The Top 7 Myths about Buying a New Mattress

Let’s face it – buying a bed in mattress stores feels awkward. Sleeping is an inherently private experience, after all.

But there you are, laying down amidst a showroom full of customers and salespeople. Perhaps awkwardly tugging on your clothes, trying not get footprints on the bed nor think of all those testing that bed before you.

Uncomfortable as it might seem, it also seems counterintuitive not to at least test-drive (or in this case, test sleep) an investment where you spend one-third of your life.

Research shows that personally testing mattresses doesn’t always lead to best selection though. In fact, some of the best mattress brands are online like Amerisleep.

Update

Amerisleep is expanding into retail locations! And they have reinvented the mattress shopping experience.

First, they take the stress out of shopping by using trained Sleep Ambassadors, not sales people. And you still get their 100-night, risk-free trial, even though you get to try the beds in the store first. That way, you can make sure you’re just as comfortable when you get home as you were in the showroom.

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Why are so many of today’s best mattress brands founded online? Well for one, mattress stores hold a slew of tricks up their sleeves to make sure you walk out of there having purchased something. This article outlines those common myths about shopping for mattresses in a store, and reveals the honest truth about these “buyer beware traps.”

Myth #1: You need to try in a mattress store before you buy

The Truth: Selecting the best option in a showroom setting is no more likely to get you comfortable than buying online

Common recommendations state that you should spend at least 20 minutes lying on each mattress you are considering. At least.

Even if you narrow down your selection to a specific price range and firmness, you could still face an ample selection to personally test. Let’s say, for example, one store offers six models, and another store five. At 20 minutes per mattress, you’ll spend four hours relaxing under the glaring fluorescent lights. Not to mention all the while you’ll be fending off pushy salespeople. Does this sound like your ideal Saturday?

More than likely, customers shortcut test time, and spend 20 minutes total with all mattresses. Even if you diligently wait out the full duration, studies show that you are still pretty terrible at picking out the best bed in a showroom setting.

The independent, non-profit research group, RTI let participants select their top choice of seven beds in a showroom setting (think like all Mattress Firm locations), then gave them each one to try for one month. The participants did not know which bed they initially chose, and the mattresses arrived in a random order.

Participants maintained sleep quality journals, and underwent electronic monitoring. The study found that people selected the bed after the study they ultimately rated best at the beginning only 38% of the time.

In a perfect world, it would be better to test a new mattress in the privacy of your own home for several weeks. If the showroom does not offer an in-home trial, plenty of online dealers do so, with hassle free refunds and exchanges. Mattress Firm and others may offer just a couple weeks, and charge return fees.

Myth #2: Salespeople are there to help you make good decisions

The Truth: Salespeople are there to help themselves make mattress sales

Sorry to say, but some salespeople do not have your best interest in mind when helping you shop for a mattress. Their job is to make a sale. Even if they aren’t working on commission, there are quotas to meet, overstocked mattresses to push, and non-commission bonuses to earn.

Some salespeople are helpful and genuinely interested in helping you find the best option – as long as it is in their store.

Do you find high-pressure sales tactics uncomfortable when trying to make a rational decision?  Salespeople tend to be smooth talkers. You may not realize you’ve been duped until it is too late. Or, perhaps you just want to get out of there and rush the decision.

If you feel sales pressure, your best bet is always walking out of the store. When you are ready to make a decision on your terms, there will still be a mattress for sale there. Or use their high- pressure sales tactics to get yourself a bargain. Set your own price and walk away if your it exceeds your budget. Online sellers tend to have less markup, but may offer additional perks, too.

Myth #3: It’s easy to cross-comparison shop between stores

The Truth: Welcome to the world of exclusivity agreements and mattress shop turf wars

Some mattress manufactures create exclusive deals with mattress stores
Some mattress manufactures create exclusive deals with mattress stores.

