Let’s face it – buying a bed in mattress stores feels awkward. Sleeping is an inherently private experience, after all.
But there you are, laying down amidst a showroom full of customers and salespeople. Perhaps awkwardly tugging on your clothes, trying not get footprints on the bed nor think of all those testing that bed before you.
Uncomfortable as it might seem, it also seems counterintuitive not to at least test-drive (or in this case, test sleep) an investment where you spend one–third of your life.
Research shows that personally testing mattresses doesn’t always lead to best selection though. In fact, some of the best-rated beds in our research come from online brands like Amerisleep.
Why? Well for one, mattress stores hold a slew of tricks up their sleeves to make sure you walk out of there having purchased something. This article outlines those common myths about shopping for mattresses in a store, and reveals the honest truth about these “buyer beware” traps.
Myth #1: You need to try before you buy
Truth: Selecting the best option in a showroom setting is no more likely than buying online
Common recommendations state that you should spend at least 20 minutes lying on each mattress you are considering. At least.
Even if you narrow down your selection to a specific price range and firmness, you could still face an ample selection to personally test. Let’s say, for example, one store offers six models, and another store five. At 20 minutes per mattress, you spend four hours relaxing under the glaring fluorescent lights. Not to mention often pressuring sales conversations. Does this sound like your ideal Saturday?
More than likely, customers shortcut test time, and spend 20 minutes total with all mattresses. Even if you diligently wait out the full duration, studies show that you are still pretty terrible at picking out the best bed in a showroom setting.
The independent, non-profit research group, RTI let participants select their top choice of seven beds in a showroom setting (think Mattress Firm), then gave them each one to try for one month. The participants did not know which bed they initially chose, and the mattresses arrived in a random order.
Participants maintained sleep quality journals, and underwent electronic monitoring. The study found that people selected the bed they ultimately rated best only 38% of the time.
In a perfect world, it would be better to test a new mattress in the privacy of your own home for several weeks. If your mattress store does not offer an in home trial, plenty of online dealers do so, with hassle free refunds and exchanges. Mattress Firm and others may offer just a couple weeks, and charge return fees.
Myth #2: Salespeople are there to help you make good decisions
Truth: Salespeople are there to help them make sales
Sorry to say, but some salespeople do not have your best interest in mind when helping you shop for a mattress. Their job is to make a sale. Even if they aren’t working on commission, there are quotas to meet, overstocked mattresses to push, and non-commission bonuses to earn.
Some salespeople are helpful and genuinely interested in helping you find the best option – as long as it is in their store.
Do you find high-pressure sales tactics uncomfortable when trying to make a rational decision? Salespeople tend to be smooth talkers. You may not realize you’ve been duped until it is too late. Or, perhaps you just want to get out of there and rush the decision.
If you feel sales pressure, your best bet is always walking out of the store. When you are ready to make a decision on your terms, the bed is there. Or use their high- pressure sales tactics to get yourself a bargain. Set your own price and walk away if your it exceeds your budget. Online sellers tend to have less markup, but may offer additional perks, too.
Myth #3: It’s easy to cross-comparison shop between stores
Truth: Welcome to the world of exclusivity agreements and mattress shop turf wars
Often, mattress manufactures create exclusivity deals with each store. This may involve changing the name of the series and minor features for different stores.
The reason for this ‘personalized line’? So that each retailer protects its own turf, setting prices that not easily compared between stores. They keep markups high, and aren’t forced to beat each other’s prices.
Good for business, but a frustrating practice for customers looking to find the best deal on a bed they like. The fracturing of model names even makes it hard to cross-compare online customer reviews.
One tip to help you uncover the truth: most mattress manufacturers make only one firmness model per line. Comparing coil counts/densities and the thickness and types of padding layers also helps.
Myth #4: Advances in mattress technology warrants higher prices
Truth: In store mark-ups can be as high as 200%
Mattresses priced in excess of $3000 prove pretty common these days. So do all of the advances in sleep science require this enormous price tag? Not usually.
