Jeff Watters is a business consultant & freelance author who lives in Delaware and the former manager of Mattress stores & AWAI member.
Buying the right mattress is easy once you know how
Knowing industries secrets is a big plus that will put you on the fast track to big savings. It also turns the tables in your favor when you are buying a product that is encased, having most of its components hidden. However, let me caution you, major manufacturers, such as Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy Posturepedic, and Stearns and Foster, label the same mattress with different names for different retailers. So when you shop for a mattress you will need to make comparisons based on the materials inside the mattress, not the name or price.
Having relevant information keeps you in control and thwarts attempts by retailers to disguise their products. When the retailer's disguise products, they may charge you more. Protect yourself by shopping with a plan to get the most mattress for the least amount of money.
Let's learn how to make them beg to sell to you at a significant discount.
There are many industry secrets in the mattress business, but hold on to your checkbooks, debit, and charge cards, because soon you will know how to "one up" every dealer in town and retailers will be begging to sell you a mattress at half the full retail price or less. So pay close attention, Even better - print this article and take it to the dealer with you.
Don't be discouraged by the length of this article. You can wade through this article in one sitting, and once you understand the basic principles, you will be able to beat them at their own game, saving lots of money. That's an enormous profit to you for little time invested.
A Stacked Deck
No doubt the deck is stacked against the consumer with deceptive tactics and fraudulent behavior by some companies. For instance, every store you visit is likely to have a unique name for the same bed. Larger retail chains may have the manufacturer produce an inexpensive mattress with a cover similar to other chains more expensive models. But that is just the beginning of the trickery. Once they give you the price there can be add-on charges such as, pick up fees, or delivery charges, and sales people that are trained to extract the most money they can get from you.
Here is what you do!
Because mattresses are enclosed you cannot see what is inside - so it may be difficult to pick the correct mattress and box spring unless you understand three concepts. You must consider the comfort, support, and durability. Comfort is what you feel when you first get into bed as it helps you fall asleep quickly. Support is provided by the coil strength and felt when you get up in the morning. Durability is how long the mattress will last.
You must grasp these three concepts before you buy a new mattress set. Think of these requirements as legs on a three-legged stool, without any of the legs, the stool falls over. Therefore don't buy a mattress until you understand what makes it comfortable (the comfort layers are crucial), what type of support (the number & size of the coils) it offers, and how long (warranty period) it will last.
Remember, comfort is what you feel when you try out your mattress in the store. Support is the coil or support system, and durability is the price divided by the number of years the set is warranted.
*Note: For this article the durability gauge is how long is the warranty (prorated or full warranty) by how much the set cost. If the set is $1,000 and has a ten-year warranty, then the set is rated as a $100 per year set. Prorated sets are usually a sign of poor quality! Some sets, such as Tempur-pedic have a full warranty followed by a prorated extended warranty. A full warranty followed by a prorated warranty is not considered a sign of poor quality because the full warranty protects you during the critical break-in time. Still use only the full warranty period for your gauge of durability, and it becomes easy to understand.
Step Two: Getting Ready to Shop
Before you leave home, remove your sheets and mattress protector, look at the cloth law tags sewn into your mattress and write down (or take a picture) the manufacturers name and measure how thick the upholstery is at the sleep surface and the overall depth of the mattress. The law tag will give you the manufacturer's date of production. Usually, this reference is found either at the top or bottom of the bed depending on how you rotated the mattress to preserve it.
This information will give the salespeople an estimate of how often you replace your mattress and is also helpful in guiding you to a model such as the model you now own or away from it if something different is needed. You don't want the same type of mattress if your bed is hurting you or you are not sleeping well.
Measure your headboard opening, if any, and the height of your current mattress and bring this information to the store. If you decide to purchase a mattress that's thicker than your current one, consider requesting a low-profile box spring (approximately 3.5 inches lower than a traditional box) so your headboards' wood finish will be visible. Other options are lower profile frames, bed rails or changing your furniture entirely.
Comfort tip: You need strong support or thicker coils but cannot see them in the store. Fortunately, you can choose between a firm, plush firm, plush or a pillow-top mattress. Use this rule. If you are under 45 years old a firm mattress is still good. If you are over 45, consider buying something a bit softer to accommodate the changes your aging body. Beds will feel harder at home than in the store because it has not aired out and you are on it for up to 8-hours. So don't go too hard.
If your body, especially your back hurts in the morning but improves as the day goes on the likely culprit is your mattress. If you are over 45, consider an all foam bed or a hybrid. Such choices include the popular memory foam or latex and individual coil mattresses with added foams. These beds adjust to the user in unique ways. These products have more expensive support systems but are well worth the money if pain is a problem. You spend more time in the bedroom than any other room, and the bed is the most important piece of furniture in the home.