Often, mattress manufactures create exclusivity deals with each store. This may involve changing the name of the series and minor features for different stores. For example, the Serta Perfect Sleeper will have different names at all Mattress Firm locations.

The reason for this ‘personalized line’? So that each retailer protects its own turf, setting prices that not easily compared between stores. They keep markups high, and aren’t forced to beat each other’s prices.

Good for business, but a frustrating practice for customers looking to find the best deal on a bed they like. The fracturing of model names even makes it hard to cross-compare online customer reviews.

One tip to help you uncover the truth: most mattress manufacturers make only one firmness model per line. Comparing coil counts/densities and the thickness and types of padding layers also helps.

If you are currently looking for a mattress deal, don’t forget to check our our guide about the best labor day mattress deals.

Myth #4: Advances in mattress technology warrants higher prices

The Truth: In store mark-ups can be as high as 200%

Mattresses priced in excess of $3000 prove pretty common these days. So do all of the advances in sleep science require this enormous price tag? Not usually.

Mattress Firm and department stores like Macy’s pay high overhead costs of running their business. This includes a commercial location with high visibility, utilities, and staff. The manufacturer (i.e. Serta, Sealy, Simmons) also needs their cut. These costs pass onto the consumers at markups anywhere from 15% – 200% or more.

Conduct some online research to make sure the price reconciles with the value.  If the product appears to have a high markup, ask for a reduced price.

Another thing worth noting? People report highest satisfaction in the middle price range (beds between $1000-$2000). Expensive brands aren’t using magic materials. Typically, they bring the same quality as more reasonably priced peers when you look under the fancy covers and branding. Online direct-to-consumer brands like Amerisleep or Saatva tend to out do store brands consistently in reviews.

Myth #5: Mattress stores tell you all you need to know about a bed

The Truth: Sales jargon is readily available. Facts are not

This myth is also known as the ‘Mystery Component Scam’. Listen to your salesperson speak, and see if you tell the jargon from the helpful, tangible, comparable, and measurable items.

Manufacturers like to use trademark names for mattress components that make them sound amazing. Things like Exquisite-lush™ foam (ok, that one’s made up, but we bet you can spot the sales jargon!) are a trade name, not a product descriptor.

Instead, ask about foam density and thickness of the support and comfort layers. Ask if the material is plant or petroleum-based. Ask about the fire retardant materials. Make your salesperson provide you with useful information.

But, what makes it a bit tricky is that there is no objective measure on what makes the single best mattress (hint: it doesn’t exist – we all like different things). It’s not like a car where you can compare MPG, size, features, etc.  Are more springs better than fewer? How thick should your memory foam comfort layer be?

Researching online beforehand might help you crack the code. The better educated you are about your purchase, the more it will help your chances of choosing a good quality bed.

Myth #6: New mattresses feel exactly the same as the model did in the store

The Truth: It might feel like a different mattress for several months

Person feeling a bed a mattress store
The mattress that you fell in love with in the store may feel very different once you get it home.

The mattress that you fell in love with in the store may feel very different once you get it home. Why depends on a few key factors: individuality, break in period, and temperature.

Not all mattresses are created equally. Even the exact same model from the exact same brand may very a bit due to manufacturing processes.

The top comfort layers hold all the bells and whistles. They keep the mattress feeling comfortable when you initially lay on it. Lower quality material in this layer has the potential to break down more rapidly and become uncomfortable. You won’t feel this difference in the store but over time, likely after the return period ends, sags and a lack of support might become a problem.

When you receive your new mattresses, it likely will feel harder than the one you felt in the showroom. Many customers test the showroom model often over a span of months, letting it break in and softening it up a little. Your new bed will become softer and more pliable over time, but you may have to wait a few months.

Firmness also depends on temperature, especially with traditional memory foams. If you notice that the mattress showroom feels warmer than your house, the mattress may feel softer than it will at home.

