Mattress buying is more complicated than ever, but it doesn’t have to be.
When I shop for a mattress, I try to eliminate confusion. I don’t want a salesperson to go on endlessly about coil counts, wire thickness and turns, microdiamond-infused memory foam and cool-balanced fabric. Just let me kick off my shoes and lie down for 15 minutes in the position I normally use when I sleep.
It’s the same advice that many mattress experts and doctors who specialize in lower back and neck care also give.
“There are no peer-reviewed, independent studies that show that one kind of a mattress or pillow is any better than another, whether it’s filled with air, foam, gel, springs or padding,” said Dr. Jeffrey Pinto, an orthopedic surgeon at the Institute for Low Back and Neck Care in Plymouth.
Start with what has been comfortable for you in the past. Then tell the salesperson about your sleeping preferences and issues, such as sleep position, temperature, firmness, snoring or health concerns.
Mary Lynn Kadrie of Minneapolis recently spent three weekends choosing a new mattress. She had no problems with her 13-year-old mattress but her husband did. She briefly considered buying online at Costco.com. Costco is one of the few retailers that will refund your money on a mattress at any time for any reason.
“I have such a comfort level with Costco,” she said. “But my husband has a lot of back pain. We needed a place where we could lie down and test the beds.”
Online stores and most warehouse clubs don’t offer that, although Sam’s Club does.
Kadrie’s budget for a king-size set was $1,800 to $2,000. Most Americans spend between $500 and $2,000 for a queen set, the most popular size, according to the International Sleep Products Association.
Kadrie asked about an exchange in case she and her husband didn’t like the mattress after a month. With all the fees tacked on at some retailers, “It was like watching the meter run on a taxi,” she said.
Return policies have changed in the past decade. Few retailers except warehouse clubs and Nordstrom allow refunds. Most allow a one-time “comfort” exchange within 30 to 120 days as long as the consumer purchases a nonrefundable mattress protector (about $80) and the mattress has no stains or blemishes. There may be additional fees to pick up and redeliver a mattress. Even Nordstrom charges a 15 percent restocking fee and $120 to pick up the mattress, although it does allow refunds.
What else is different? Everything and nothing. Consumers can now sleep on air, memory foam, latex, padded coils or any combination.
None of those are new, but manufacturers would have us believe that they are. “Hybrid” is the new name for combining foam and innerspring mattresses, for instance.
“Adjustable foundation” is the new name for the hospital-type bed that allows the head and foot areas of the mattress to be raised and lowered. They’re popular with the partners of snorers and those with acid reflux or hiatal hernias, said Dave Smittkamp of Mattress Liquidators in West St. Paul. “But they’re expensive at $1,500 to $5,000. They’re not for everyone,” he said.
Flippable mattresses are almost gone, except for a few holdouts such as Original Mattress Factory. No-flip mattresses don’t last as long because the padding wears out faster, said Jon Quale, vice president of Original Mattress Factory in Maplewood.
“Mattresses made today probably won’t last as long as ones purchased 10 years ago. It’s not the springs that are wearing out. It’s the padding,” Quale said. “A mattress wears from the top down. The padding on a no-flip mattress gets twice the wear as one that’s flipped.”
Often, the key to deciding between two mattresses of similar type and thickness is weight, Quale said. A heavier mattress will often last longer. A heavier innerspring mattress will likely have a better coil system. A heavier foam mattress will probably have denser material.
Once you’ve landed a mattress, don’t assume the sale price is the best price. Haggle for an even lower price by asking, “Can you do better on the price or throw in free delivery or free haul away of my old mattress?”
Price comparisons are difficult. Sellers have proprietary names for mattresses that differ at various retailers. I recently looked at Macy’s and worked with a salesperson who gave me a lower price than the sale price. I called www.us-mattress.com with the model name from Macy’s and got virtually the same unadvertised price. I never had any intention of ordering a mattress online, although many people do. But online seems to be the only way to comparison shop for mattresses nowadays.
There will be lots of sales for Presidents’ Day weekend. Since your time, money and comfort are at stake, get the exchange policy and fees in writing. It will be more valuable than the manufacturer’s warranty. You could lose a lot of sleep trying to collect on one of those.