Knowledge is power: A few more hints before leaving home!
When buying accessories for your bedroom never go the cheap route. Manufacturers have learned how to make stuff cheap. So cheap in fact, you may regret having the frame many companies throw in the deal. If they do throw in a frame, ask what the price difference is for the better product. Also, see if they will throw it in as part of the deal. If you don't ask, they won't throw it in.
If you are double teamed by a sales force, that is, where you work with one salesperson and before you leave you to talk with another salesperson or manager, don't buy your mattress that day. These companies will get your phone number and come down on the price by as much as 60% later. They are hungry for the business, so don't jump at the chance right then. Wait for the price to come down. When they are the ones chomping at the bit, the price gets better and salespeople chomp at the bit when their manager tells them to call you and make the deal.
Don't fall for the "we beat the competitors price by X%. These companies want to sell for as much as they can and want you to tell them how much that amount is after you have wasted your time and gas by traveling all over town. Make them come down to the lowest price by saying' "I want your very bottom line price, I am not coming back at all unless your price is the very lowest." These companies have a policy of adding back the delivery fee, frame, and other miscellaneous items to get the price as high as possible. It is deceptive, but that has been my experience when I shop the competition as part of my duties within my company.
Ask about a comfort exchange guarantee if you buy a quality set. Get the policy in writing and keep it with your receipt. There are huge fees involved in most comfort-exchanges, so know what costs are involved before you consider trading a mattress.
Step Three: Selecting the right mattress
When shopping for your sleep set be sure to wear comfortable clothing and shoes that you can easily slip on and off. If you sleep with a special pillow, bring that with you too. You will need to lie on several mattresses before picking the right mattress for you. Remember that support comes from the springs or foam used to construct the bed. Just because a bed is soft doesn't mean it won't be supportive. When trying out different mattresses, always start by lying first on the hardest mattress (firm in the stores), then working your way to the softest (pillow top). Repeat the process once or twice to discover what levels feel most comfortable for you.
As you lie on the mattress, notice how your shoulders, hips, and lower back feel. Give your body several minutes to respond to the mattress at these critical touch points. Unfold your arms and lie in bed as relaxed as you can. Once you've narrowed down your choices, lie down on the mattress you are considering for at least 10 minutes or as long as it takes you to fall asleep on an average night. Many people try a bed for a couple of minutes in a retail store which feels different over eight hours of sleep once they have it delivered.
Mattresses come in three general comfort levels but many different variants of comfort. They are firm, plush, and pillowtop. There can be firm pillow-top mattresses and soft pillow-top mattresses or any combination of the above. The triple choice (firm, plush, pillow-top) may be available under the same manufacturers brand name so if you find the firmness you desire, the very same mattress may be available with harder or softer upholstery, so be sure to order the correct comfort level.
Always buy a set when purchasing a new mattress. A set will include a box spring or foundation and the mattress. These work together, like shocks and springs on a car, but have different functions. They are engineered to work together to get the maximum life out of your new set and to provide the comfort level you liked in the store. Many people believe they save money when only purchasing the mattress instead of the set. This is rarely true. The truth is they just put their warranty in jeopardy when they don't get the set. If you have a problem in the future, the manufacturer may say it is the fault of the piece you didn't buy from them.
Always buy the largest size mattress your room can comfortably accommodate. Couples should always choose either a queen or king-size. Couples should shop together to ensure ample sleeping area for each. Consider replacing your frame only if you suspect the existing it is damaged or bent or making noises. And finally, always keep a mattress protector on your bed. A stain on your mattress voids your warranty!
Step Four: Mattresses are price negotiable
There is a lot of markup in mattresses. Sometimes as much as 500% or more. Retailers have learned that customers like large discounts. So they mark them up exceptionally high so they can give you a substantial reduction. So half off is not sufficient if you want a good deal. You can negotiate the price of most brands in the retail store, but a mattress store will be more negotiable than a furniture store when it comes to price. Why? Because stores dedicated to selling mattresses are staffed by managers with the power to discount. Furniture stores are not, sales clerks staff them without the authority to change the price.
