The Mattress Industry is One Big Scam

The last time I bought a mattress for myself was about 11 years ago. I bought a fairly new full-sized one off a coworker. Four moves and a decade later, we’ve decided it’s time to replace it with an adult (and sometimes an extra toddler)-sized bed.

Shopping Blind

When we started looking, I was shocked at the prices. $3000 for a mattress? What the heck are these things made of? Knowing very little, we went shopping for a mattress and other things on a Saturday morning. The first place, we stopped, Sleepy’s, seemed nice enough. We laid on a few and honed in on the one that we both felt most comfortable in. Meanwhile, Audrey discovered the fun of letting herself fall backwards onto mattresses and did it all over the store. She was giggling and the whole store couldn’t help but look and smile at her. Unfortunately, we soon stopped smiling.

When we found something we liked, the seemingly helpful salesman started to get more aggressive. He asked how much we were looking at paying and I made up a number on the spot, something way below the listed price on the bed. The said he would “talk with his manager” and see if he could get us that price. Then he started asking us if we could commit and have it delivered tomorrow. Anne had walked outside to give Audrey a break by that point, so I said I had to go out and talk with her about it. We talked about it for a bit, then decided we didn’t like the high-pressure sales pitch, so we got ready to leave.

I had the car started up when the salesman came out and approached the car window. He then said that he had “talked to his manager” and he could give us the price we wanted AND a free “platinum package”. I said we would talk about it and let him know. We again decided this was sketchy, but to make good on my promise, I went in and gave him my phone number and left.

Later that day we went to Jordan’s Furniture, generally known to be a reputable place with reasonable places. The salespeople there were nice and NOT high-pressure. Prices were generally lower, but strangely, we couldn’t find the mattress we found at Sleepy’s. They had Sertas, but not the one we liked.

Being indecisive, we left with a couple new names of ones we liked. Later, we went to Mattress Discounters. The woman there was not pushy and told us about the BBB complaints that Sleepy’s (a 700-store chain) had gotten. We decided to think some more and head home.

At home, I did some research online and I found something strange – I couldn’t find much of anything on the mattresses we saw that we liked. I found some mattresses, many of the same brand, but not the same models.

One Big Scam

I later came to find out that this was completely intentional. The mattress industry is one big scam. There is no way to make an objective decision on a mattress using actual facts.

Here’s a few things that the mattress industry does to get you:

1. They mark up their prices 100% to 200%!! No wonder the first guy was able to get his “manager” to give me such a steep discount. They were probably still going to make hundreds of dollars of profits on it.

2. They give the same mattresses different names in different stores or they set up exclusivity agreements by mattress line in certain stores. This makes it impossible to comparison shop because…

3. They make it really had to get actual facts about the mattresses. Stuff like coil counts, materials, overall construction are shrouded in secrecy. But that doesn’t really matter because…

4. There’s no objective measure of mattress quality. Consumer Reports won’t rate them because they can’t get the data and there’s no testing that actually says higher coil counts are better or the number of wires in the coils makes a difference in any way. You’re left to deciding how much you believe the marketing. Is a pillow top made of alpaca hair any better than one made of cotton? Your guess is as good as mine.

5. There’s very little online reviews of mattresses, probably because the model names are so fractured. The ones I did find looked more like content-free sites designed to attract referral credits.

Cracking the Code

With some more research, I found out that it was somewhat possible to compare mattresses models from different places. It turns out that they really only make one hardness variation in each line. So you can assume that a Plush Firm mattress in the “Classic” line, is the same as another Plush Firm in the Classic line, even if they have different names.

US-mattress.com was very helpful in figuring this out. We were able to understand which mattresses we saw and how they related to each other. For example, the mattress we liked at Jordan’s was a product line better than the one we saw at Mattress Discounters, even though they came out to the same price! Clearly Jordan’s had the better deal, but US-Mattress had an even better deal.

So I did something I never thought I could do, buy a mattress over the internet. I’m pretty sure it’s the same one we saw in the store and the free delivery and frame were a good deal. I’m sure that even if I’m getting it at half the price I saw it listed at elsewhere, they’re still making a decent profit on it.

Anne and I agree that buying a mattress is worse than buying a car. While both have sketchy salespeople, when you buy a car, you can compare them on MPG, size, features, etc. Multiple dealers have the same models so you can compare prices and make an informed decision based on their invoice prices. There’s none of that when buying a mattress.

