Monday, 05 September 2005

The mattress scam

The time has come. We made the decision to transition our two year-old to a “big boy bed.” Not an actual bed with a frame and headboard, mind you; we’re just throwing the mattress on top of the box springs on the floor. Parental common sense: it’s fewer inches they will fall when they roll themselves off the edge. Parental common sense, part deux: it’s shoved in to the corner, cutting the number of edges available for rolling off in half.

So we took advantage of the Labor Day sales this holiday weekend and went mattress shopping. I thought I would pass along some helpful hints, should you find yourself in this situation. (Which you will, eventually, unless you enjoy self-induced spine curvature because you’re still sleeping on the mattress you took to college with you nearly twenty years ago.)

Forget comparison shopping. Mattress stores will sell the same brands, but it will be impossible for you to compare models. Why? Because the mattress manufacturers and retailers are sadists, that’s why.

Manufacturer X has a nice medium-range mattress, which is in demand by three different retailers. So Manufacturer X has three separate tags identifying this mattress for Retailers 1, 2, and 3. Therefore, when you are in Retailer 2, and looking at Mattress X2, you have no idea it’s the exact same mattress as the X1 you saw at Retailer 1. And so on. So forget comparison shopping.

Throw the price guarantee back in their face. All three of the retailers whose doors we darkened offered some form of a price guarantee: matching, 110% of the difference, etc. It’s totally laughable, because of the lack of comparison-shopping ability consumers have when it comes to mattresses. They know you’re not going to find the Sealy Posturepedic X95J Super Sleeper any where else, because it’s not called the X95J Super Sleeper any where else. It will be called the F4 Dream Cushion, have a different fabric covering it, and you’ll be none the wiser.

So when the sales person mentions the price guarantee while you’re browsing, you can laugh and tell him he is full of it.

Hire a babysitter. I’m sure a neighbor would’ve been happy to watch our son for a couple of hours, but I didn’t think about this until after the fact. Consumer Reports recommends lying on a mattress in the store for 15 minutes to get a definitive feel for its comfort. Obviously the anal-retentives at CR have never gone mattress shopping with their Thomas the Tank Engine-obsessed two year-old in tow. One is unable to lie on a mattress for 15 seconds as the aforementioned two year-old tears up and down the aisles, running his Thomas and Percy trains over the mattresses as he goes.

In the end, buying a mattress is still a gut call. We didn’t want to go cheap, but we didn’t want to spend a grand on a set, either. We were looking for something in the middle, that would get him to his teenage years. Hopefully, we have succeeded.

posted on September 5, 2005 8:57 PM

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