Restorative sleep. Soothed muscles and joints. A clear mind.
You can enjoy all three if you choose the right mattress. But to do so, you must first avoid one of the most costly errors in mattress shopping.
Despite the promise of pillowy comfort, a lot of people find it complicated and uncomfortable to shop for a new mattress. Gimmicky buzzwords, pushy sales staff, limited-time “blowouts” – smart mattress retailers know that anything they can do to make the selection process easier is more likely to lead to a sale.
But how do they lead us from stressed to impressed?
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Most mattress stores have a sales routine that goes something like this:
- The customer begins with two mattresses within their budget and size requirements. They are asked to try both for a few minutes each. Which of the two felt better?
- Next, the process is repeated, with the winner from Round 1 facing off against a third alternative.
- This 1-on-1 comparison process is repeated for a few more rounds until the customer has identified a mattress they think is best in the bunch.
Not only does this approach let the customer cut through the options and zero in on one they like best, it’s extra convincing because the customer is taking ownership of every step down the decision path. It doesn’t feel like overt sales pressure; the customer is convincing themselves.
Perfect outcome, right?
Not so fast.
There’s a catch: the customer is evaluating the wrong thing entirely.
Just like how a night of babysitting isn’t the equivalent of parenthood, it doesn’t make sense to compare a short rest on a mattress with how it will feel after months of nightly slumber.
To find the right mattress, you need to test it the way it’s meant to be used.
Mattress stores are artificial environments. How you test a mattress in store differs considerably from how you would use it at home.
Here are just a few of the differences:
|Testing a Mattress in Store||Testing a Mattress at Home|
|Attire:||While in clothes and shoes||While in pyjamas or sleep attire|
|Surface:||Feel the textured cover designed for selling||Feel the comfort (or lack thereof) of the mattress; textured cover hidden beneath sheets and mattress protector (optional)|
|Bedding:||Store pillows, or none||With your blankets, pillows, and bed sheets|
|Test Length:||1–20 minutes||Tested throughout the night for months|
|Setting:||In a well-lit, climate-controlled showroom||In your own bedroom|
|Model:||On a floor model you won’t own||On the model you will actually own|
|Social Pressure:||With social pressure from a salesperson or other store patrons waiting their turn||With only your experience affecting your evaluation|
|Sex:||Legal regulations prohibit such acts in public||Able to engage in amorous activities|
Related Example #1 – Sleeping on the Sofa
Napping on a sofa can be a comfortable and restorative break. But sleeping overnight on a sofa is likely to leave you feeling stiff, sore, and exhausted. Time scale matters!
The in-store test does have something going for it, though: it’s extremely persuasive.
However, this is the kind of persuasion that often leads to poor decisions and regret.
(Read Related Example #2 to see how Coca-Cola made this same mistake in a multimillion-dollar blunder.)
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The alternative to the in-store test is another innovation from the bed-in-a-box industry: the sleep trial.
Most bed-in-a-box mattress companies don’t have showrooms. Instead, they rely on sleep trials.
What is a sleep trial? It’s a certain number of days after buying a mattress in which you can try the mattress at home, with the option to return it for a refund.
Sleep trials vary in length from 30 to 120 nights. Good ones give full money back, arrange for pick-up, and send the lightly used mattress to a local charity or recycling facility. Great ones do all these things while also letting you adjust the firmness of the mattress with a free comfort layer. The specifics of these policies vary, but the outcome is the same:
You get to try the mattress the way it was meant to be experienced.
You might be wondering how the sleep trial differs from the satisfaction guarantees offered by mattress stores. Take a closer look; their details could be your downfall.
The beauty of a good sleep trial is that not only does it let you evaluate the mattress properly, but that it offers you total freedom in choosing your next mattress should you decide to return it. The better the sleep trial, the more freedom you have as a shopper.
Mattress stores often employ subtle policy restrictions that limit your post-purchase freedom in order to keep you from spending those sales dollars elsewhere.
