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.

230 Comments

  1. I am sorry for all the problems everyone is having with beds. Having put off getting a new bed for our son for as long as possible, it is nice not to be alone in this though! His bed is over 25 years old, (he basically went from the crib to a queen bed that had been for guests) and he is 19 now, 6’2″ and has mentioned more than once “how comfortable the dorm beds are” so my husband and I figured it is really time to get him a new bed. I started to look in to it a few years ago, and just gave up because of all the confusion, and the horror stories I was hearing from friends whose new beds were shot within a few months, deep valleys they have to “work” to get out of, and ridges between the valleys. I am very glad I found this site before even beginning to try and get him a bed, thanks everyone for posting here, I’m learning a great deal.

  2. I think a 10 year warranty is a little long for something you (and your wife perhaps) sleep on some 10 hours a day. I wouldn’t expect to pay more than 500 to 700 dollars for a mattress, I can’t remember what I paid last time.

    After 5 years, I think I got my money’s worth. Spend more and then perhaps the warranty should go up a bit. Depending on how old you are, that mattress might be getting quite a workout and I’m not just talking about sleeping.

    I do agree that moel numers should be standard so peole can compare with other sellers. Most everything else you buy has them and you can shop for the best price. Just my opinion.

  3. Just wanted to give a quick feed back on everyone complaining about prices and wanting things cheaper. Not saying that I don’t agree that things have gotten more expensive but its gotten more expensive for everyone. Retailers have to pay employees, mattress companies have to pay for product and manufacturing. I have a friend who works at a mattress store and he told me that some of the mattresses that they have there they as a company had to pay over $1000 at cost just to get them. I personally have laid of a $400 dollar mattress in the store and a $4000 mattress and there is a huge difference between them. Go to the sales people who know about beds and how they can help your needs not how much it cost. What did you pay for the car your drive, the living room table? None of those things will benefit your health the way a bed will. Get all the facts before you complain.

    • “Get all the facts before you complain.”

      That’s funny. One of the things the writer of this post is pointing out is that you CAN’T get all the facts, because the stores and manufacturers won’t give them to you. They won’t even tell you CRITICAL information in making an informed choice, like the foam density of the foam used in support layers, which to large extent determines it’s durability.

      Just the fact “pillow top” mattresses are sold at all means mattress retailers have no interest in selling good products. Pillow tops wear out in a few years, leaving you with a sagging mattress that needs replacement. If they had any integrity at all they would sell you mattress with durable support core without a pillow top, and have you buy a 3″ topper (memory foam, etc) that can be easily replaced when it wears out.

      I’m done with them, and encourage everybody to abandon these charlatans . There are plenty of small companies now that will sell you a quality mattress online at a very good price, and they tell you EXACTLY what materials they are using in their mattress. It’s not rocket science. Spend an hour or so on a site like Mattress Underground and you’ll be an informed consumer that won’t get taken again.

      • Would you buy your car with out test driving it. Just saying. Making sure you buy the right mattress for you and your bodies needs requires laying on it and testing it out. There are very reputable large stores that do the right things for your health and wellness and are not out just for the buck

    • All this begs the question: How can the materials and construction of a mattress POSSIBLY cost $1,000 and way up? It is patently insane. Regular, non-mechanical mattresses are wood, metal springs/supports of one kind or another, and fabrics. And they are MASS PRODUCED. It is absolutely crazy that they could cost any more than $500. Does everyone in the chain mark the product up 400% at each stage–from manufacturer to distributor, from distributor to chain, from chain to store and then from store to customer? IT IS UNDENIABLY WRONG and all the mattress retailers ARE IN COLLUSION.

      • What many people don’t understand is that big name brands such as Sealy, Simmons, and Serta have what is called a price lock. Retailers of their products HAVE to sell it at what they tell them to. The prices are marked up so high because you’re not just paying for the mattress. You’re paying for the sleep trials that some stores offer, the advertising, the higher management, the sales commission of all employees, and most of all the warranty. If you want a quality mattress at a decent price then find a store that has a brand you have never heard of. If you haven’t heard of it, then they aren’t putting thousands of dollars into advertising and you don’t have to pay for it in their mattress. I work for a mattress outlet store. If you can find a genuin outlet mattress store than you will save a ton of money. We get mattresses that are close outs, liquidations, mis-matched sets, or freight blemished (meaning a truck driver ripped the plastic as he took it off the truck and got a scuff mark on it). All of those things voids the warranty, so you don’t have to pay for it. We get big name brand mattresses through that process and sell them at least half price of what other stores sell them at. Never buy a mattress based on the warranty. You can pay 2,000 for a queen Sealy and as you carry it into your house put a scuff mark on it if you bump it into the wall or ground. That scuff mark voids your warranty. Warranties are useless. Find an outlet store. I’ve currently got a big name brand mattress on my floor for $800 that retails at $2,299 down the road. (We can’t mention the brand names we carry due to contracts with those companies.)

      • I own a family-ran mattress store and I can tell you that though many people believe this, it simply is not the case. While there are stores like sleepey’s that mark up the beds a ton before dropping them down for aggressive customers, there are also stores like ours that make a small margin that is the same across every mattress. With the new high density memory foams infused with gel, latex, and higher cost of steel wholesale costs can easily he to to the $1000 range on many sets. However. I don’t csrry tempurpedics, strerns and fosters, heirlooms, and some other high end brands because you really don’t get what you pay for. In my opinion Serta is the best large retailer out there in way of quality for the price and I especially have had a lot of success eith a bed lasting 15 plus years with the natural 100% Talalay latex line for side and back sleepers that our local Serta plant makes here in salt lake.. But the problem is that they don’t make it nationwide. Also, for people over 200 pounds each, 4″ of Talalay latex isn’t quite enough for a mattress to last more than 10 years. Unfortunately along with all of the other justified comments on here for problems in the mattress industry, there are also politics involved that make matters even worse. Even a lot of the review sites are biased and don’t offer a fair review of all categories.
        Hope that helps!

  4. Couldn’t agree more. My wife and I shopped for a new mattress for several months going into many brick-and-mortar type stores. It was insane that the “cheap” mattress was still $1,500. We were almost sold on a Tempurpedic, because you know…it’s a 3rd of your life when a co-worker told me about the Tuft & Needle mattress.

    The price was incredible and the reviews were good. We went ahead and ordered. The T&N ended up being a little too firm for us, so we returned it, but it opened our eyes to a litany of new online only companies. Ended up ordering from another company and are absolutely loving it.

    I’m really excited for the next year. Lots of new excited young companies. Going to be a great 2015 for mattress industry.

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