If shopping for a new mattress feels intimidating, you are not alone. The industry is often compared to car sales, as it’s not entirely uncommon to see less-than-ethical practices and high-pressure sales tactics. Knowing what to expect and what to look for can make the shopping process easier, though. In this guide, we’ll explain helpful insider tips for avoiding the mattress showroom tricks while shopping at retailers like Mattress Firm.
Common Mattress Store Sales Tricks to Avoid
The mattress industry is a fairly large and profitable one, with stiff competition dominated by a few big brands like Serta, Simmons, and Sealy. Companies obviously have an incentive to keep their profits high, which means it’s often to their advantage to limit comparison shopping, manipulate pricing or employ other tactics. Since the majority of consumers have limited knowledge of beds and the industry, these practices have continued for decades. The best way to ensure you get a good deal when shopping is to be aware of common tricks so you can spot red flags and ask the right questions.
1) Name Games
As comparing products and prices becomes simpler thanks to the internet and smartphones, retailers have developed ways of impeding this. Several department stores and mattress showrooms have “exclusive” models of mattresses which may differ slightly in appearance or specifications from those of the same brand sold elsewhere. This prevents the retailer from having to price match or compete directly with other stores. It is always a good idea to research the specifications and reviews of a bed before buying, however, this may be difficult for “exclusive” models which further complicating buying. An example of this practice, a Simmons Beautyrest model could have a different name at multiple Mattress Firm locations.
To trump the “name game”, focus on the mattress details rather than the collection or model name. Don’t take salespeople’s’ word on comparison claims, either. Here are the primary specifications you should ask about and compare in order to see which beds offer the best value and best likelihood of durability and satisfaction:
- Innersprings: Coil type, coil count, padding type, foam layers (and quality), fabrics/ticking
- Memory Foam: Memory foam type, memory foam density, memory foam thickness, core foam density, cover fabric, any padding/extra layers
- Latex: Latex contents, latex type, thickness of all layers, ILD of layers, cover fabric, any padding/extra layers
- Waterbeds: Vinyl thickness, seam type, fiber layers/baffling, accessories
2) Price Games
Understandably, businesses have a desire to be profitable. While there’s nothing wrong with making money, some brands and showrooms may employ questionable tactics in an effort to boost profits.
Inflated Sales. The most common tactic is an inflation of sale prices or discounts. Exaggerated discounts and time-sensitive sales are used to create a sense of urgency or increase shoppers’ perception of value, which is an age-old tactic used in several industries. You’ve surely seen advertisements such as “50% off today only!,” or “75% off for limited time only!” For example, Consumer Reports’ shopping experts found several inconsistencies when comparing a Serta mattress with manufacturer-set minimum pricing (meaning no retailer can sell below a set figure). While all retailers had the same sale price, some stated their regular price was over twice as high to create the perception of a good deal (source).
Ultimately, you should remember to compare mattresses based on specifications and quality rather than the mattress deals in order to come away with the best value. When sales seem incredible or too good to be true, it’s wise to trust your instincts. If you aren’t ready to buy, there will almost surely be another sale, so don’t feel too pressured. A possible exception is sales during major holiday weekends (such as President’s Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, and Black Friday), during which retailers do usually offer better sales than average. But, like always, it’s still wise to research and compare to ensure the bed will be a good fit for your needs.
Haggling. As with cars, many retailers can and will negotiate deals on mattresses. While not everyone enjoys haggling, you could score a good discount or freebies for your efforts. Retailers that sell their own brand are most likely to negotiate. Some bigger brands have manufacturer-set prices, but retailers may still offer freebies like pillows to earn business.
3) Intentional Obfuscation
Sometimes, mattress companies will intentionally limit the amount of product information provided to make comparison shopping difficult. They may also do this to obscure information on quality, especially in brands that aim to create a “luxury” image without the materials to support the price. Take memory foam mattresses, for example. The density of the memory foam and base layers is an important factor to consider when shopping, as it relates to comfort, durability, and cost. However, almost of all of the national brands decline to provide these details to consumers as it may make their products look less competitive (ie. they may use lower density foams while charging more). If a retailer can’t/won’t provide at least basic information about what’s in their beds, then it’s probably best to keep looking.
Another fairly common trick used by manufacturers is the promotion of fancy high-tech sounding materials and competitive claims. These claims are not closely regulated (only retroactively), and often unsupported by independent scientific research. For example, in recent years, several brands including Essentia were targeted by the FTC after making unsubstantiated VOC/toxin-free claims, lawsuits have targeted Tempur-Pedic’s VOC and product claims, and both Tempurpedic and Serta were told by the NAD to stop making unsupported or misleading coolness claims when advertising their beds.
Always conduct your own research when shopping for a bed. Look past the puffery and vague claims, and focus instead on the quality of materials and your comfort preferences. Online consumer review websites can also be a good way to see if claims hold up with owners, and to get the scoop on pros and cons. It can be hard to find the specific Mattress Firm reviews that you’re looking for however because of the name games that they play.
4) Warranty & Return Tricks
Other common tricks in the mattress world involve warranties and returns. Some may offer unfavorable terms and policies, and salespeople are not always well-informed. You, as a savvy consumer, should always read the full warranty and return policies before purchasing so you aren’t caught with a surprise later.
- What’s included? Check what the policy actually covers, and for how long. Usually, a certain degree of sagging is covered (which could be as little as a ½ inch or over 2 inches). Some may also cover fabrics or other components specifically. Mattress warranties often have both “full-coverage” and “prorated” portions, with the buyer having to pay the majority of costs during the prorated period.
- What’s excluded? Manufacturers may explicitly exclude some components or events from coverage, such as fabrics, foam compression, stains, floor models, or beds that are not adequately supported.
- What’s required? Some warranties may require the use of the brand’s matching foundation or a mattress cover. Others may just require “adequate support” and that a mattress is free of stains to cover warranty claims. Some salespeople might try to push unnecessary accessories, so always check what the warranty actually requires. You may also be required to retain proof of purchase and keep mattress tags attached in order to make future claims.
- Exchange or return? Some retailers will only allow exchanges, not money-back returns. They may also not refund the difference you exchange for a less-expensive model.
- Wait period? Some retailers require you to wait a certain amount of time before returning (up to 60 days at some places!). While it’s true that getting used to a new bed can take time, you’ll likely know after 20-30 days if the bed is a good fit.
- Hidden fees? Some companies may not be upfront about return fees unless pressed. Ask if they charge any restocking/return fees if discounts/sale offers affect refunds/returnability, and if you must pay pickup or return shipping fees.
More Mattress Shopping Tips
- A showroom test isn’t the best measure of long-term satisfaction. Lying on a mattress for a few minutes offers little insight into how comfortable it will be in the long-term, according to a study from RTI. Consumer Reports also found 40% of buyers regretted their mattress purchase, making return or exchange policies important!
- Online shopping could save you time and money, especially if you are shopping for a specialty mattress like memory foam or latex. You can likely find a greater selection online compared to local shops, and due to higher competition, you may also find better deals. Just be sure to inquire about returns.
- Get more information on comparing mattress types in our How to Find the Best Mattress guide.
Remember, a mattress is a product you will be using 8 hours per day for several years. Take some time to learn about beds and differences in materials. After all, being informed and aware of common mattress tricks can make the difference between getting a good deal and getting duped!