The moral of the story: Testing the mattress at home over the course of a few months proves best. Look for a retailer that gives a minimum of 30 days to return or exchange with minimal fees.

Myth # 7: If you don’t like your mattress, you can return it. No problem

The Truth: If you can return it, but it will be a hassle, and it won’t be free

Be sure to ask about the return policy before committing to a purchase. Do they offer exchanges or store credit only? Are there pick up and restocking fees? Are there any specific requirements tied to the return? For example, if the mattress must return in re-sellable condition, that means ‘unused’.

Since they can’t sell your used mattress, retailers will try hard to make you keep it. This means making return policies short, more inconvenient, and costly.

Protect Yourself!

Now that you are more informed about the honest truth of mattress stores, here’s what you can do to protect yourself:

First, ensure that you buy from reputable dealers with verifiable track records on both their company and products. Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau . If may surprise you to know that one of the most well known stores rated an F! Look up different review sources to get a broad picture.

Inform yourself before entering the store. This will help you push through sales jargon. Leave the store if they are too pushy.

Look into buying a mattress online also. It’s a psychological leap of faith to forgo the ‘try before you buy’ mentality, but studies have shown it is difficult to make a good selection in a showroom. Most online mattress companies offer hassle-free in-home trials of up to 3 months in lieu of the showroom experience, so you have time to decide if the bed really is perfect for you.

Share any stories to share or questions on mattress stores or buying a new bed below!

Medical Disclaimer: The information contained on the site should not be used as a substitute for the advice of an appropriately qualified and licensed physician or other health care provider. The information provided here is for informational purposes only.

25 thoughts on “The Top 7 Myths about Buying a New Mattress”

  1. Mattress purchased one year ago has never been as firm as was in store. Had it changed once for fee.
    It was purchased with /for electric or called motorized bed. with head/ foot change via selector. The best can fully explain. Purchase of bed (frame) very expensive.
    Lumpy, uncomfortable etc.
    previous mattress which gave family member because of style bed I needed, still good for comfort.
    Think enough said.

  2. INFORMATIVE…WHAT IF U BUY FOR CASH, THEN FIND OUT THEIRS NO REFUND, the purchase began at the store! But, The CONTRACT WAS SIGNED AT YOUR HOME. CAN U INSIST ON A REFUND, IF U HAVE NOT TAKEN DELIVERY .?

  3. I don’t know who really wrote this but it’s just NOW true … I have sold mattresses for 35 plus years… owned my own store for 20 years and we have a repeat customer rate at 96 % , selling mattresses has become a bit more difficult but when you are honest and hard working with a brand that will back up the retailer… the customer wins !!! Phil Neri from Mattress Doctor in Pekin, Illinois

  4. While many of the complaints listed here may be accurate at the discount shops, this simply proves that you get what you pay for. A Tempurpedic, Sterns and Foster, or Sealy brand mattress will always be the same price everywhere (unless it is a showroom demo or clearance) because the manufacturer sets the price NOT the retailer. in fact, the salesperson cant offer any deals whatsoever beyond manufacturer promotions. Why do i mention this? because when you are looking for a mattress, forget about price altogether. retailers will have options available to make the best mattress for your specific sleep style/issues/body type no matter what. Find a store that actually performs a true sleep assessment. make sure the salesperson is asking about sleep issues you may have. make sure they LIMIT the number of mattresses you sample to a max of 3 based on your specific. and of course, make sure they offer a sleep guarantee in case the mattress does not prove to be correct. If you are worried about prices, just remember that YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, a 400.00 “memory foam” mattress from some discounts only retailer will ABSOLUTELY be the worst mattress you can choose, while a tempurpedic or stearns & foster is a true investment, and they will always cost the same no matter where you go. So find a retailer you trust, and a salesperson who is qualified and work the process.

    1. Hi Kathryn,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. We aim to provide quality-content and strive to improve the industry.

      Thanks again for taking the time to provide feedback.

