Posted on July 05 2017
Part Two: The Second Most Important Factor to Consider When Buying a Mattress: Price
In addition to the difficulty of comparing the warranties and the quality of different mattresses, the mattress manufacturers make it almost impossible to compare the prices of similar mattresses, because they intentionally change the names of the same mattresses that are sold in different outlets, or they change the look of the mattresses by altering the ticking, or they change the model names over time, making it necessary to constantly update comparison and pricing information.
Many consumers find the process of searching for and buying a mattress particularly frustrating and annoying. Some even characterize the way mattresses are often sold as a “scam” since it is so difficult to comparison shop. And many mattress retailers abet this reputation by constantly running “sales” with regularly advertised discounts of 50% (or more!) and accompanying inducements like (and I am quoting here from a prominent Midwestern big box furniture store ad) “with any mattress purchase of $999 and above, 1, 2 even 3 FREE HDTVs”. Seriously? While we all like the idea of a deal, how many people believe that a retailer can regularly offer a legitimate 50% off the normal selling price, week after week, and stay in business, all the while offering eye-popping additional inducements?
Compounding the price confusion is the proliferation of different mattress models (each with its own price level). In fact, it is quite astounding how varied mattress pricing, even in the same store, can be, It is not unusual for the most expensive mattress in a store to be priced at 10 (or even more) times the price of the lowest cost mattress in the store. This means that there is a plethora of different models and prices to choose from all along that price spectrum. Compare this situation with the typical car dealership. If the car dealership is a single brand dealer (like, say, Honda) then the highest priced Honda will only be maybe three times the cost of the lowest priced Honda. Even in dealerships with multiple brands (which they do to try to cover a greater variety of price points) it is likely that the highest priced model is only 6 or maybe 7 times as expensive as the lowest priced model. But mattress stores have expanded their price list to encompass a spread of 10 times or more. This remarkable spread from the lowest to the highest priced mattress makes making any decision that much harder.
The mattress store will immediately try to get you to “test” different mattresses by lying down on them. This is a good idea (Consumer Reports suggests that you spend at least 15 minutes testing the mattress you are thinking of buying) but not at the beginning of your search. If you end up testing four or five different mattresses at the start of your search, you will have a hard time making a decision based upon your vague impressions. Start by asking about the warranties and when you have identified the two or three most likely candidates based upon which warranties seem most attractive to you (see Part One: The Most Important Factor to Consider When Buying a Mattress: The Warranty) then test them out by lying on them for an extended period.
What about big sales and incredibly low advertised prices? Purportedly quality manufacturers offer versions of their product at impossibly low, loss-leader prices. Again, quoting from the Midwestern furniture retailer’s ad, “First time ever: Sealy Plus Mattresses, Any Size, One Low Price $197 and $299 for Mattress Sets”. Really? I can guarantee that you will not be satisfied for very long sleeping on this mattress, even though it supposedly is made by a major mattress manufacturer. Hmmm, but maybe for the guest room…
While it is not unique to the furniture industry to offer promotional sales of 50% off the manufacturers’ “suggested” retail prices (MSRP), it is important for consumers to realize that hardly anybody actually sells at that price. It is often a made-up price designed to permit retailers to offer attractive-sounding sales. Another novel approach to promoting a sale price is to indicate that the sale price is 50% off a competitor’s price, not even the store’s own normal price. Honestly. What a brilliant idea. You can sell your mattress for the price you always charge but claim a 50% sale is going on because you claim that you are selling the mattress for 50% less than (an unnamed) competitor is selling it for. This is truly marketing genius. But it does strike some consumers as a bit misleading (ok, a lot misleading). What really sets the retail mattress business apart from many other businesses is that manufacturers and chain retailers collude to inhibit comparison shopping by making many, many different models (which supposedly vary in terms of quality and support) with many different names for similar mattresses sold by different retailers, thereby making it extremely difficult for consumers to comparison shop a particular model from store to store. So, while price is obviously an important consideration in any buying decision, do not focus your attention on how much you are supposedly saving but rather focus on what you are actually spending. You will be able to compare different mattress’ “out the door” prices while ignoring all of the hype about supposed sale prices and price reductions from some hypothetical MSRP. And stay away from ridiculously low-priced mattresses, they will have a ridiculously limited warranty, also.
One price-related inducement that may be valuable is free delivery and take-away of your old mattress (if you are getting rid of it rather than giving it to someone or putting it in the guest room). Mattresses are bulky and heavy, especially queen- and king-sized mattresses. Getting them up a narrow staircase with a turn in the middle can be a significant physical challenge (and don’t forget about getting the old mattress down the stairs!). Once you have it down the stairs, then what? Put it out by the trash? It may need to be taken to the landfill. So, online mattress companies have pioneered the concept of “mattress in a box” which compresses the mattress into a relatively small and easily handled 4 foot box, but they don’t give you a hand in getting rid of the old mattress.
So, once you have decided on what level of quality mattress you prefer (based upon the warranty's terms and other organizational certifications) then start by looking for the lowest "out-the-door" prices on mattresses that meet your quality criteria as well as for additional non-price benefits like free delivery, set up, and disposal of your old mattress.