Mattress Firm and department stores like Macy’s pay high overhead costs of running their business. This includes a commercial location with high visibility, utilities, and staff. They manufacturer (i.e. Serta, Sealy, Simmons) also needs their cut. These costs pass onto the consumers at markups anywhere from 15% – 200% or more.
Conduct some online research to make sure the price reconciles with the value. If the product appears to have a high markup, ask for a reduced price.
Another thing worth noting? People report highest satisfaction in the middle price range (beds between $1000-$2000). Expensive brands aren’t using magic materials. Typically, they bring the same quality as more reasonably priced peers when you look under the fancy covers and branding. Online direct-to-consumer brands like Amerisleep or Saatva tend to out do store brands consistently in reviews.
Myth #5: Mattress stores tell you all you need to know about a bed
Truth: Sales jargon is readily available. Facts are not
This myth is also known as the ‘Mystery Component Scam’. Listen to your salesperson speak, and see if you tell the jargon from the helpful, tangible, comparable, and measurable items.
Manufacturers like to use trademark names for mattress components that make them sound amazing. Things like Exquisite-lush™ foam (ok, that one’s made up, but we bet you can spot the sales jargon!) are a trade name, not a product descriptor.
Instead, ask about foam density and thickness of the support and comfort layers. Ask if the material is plant or petroleum-based. Ask about the fire retardant materials. Make your salesperson provide you with useful information.
But, what makes it a bit tricky is that there is no objective measure on what makes the single best mattress (hint: it doesn’t exist – we all like different things). It’s not like a car where you can compare MPG, size, features, etc. Are more springs better than fewer? How thick should your memory foam comfort layer be?
Researching online beforehand might help you crack the code. The better educated you are about your purchase, the more it will help your chances of choosing a good quality bed.
Myth #6: New mattresses feel exactly the same as the model did in the store
Truth: It might feel like a different mattress for several months
The mattress that you fell in love with in the store may feel very different once you get it home. Why depends on a few key factors: individuality, break in period, and temperature.
Not all mattresses are created equally. Even the exact same model from the exact same brand may very a bit due to manufacturing processes.
The top comfort layers hold all the bells and whistles. They keep the mattress feeling comfortable when you initially lay on it. Lower quality material in this layer has the potential to break down more rapidly and become uncomfortable. You won’t feel this difference in the store but over time, likely after the return period ends, sags and a lack of support might become a problem.
When you receive your new mattresses, it likely will feel harder than the one you felt in the showroom. Many customers test the showroom model often over a span of months, letting it break in and softening it up a little. Your new bed will become softer and more pliable over time, but you may have to wait a few months.
Firmness also depends on temperature, especially with traditional memory foams. If you notice that the mattress showroom feels warmer than your house, the mattress may feel softer than it will at home.
The moral of the story: Testing the mattress at home over the course of a few months proves best. Look for a retailer that gives a minimum of 30 days to return or exchange with minimal fees.
Myth # 7: If you don’t like your mattress, you can return it. No problem
Truth: If you can return it, but it will be a hassle, and it won’t be free
Be sure to ask about the return policy before committing to a purchase. Do they offer exchanges or store credit only? Are there pick up and restocking fees? Are there any specific requirements tied to the return? For example, if the mattress must return in re-sellable condition, that means ‘unused’.
Since they can’t sell your used mattress, retailers will try hard to make you keep it. This means making return policies short, more inconvenient, and costly.
Now that you are more informed about the honest truth of mattress stores, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:
First, ensure that you buy from reputable dealers with verifiable track records on both their company and products. Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau . If may surprise you to know that one of the most well known stores rated an F! Look up different review sources to get a broad picture.
Inform yourself before entering the store. This will help you push through sales jargon. Leave the store if they are too pushy.
Look into buying a mattress online also. It’s a psychological leap of faith to forgo the ‘try before you buy’ mentality, but studies have shown it is difficult to make a good selection in a showroom. Most online mattress companies offer hassle-free in-home trials of up to 3 months in lieu of the showroom experience, so you have time to decide if the bed really is perfect for you.
Share any stories to share or questions on mattress stores or buying a new bed below!