If the store tells you the price is fixed, double check at their competitor. Even products that are so-called "price protected" or NMAP (National Manufacturers Advertised Price Or MMAP, Manufacturers Minimum Advertised Price) can sometimes be discounted as much as ten percent or more and some salespeople don't care about rules and will violate them. To check on a price that is fixed shop online at three or more websites. Internet salespeople will break the rules but make sure you get the product quote in writing and pay with a credit card or PayPal to protect your investment. You can also shop by levels of quality by comparing the exact same mattress online regardless of the name. Here is a tactic to use:
You: This mattress is "X" amount online. I want to support the local economy but am not going to pay "Y" extra to do it. Please match or beat the price.
If you don't ask for a discount, you won't get one!
Ask discreetly for a discount. Don't try to negotiate in front of other customers as this will only make for a hostile environment that could cost the store profits by openly negotiating. Be discreet and you will win the price game. Insist on free delivery, setup and removal of your old sleep set. Keep asking for more until you can't get more. Asking the only way to ensure you are getting the best price and best terms.
Don't forget to get interest free financing if you qualify. You may also ask for a mattress protector, sheets, pillows, comforters, etc. If they sell it, get them to throw it in. Remember that they will markup these accessories too, so don't believe the sheets cost $300 or the pillows are $150 each.
One NEW Strategy
If you compare a national brand locally, look up the same product online. Take the lowest price to the salesperson and state: I want to support the local merchants and not order online. Will you match this price? This has been very successful for me and I saved $999 on a $1,800 mattress set with the frame (which they threw in). The retailer was Mattress Firm and the online site I used for comparison was us-mattress.com on a Simmons World Class mattress set.
Box Springs or Foundation
Most people know what a box spring is; but what about a foundation? A foundation is simply a platform that looks like a box spring. It may be hard, usually because of a cardboard top covered with fabric. Foundations are not as desirable as box springs and usually a sign of an inferior quality set. Avoid buying a "foundation" if you care about a good quality set.
Note: Foundations may have steel torsion bars when supplied by major manufacturers, and these are acceptable as the term "Foundation" is the politically correct name of a box spring in the current marketplace.
Almost every store has a different name for mattresses. It may be called one name in Store A and another in Store B. Look online for a mattress comparison information to double check. Then check the prices with at least three online sources and three local retail store outlets. Call online companies to see if they have coupons or other discount offers. Don't just look at your screen or you may be leaving money on the table. Make the call and establish rapport with the person on the other end of the telephone.
Note: You can even shop a large chain with other local stores of the same name. Since the salespeople are on commission, you will only get a better deal on a mattress but only if you ask for a better deal.
So how do you avoid getting taken when the dealer is dishonest? Large chains have the power to change the top covers to make a lower quality model appear as if it was a higher quality model. They know when traveling you will only remember the appearance of the cover and not be able to recall the true feel. Combat this by recording the coil count in the mattress you are considering. Higher quality mattresses usually have more coils or thicker coils. Remember that since you only see the top you don't know what is in the middle, so you must ask.
Most mattresses have a separate cloth nametag on the side of the bed or an iron-on label on the bottom front side of the bed. There should be a name on these tags. Asking the coil count and the name is the only way to be sure. If you can discover what the comfort layers are and the height of the mattress it will assist you when shopping.
Caveat: Never buy spray on protection for your mattress. This spray-on protection is a way for the retailer to make money and will do little to benefit you and may even void your warranty. If you want to protect your mattress, buy a mattress protector that is five-sided. Nothing less!
Step Five: Getting it installed
Delivery is crucial. Pick a day you can wait for the set. All day! Even if they say morning, a window of time, or afternoon, pick a day it isn't a bother. Inspect the set for marks. Remember, a stain voids your warranty. Make sure the frame is tight, the plastic protection is removed in front of you (or you could be getting another customer's return), the walls aren't scratched, and the sets name tag is the same as what is on your invoice. COMPARE THE NAME OF THE BED WITH YOUR RECEIPT.
Tipping isn't required but if the delivery people do a good job throw them a fiver.
IMPORTANT: If someone called and said they are out of your set but are sending you a free upgrade... Wait for the one you carefully shopped for at the store. Don't take a free upgrade, it most likely is a downgraded set.
Now you have the knowledge not to get taken when buying a mattress. Good luck and drop me a line if you think of something I should include in this article.
FINAL TIP: Take a clipboard with you and it will let the salespeople know you are serious about your purchase. Clipboards are a visual clue that they should not play games with you.
Register your purchase to activate your warranty either by mail or via the company website.
Air out your new mattress. Put your sheets on after a few hours or even days if the bedroom isn't in use.
Dispose of all packaging as soon as possible. New mattresses may have a "new bed smell" that may take a couple of weeks to dissipate. Have the delivery people remove the plastic and cardboard from your property.