Our mattress should arrive in a few weeks. Hopefully we’ll just find it comfortable enough to have to avoid going through buying a mattress again for at least another 11 years.

UPDATE: The mattress arrived quickly and in good condition. We’ve been sleeping on it for several nights and while it feels comfy, I’ve had some upper back soreness which seems to be related to the new mattress. I’m going to keep trying it for a few more weeks and see if my body adjusts as the US-mattress.com website suggests. Hopefully it will go away. Otherwise, we’ll have to find another one and do a $100 exchange I guess.

362 Comments

  1. The misconception consumers have is that there is one “best” mattress or a mattress that is the “top of the line.” The true best mattress for you is one that is custom tailored to you and your partners shape and weight. This information is not something that can be passed over the internet. There are some honest companies who believe in “Open Architecture” mattress systems in which the covers are zippered and you have the ability to see each layer of the mattress. This ensures that you are not being sold “mystery meat” trademarked technologies that you have no ability to research. Also note that in terms of long term support your mattress will only be as strong as its weakest link, meaning anytime you introduce a synthetic foam, mattress cover, or inferior coil system, (ie: coils tied together,) your mattress will likely break down much sooner than a mattress made of more natural materials like, 100% cotton, 100% wool, 100% natural latex – (don’t buy into organic latex as there is no such thing, all latex has synthetic materials, soaps and sulfurs, honest companies will be forthright with this info and not claim organic. Be wary of blended latex however (SBR latex), biggest tell-tale sign is they are a lot lower price.

    Beyond the mattress it is also important to have a friend or partner with you to check your spinal alignment for neutrality. The ability to unload the spine on your side/back will give you much better quality sleep. Comfort is subjective, proper support is not, and the best long term option will be finding the right balance between the two.

    2 big red flags –

    1. never buy a mattress because of the warranty, even the best long lasting bed will truly only last around 8-12 years before a notice in change of firmness. No bed will last you 40 years and still be supportive. It may last 40 years with a big sag in the middle though. 🙂

    2. Ask about allowance for sag in the warranty as a direct indication of what they really think about their mattresses. IE: “This is the best bed ever and will last you 40+ years but just so you know in the first 2 years if you see an 1.5″ sag, or body impression in the mattress that is totally normal.”
    If there is any allowance for sag in the bed over a 10 year period I highly advise staying away from the bed regardless of the price as if will likely only work for a very short period.

  2. Best buy a bed with 100 day trial offer with complete refund if not satisfied. That’s what we did.

    Also, although you probably can’t buy from them as they are based in UK, this site has masses of invaluable generic mattress construction info that will gear you up with info and tips before you even start venturing into the showrooms. No matter what you end up buying, the info here will put you steps ahead in your hunt. http://www.factory-beds-direct.co.uk/understanding-beds

  3. I bought a Simmons Natural Care Latex Cypress Pillow Top in 2008 and was told it had a 25 year warranty. Hubby and I are currently shopping for a new mattress as this one has dips on his and my side of the bed, where we sleep and a lump in the middle, where neither of us sleeps! We paid over $3000 for this mattress and feel like we were ripped off. Plus when I went to do some research on Simmons Latex mattresses, they don’t make this line anymore. Maybe because they wear out quicker than we were told??? We used to have a Tempurpedic and that lasted 15 years. We are thinking of going back to those again.

  4. This is a depressing thread to say the least, I too am a victim of the sears grand canyon special mattress with a sag that is about 4 inches after 2 years…………………I had a simmons beaty rest set made in 1974 until 1994 and it was still comfortable with no sag and no springs sticking through when the top fabric actually began to wear out………darn I miss it………I’m a side sleeper and right now you can not find a soft spring mattress anywhere……….softness comes from quality springs correctly rated and made from quality spring steel…………….they don’t make quality spring steel in china…………………believe me as I am a mechanic. Toppers and foam toppers should not be necessary. I do have to say that my sister did buy some matresses from Crate and Barrel that cost a fortune but are high quality………..but still modern day too damn stiff………….

  5. you change your mattress every 10 to 11 years, so for 11 years you wont buy a single mattress, a single shopkeeper if he wont get 5k per mattress why would he manage a shop, its just useless ! you want mattress at manufacturing price thats not possible.

    Because of the long duration price has to be little high… its like buying a maruti and bmw you talking about. Than you should call bmw also a scam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *