bed. Not only is it super comfortable but it was SOOOO much cheaper than the mattresses we were considering at the mattress stores, plus we didn't have to joust all day with a salesperson to haggle down to a fair price.

I should say at this point that neither my wife nor I have any back problems so we're pretty easy to please as far as mattresses go.

I'd like to hear stories from other people out there, as far as what worked for them, or if they had more pleasant experiences at mattress stores.

I found this one web page that seemed to have some good info on buying a mattress:

http://www.slate.com/id/93956/

Also if you go to:

http://www.mattressscam.com/

This web page lists various sales tactics common to mattress stores. If the sales people at mattress stores use even half the tactics described in this web page, I don't know how they can sleep at night.

;-)

9 comments:

Leah in Oregon said...

Great post, Paul. One other thing I'd like to mention is that mattress pricing is always negotiable. When Matt and I were shopping for a mattress about 2 years ago I found a $1600 pillow top on sale for $1200. I offered them $800 for it, and when they said no I left them my phone number and went home. Less than a day later they called with some story about a warehouse incentive that just came up and said I could have my mattress for $800. We got a great deal and we're still sleeping on it...so comfy!

Anonymous said...

Sorry you had such an awful experience...mine was just the opposite. First the "technique" you refer to is actually just a process of elimation. There are so many choices and it boils down to comfort and only you can decide that. I'm sure that is exactly what you did at Cosco. And I'm really sorry you decided to go to a Cosco to make such a big decision. You spend a third of your life in bed and the way you sleep will determine what kind of day you have and I would prefer an expert to help me know what is inside of that white box. I'm sure the mattress's at Cosco felt good that day you tried them out but what it important is will they still feel good 6 months, 1 year, 10 years down the road. One thing I did discover when looking for a mattress is you will get what you pay for. The more you invest the better materials you get etc.. I had a wonderful experiece and I love my choice ...I've had it for over 8 months now and I don't regret a thing. I shopped at about 4 different locations. All with great reputations and I found the associates knowledgable and helpful....you are right they change the names for the retails but they also change the "specs" somewhat in the beds for the individual retailers. I bought from the store that I felt most comfortable with and had the bed I loved the most!! This new mattress has changed my life! I am getting the most restful sleep I have ever gotton. So not all mattress stores and/or department stores are bad and it is a very important decision and an investment in your health. Just something to think about.

Paul said...

I recommend caution (and perhaps a little cynicism) whenever the knowledgable and helpful experts are also highly commission driven.

Anonymous said...

Well the better sales people are going to be commission driven because they can earn a better income that way and so they will be more knowledgable and can help a consumer like myself make the best decision for their sleeping comfort....now if you are only price driven then you going to a place like Cosco should be fine but as I stated before you get what you pay for and the two places in life my mother always told me never to skimp is on my shoes and my mattress they both effect your health and your everyday life. I did a lot of research before purchasing and I totally understand the importance of a good night sleep and I am living proof and so is my husband...who was reluctant but after going shopping and having such a pleasant experience he is very happy he invested in his rest.

Frank said...

I own a Memory Foam Mattress and it’s wonderful! Best bed ever! I have a lot of sleeping problems and it solves all but my girlfriend’s snoring! I think the government should pay for everyone to have Memory Foam Mattresses!

Anonymous said...

Hi,
I was searching for "mattress salesman commission" and found various links and ended up on ur blog. I totally agree with the sales tactics and how silly it felt. Great post!

Anonymous said...

I would be very cautious when buying a mattress from a Costco or sam's club or anything like that. they are typically a Bonnel coil unit which gives the sleeper no help in the pressure point area.

I am a mattress salesman in the north east.

I recommend this . . . go into the mattress store, find the most comfortable mattress for you, if you have to try 40 different beds. . . . so what! if your back starts to hurt then leave and come back. when you find the bed you love, make sure the store includes the delivery fee, never pay for this. as for the price, wait until the salesmen either drops price by 30% or has a manager help out. either way never pay the price on the tag unless it's already on sale (printed sale or TV or radio sale). and ALWAYS get a mattress pad. if you buy a nice bed today and read, understand, and use your warranty correctly, you'll never buy another mattress again. ALSO, NEVER buy a bed and then use a memory foam topper or anything of that sort, if you have to use a topper for added comfort, you bought the wrong mattress in the first place.

hams john said...

I was shopping around for a comfortable mattress, but at the same time, I needed quality for the budget in mind. This was very important to me, because often enough, when people shop for their bed configurations, either quality or their savings are diminished. This was the case for me a few years back when I went to a local store: the inconvenient nature of shopping around at the retail store looking at beds that were either priced too high in comparison to the quality or priced low with terrible quality. http://www.amerisleep.com/amerisleep-vs-tempurpedic

devendra waghela said...

Thanks for sharing Interesting post.
Great job!! You have a nice blog for mattress. I will be back alot~ Good luck with all you do!
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