Transport your mattress flat on its side. It's easier to handle, and you'll be less likely to damage the mattress. Get a mattress carton from a local furniture moving company to ensure you don't damage your mattress in shipping.
Keep your bedding clean. Always us a 5-sided waterproof mattress protector. Use of mattress protector ensures that your warranty will stay in effect. A stain on your mattress will void your warranty so buying a waterproof mattress protector is cheap insurance.
Replace the old box spring when purchasing a new mattress. An old box spring may not provide sufficient support. Mattress sets are made to work with specific box springs or foundation. It may appear that your new mattress is sagging when it is the box spring, which supports the mattress, which has become worn.
Get an upgraded frame to ensure warranty protection. Do use an appropriate frame and center support(s) for queen and king size sets. Using the proper frame will ensure that your warranty remains in effect. Both sizes require at least one center support.
Rotate your mattress occasionally from head to toe, to prolong the comfort and support life. Body indentations of up to 1-1/2" are regular occurrences in your new mattress.
Don't remove the law tag label at the end of your bed. This information serves as a means of identification to establish your warranty rights, in the rare event any service need arises.
Don't allow your mattress to get wet. Don't use dry cleaning fluid of any type on your mattress. These chemicals will damage some of the construction materials and void your factory warranty. Some of the upholstery materials may compress. Protect it from water or other liquids by covering it with a mattress protector. It is a fact that people, on average, sweat one liter per day. Much of that is during sleep.
Don't let anyone stand or jump on your mattress. The construction of a bed is for displacing weight over an area of roughly 15 sq. ft.
Don't place a board between your mattress and box spring. Your sleep set is designed as an integrated system to provide you with proper support, and the box spring plays a significant role.
Flex rather than bend the mattress when going through doorways. Don't bend your mattress more than 20 degrees as it could damage the inner springs or border wires.
When you do make your purchase fold your receipt then place it with your mattress care book and other related paperwork in a zip lock bag. Then keep it between the mattress and the box spring. If you need it, you'll know where to find it.
Mattress Sizes are:
King: 76" x 80", (6/6 in the industry)
Queen: 60" x 80" (5/0 in the industry)
Full: 54" x 75" (4/6 in the industry)
Twin: 38" x 75" (3/3 in the industry)
Crib: 28" x 52
Check the company reputation at Rip Off Report or Consumer Affairs because you can't make a good deal with a bad company!
Good luck and good hunting,
© 2008 Jeffrey Watters
tom on March 02, 2015:
Hi Jeff one thing to remember asking for sales people to throw in everything is that they are on commission and doing so may result in little to no commission or worst negative commission and this how they make a living Yes ask about a discount but make it reasonable
Niz on October 17, 2014:
I am planning to buy a tempur-pedic mattress from Mattress Discounters because it is close to where I live. Is it possible to get bargain with them? I visited the store and the salesman said the price is basically fixed.
Kate on August 28, 2014:
Thanks for this article! I have a question for you. Do you know if the Tempurpedic mattresses truly cannot be discounted? List price is never a fair price in my sales industry so I walked away from a store that said they couldn't discount.
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on July 26, 2014:
Since this article was written a few years ago it would make sense it would, at some time, get out of date. Very observant of you. As far as the term "box springs" goes, this is what they are called regardless of the politically correct term. Thank you for stating the obvious.
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on July 10, 2014:
Erica, who bent the mattress? If it was the delivery team then it is the responsibility of the mattress store to replace the mattress. If you bent it then the responsibility is yours alone.
Erica on July 03, 2014:
I bought a sealy and started to see saggin and haded inspected and they said the matress was bend i was so mad cause there just trying to get out of the situation why would i bend a matress thats so stupid like if i dont have nothing else to do now im stuck with a matress thats not good dnt have money for a new one
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on March 20, 2014:
Bedding Hotline began as a completely funded consumer advocate blog but lost its funding over a year ago. Now it is completely funded by people just like you who buy their mattresses from Bedding Hotline, Inc. Your purchase will come with the full manufacturers warranty, free delivery, free setup and removal of your old mattress if desired, and the guaranteed lowest price. Buying your mattress from www.BeddingHotline.com funds our research and protects people just like you from mattress retailers’ high prices, and scams like the multiple mattress names. Please consider buying from Bedding Hotline so we may continue to provide this valuable information.
Dave on December 29, 2013:
Tried to find the alias for sterns and foster shantel online but couldn't. Can you provide me the link?
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on May 16, 2013:
If your mattress dips in the middle you may have it inspected. If you bought the matching adjustable base, such as the Simmons NuFlex and Simmons Mattress, then the manufacturer will have no choice but to give you a free mattress if it is defective.