    2. Kathryn is correct. Unfortunately, the experiences reflected by readers in these comments demonstrate EXACTLY why they get taken advantage of: price and quality. In full disclosure, I work at major home furnishing and mattress store in the St. Louis Market. 1-We don’t sell “store brands” with off names you’ve never heard of, we sell Tempurpedic, Sealy, and Sterns and Foster; 2- The prices are EXACTLY what you will pay, no haggling allowed because these companies price control just like Apple. If you see them cheaper, they are used floor models or the store is going out of business and won’t honor any warranty;3- We offer a true 0% interest in-store card which allows up to 60 months to pay off with no early payment penalties, the result? a king size Tempur (10year mftrs warranty) WITH adjustable base may cost 7000.00 but would only cost you 116.00 a month, which is LESS than you pay for your smartphone or car, neither of which has nearly as much impact on your quality of life;4- we will not sell you a mattress without performing a sleep assessment and we always TRY to get you to purchase a mattress that qualifies for a 90 day in-home trial… The moral of this story? DONT BUY A MATTRESS BASED ON PRICE! Nobody likes a pushy sales person, and trust me when I say I don’t want people to dislike me because of my profession, but please use us to assist you, so instead of buying 500.00 mattress after 500.00 mattress that you are miserable with every couple of years, we can help you find the right mattress. it has nothing to do with coil counts and layers of whatever foam, it is all about your body type, sleep style, and associated sleep issues like apnea and snoring. If your sales person isn’t talking about sleep science instead of product knowledge, find another store, because anyone can read product profiles, even consumers.

    3. Kathryn is 100% correct! This article was a waste of my time! Pure BS and obviously done by an uninformed individual. I have no doubt you can make a more educated decision by looking at a picture of something on a computer screen with some putz feeding you crap and lies about a product that is nothing like what they tell you it is when you receive it (sarcasm). On the other hand, you could actually try a few beds and feel the difference in materials, support, etc. Hmmm picture, with lies or try it yourself. Oh and on line you don’t have to deal with a pushy sales rep … really … except for all the pop ups from pushier sales people who typically don’t know what they are talking about. At least at the store you can … hmmmm … try it! So you don’t have to send 15 beds back that aren’t what they said they are … oh and pay the return fees for something you didn’t like from the start. What a great savings you get from going on line. You could avoid all the return fees and hassles by … oh … trying one at the store! I can’t believe people like this person are so lazy that can’t even drive to a store anymore!!!

  5. This really is a very frustrating purchase. The sales people will lie straight faced and will constantly push the weaker partner with myths and jargon. We invariably leave in a cloud of confusion that anger when I catch out the sales person in a lie. Non turn beds are not new technology, they are nothing but cheap single sleep surface manufactured cons.

    1. Hi John,

      Thanks for reading! We know it can be frustrating. That is one reason we like to focus on a mattress company’s sleep trial and warranty. A mattress should be tested in someone’s home and for a significant amount of time (at least 60 days). This allows the customer to get a good idea of whether or not the mattress works. A mattress should also come with a warranty which protects the mattress from forming significant impressions (any sag greater than 3/4″ should trigger the warranty). A mattress is very subjective. Think of how we buy shoes: Most of us go to the store, try a few on, look in the mirror, walk around the store, then decide to make a purchase or not.

      As long as you can return the mattress (with no fees or penalties), that’s a good start to finding a mattress which works for you. Also, if you want to do your research check out online mattress review sites like Sleep Junkie or Sleep Like the Dead for more valuable, transparent information.

      Good luck!

  6. Buying a bed is like buying a new car. Seriously. With all the sales pitch, test drive, price haggle, “let me talk to my manager to get you a great deal” shpeel.
    The only exception to the new car comparison is, The Easy Payments aren’t so easy. Buying a bed on their easy payments plan can make you pay up to .50% interest rate. No joke.
    How can a finance company charge you interests rates higher than what the mafia charges is beyond illegal, yet it is. And it’s you that gets whacked when you sign the finance paperwork.