For instance, satisfaction guarantees often:
- Allow for exchange or re-selection in lieu of full refund
- Require the purchase of an expensive mattress protector to access the full trial length
- Charge a return or restocking fee
- Have inconsistent promotional pricing that leads to spending more on the replacement
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If the mattress at the top of your list is sold in a store, ask yourself these questions before buying:
Q: If the mattress is too hot, not supportive enough, or generally uncomfortable, is there another option available from this same retailer I would be happy with?
- Why? If the retailer you buy from offers store credit instead of a full refund, then you are stuck with their assortment for your exchange. Any candidates from innovative online startups – even well-known brands sold at other retailers – are now excluded from consideration unless you surrender the original payment.
Q: If the mattress was purchased at a highly discounted rate, can a similar mattress be chosen without having to pay more?
- Why? Mattress retailers rotate which models are on sale in order to advertise the big markdowns that drive traffic. If the bargain basement price was what motivated you to purchase the mattress you now wish to return, there might not be an equivalent mattress at that same price point when you re-select. This could result in you either having to pay more for a re-selection, or biting the bullet and sticking to a mattress you’re not completely satisfied with. Let’s not forget any restocking fees for removing the old mattress from your home.
Q: Does the exchange window allow for enough time to break in the mattress and for your body to adjust to a new sleep pattern?
- Why? Mattresses often take over a month to soften up to their intended level of firmness. Sleepers attuned to a prior mattress may also take a while to adjust to a new sleep surface. A good sleep trial extends past this adjustment period.
Q: Are the online customer reviews positive or negative for this company?
- Why? A return policy may sound good on paper, but a quick online investigation might uncover a disparity between what the policy says and how other customers have experienced it in practice.
Q: Do I need to be home in order to receive the delivery?
- Why? Depending on the company and the courier, mattress deliveries may have to be accepted in person during weekday hours. Having to take a day off work to accept a delivery or arrange a return can be an overlooked expense in your cost consideration. Alternatively, most bed-in-a-box couriers do not require a customer to be home in order to accept a delivery, removing this additional cost.
Related Example #2 – Sip Tests and the Launch of New Coke
In 1985, The Coca-Cola Company introduced “New Coke,” replacing their world-famous formula with a sweeter alternative. The move brought immediate backlash. Sales sputtered, and customers upset from having their favourite drink taken away demanded the return of the old product. Eventually, the company yielded. The old Coke was re-introduced as “Coca-Cola Classic,” and New Coke was phased out soon after.
New Coke is still considered one of the biggest marketing blunders in history. Why would such a smart and successful company replace the world’s best-selling soft drink with a new, untested version?
Because of the Pepsi Challenge.
In Pepsi Challenge ads, people showed a general preference for Pepsi over coke in blind taste tests. When Coca-Cola executives confirmed these results in private, they panicked. A new, sweeter cola was put into production, one that tested better than either Pepsi or Coke when the tests were repeated. New Coke was born.
But as Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book, Blink, though people preferred the taste of Pepsi to Coke when they had just a sip of each, they also preferred the taste of Coke to Pepsi after drinking an entire can. A sip just wasn’t enough to reveal true taste preferences. In their scramble to guard market share, Coca-Cola executives confused how a drink was tested with how it was actually consumed in a real-world setting.
It’s the mattress shopping mistake all over again! (Back)
Ready to learn more before you buy your next mattress?
Mattress-Reviews.com includes details on sleep trails, refund policies, and additional fees for every mattress it has reviewed.
Unlike the majority of review websites, Mattress-Reviews.com sends each mattress to a certified engineering firm for testing. Not only does this ensure proper and consistent methodology, it allows for accurate comparisons across all mattresses. For instance, if you were wondering about edge support or motion isolation for a particular mattress, you will be able to see exactly how it stacks up with dozens of other models, to a precise detail. This reduces reviewer subjectivity, and increases your odds of buying a mattress you’ll love.
Finally, our comprehensive collection of mattress shopping resources can help you better navigate the other main considerations in buying a new bed.
More Shopping Tips:
- On October 2, 2018