Kerrie Parker on March 04, 2013:
I like your honest advice, too. We purchased a Simmons Plush Elite Spa bed last week on sale, but so far have not been sleeping very well. We're considering trading it for a Stearns & Foster Estate Jacquilyn in Estate Collection. We were used to a 20 year old Simmons Beautyrest Plush (pink mattress) that we loved. Thanks for the advice!
lizsamson on January 11, 2013:
That was a very informative article.
firstname.lastname@example.org on October 30, 2012:
D0es using an electric bed cause your mattress to dip where it bends. Had mine for about two months and it's showing signs of 'sinking' in hte middle.
MrsTdrew on August 24, 2012:
We live in a military community where every business sees our base stickers on the windshield or my husband's haircut and become your best friend in order to land a sale. After chemotherapy my joints cause painful nights and inadequate rest so we decided to look into a better bed.
The strip-mall mattress store salesman told us that he didn't work on commission and that they aren't going to be carrying Tempurpedic beds anymore; instead, he steered us to the ComforPedic by Simmons and we felt like it was an ideal fit. He gave us a price of $3,900 (w/out tax incl) for a king with the adjustable base that has a wireless remote for massage features. We asked if he'd throw in the foam pillows but he offered b.o.g.o. at $150. After thanking him for his time we left to visit other stores.
He stated that on Sept. 1st the prices of mattresses in general was going to increase for the entire industry. We looked at Tempurpedic first and he told us that they're hot and that people get fixated on the image that is in their heads after seeing a commercial with "well rested" actors. This gentleman was not at all pushy and as soon as we tried a mattress and made the "I don't like it" face he'd immediately move us on to whatever was next so we didn't have to hear details that were irrelevant.
What are your thoughts about our experience in the store and do you think there is any room for improvement with the price we were quoted?
Thanks for your awesome article by the way! We now feel "schooled" in the world of bedding!
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on August 13, 2012:
You may be getting scammed. I know a sales person that keeps an old cloth around and tells people that the mattresses are changing covers. Then he offers them a discount on the model in the store to get an immediate sale. You never know though, could be good.
CSmakers on August 12, 2012:
Hi, i am about to buy a mattress. The store i went offered a discount off a queen bed made with the wrong colour which has been sitting in the warehouse for 6 months. Is this a bad idea? Does the way it is stored affect the mattress? The discount is about 50% off which is a great price, shipping free too. Am i being scammed?
Eddie v jr on July 25, 2012:
Very informative! Thanks jeff !! when I go back to sleepys tomorrow I'll make sure they throw in 4 tempurpedic pillows and the most expensive protective cover and free dele very in the deal and a dinner for two!
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on April 09, 2012:
Jon, it is our company that is forcing the other companies to lower their prices. Want proof, go to usmattress.com and look at their price structure. They offer fifty percent off and another thirty-five percent off and their price at the end is almost what ours is everyday.
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on April 09, 2012:
I agree, honesty is the best policy. But I do want you to know I have read training manuals used in a large company and it was designed to sell the most expensive mattresses to people without regard for their needs.
Debbie Fitzpatrick on March 18, 2012:
I spoke to you the other day and you suggested calling the same store but another location. BRILLIANT!!! I got another 500 dollars off and free delivery!!! Thanks so much for the advice
Jacob on March 16, 2012:
Good advice but you make salespeople look like sharks circling for the kill. I suggest to everyone that if you use your instincts you will come out on top. Don't deal with a smooth talking salesperson. Walk away. There are good salespeople out there that really want their customers to be happy. I was in furniture and mattress sales for 15 years and I found that honesty is really the best policy. Good luck.
Fran on May 12, 2011:
Just can not express how much we appreciate your article..I am sharing it with my family and friends...because I believe they can save hundreds armed with your research and info..God bless and thank you.
Marybeth on April 30, 2011:
Looking for a bed for my 6 year old. This was a thorough, informative and well written article. Thank you!
Jeffrey Watters (author) from Frankford, DE on April 21, 2011:
Thanks AJ, I appreciate your kind words.
AJ on February 17, 2011:
I just spoke to Jeff- this was the most honest and sincere advice i have gotten since i got married!
wow- it is soo impressive to know that good natured folks are out there helping.. ofcourse being unreasonable would be foolish but if you are considering a decent mattress and do your research and you gotta gotta speak to Jeff before you go get it is a MUST...i am considering calling Jeff from the store and pretending he's my uncle who works for IBC or Sealy or Simmons.....thanks Jeff - you rock! Rockville, MD!