  7. An absolute nightmare. Had a base and mattress delivered. They broke 2 legs on the base and ignored my pleas to fix it before they left. Got a replacement 3 days later. 2 nights without a bed to sleep on and 3 days of waiting at home for that replacement. Then the replacement adjustable base stopped some of its workings. While in store I heard manager, who sat behind his desk the whole time, complain that he had a car waiting as a couple came in. He was angry that he had to actually do some work and delay his already very early going home. Mattress price was 200% inflated. Did eventually get a price deduction but still overpriced

  8. Dont ever go to Best Mattress stores , all they care is about getting your money.
    Everything ive just read here is true about mattress stores .
    Worst place to buy a mattress from . Best Mattress.
    Horrible customer service!
    I purchased a mattress from Best mattress on rainbow and charleston Las Vegas, NV; and very disappointed at it and at their manipulative customer service and sales person . After talking to Kayla in customer service i asked to talk to the general manager and never ever heard from him .
    I was very dissatisfied with the mattress and Kayla instructed me to go to store and get a refund from Russ ( menus 300 for delivery and restocking fee) . Once i got to store i said to sales person Russ what she said and he called her . I dont know what he said to her than she called back 2 minutes later and said my only option was to get another mattress of greater value or keep the one i had . She didnt honor her word and lie to me saying rhe general manager stepped in and said no to what she had said to me earlier, then i asked to speak to him and she said he was not available. Next day called again and no answer from them . Day after that i called again and she answer , i asked again for general manager and again he wouldn’t speak to me .
    i would never buy or recommend that place . They dont care about the customer; only want to get your money, after they get it , your useless to them.

  9. I had no idea that some people recommended that you spend 20 minutes to try a mattress before buying it. It is important to remember that doing some research and compare several mattresses can help you find the best one that can help you sleep. My wife and I are planning on getting a new bed and want to upgrade to a bigger one, so I wanted to do some research before choosing the best one for us.

  10. I am just starting the hunt for the right mattress. I feel like I am being taken advantage by the big stores that have the power to buy brand name products and change the models. That is a legal bait and switch and is just wrong. All the other tricks they use makes them become used car salesmen.

  11. I had a very bad experience with Mattress 1. I got a damage mattress and after a month complaining I am still waiting for them to change it. I am having a very bad time. All that I have read is true about mattresses stored.

  12. My husband and I purchased a California King mattress from Sears about 3 years ago. We tried it out in the showroom and loved it. It was a good (on sale) price, so we purchased it. The best part: Sears would deliver and haul away our old mattress and box springs! We also would get a “trial period” to decide if we liked it.

    NIGHTMARE!!! Sears brought us the mattress (a week later). They hauled our old mattress and boxspring through the snow and mud to their truck. After laying the mattress and box spring onto our bed-frame….IT DIDN’T FIT!!! They brought the King size set. Because the old mattress and box spring had been hauled away so poorly, we didn’t have a choice in bringing it back into the bedroom. We decided to sleep on a different bed in another room until they could deliver the new one. One catch: we had to get refunded for the one they brought us and REpurchase the new one. By the time we repurchased the new one, the sale price was over…..so we did what any consumer would do: we argued with them. They told us that we could purchase the exact same mattress at the outlet store in Chicago area. We did and we had to pick it up. Well, to make a long story short, the mattress was NOT the same…after 2-3 weeks, it began sagging and we couldn’t sleep at all. We called them back and they told us there was nothing they could do about it. No refund. No advice. NOTHING. WORST MATTRESS AND EXPERIENCE EVER. We are trying to save up enough money to buy a new one….but they are not inexpensive!

  13. Wow you have the best advise! And right to the point. I’ve been searching mattress stores and yes… as you stated a lot of salesman pressure and B.S. I’m going to check online and the in home policy that is available. Thank you! Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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