How the Mattress Industry is Ripping You Off

January 20th 2016

Kyle Jaeger

You spend nearly a third of your life sleeping, so it's no wonder why you'd take your mattress seriously. A good night's sleep is hard to come by, and the quality of your bed can make all the difference when it comes to falling asleep and waking up well-rested. But before you seal the deal on your new "posturepedic" ultra-plush pillow top mattress, remember that the mattress industry doesn't always have the consumer's best interests in mind.

If you walk into a mattress store, one of the first things you'll notice is all of the sales. There appear to be deals and discounts galore year-round. But that's just how the mattress industry works; mattress stores advertise blowout deals — "Save up to 70 percent off! No interest for 60 months!" — when in reality, the listed price is often inflated. Even after all the deals, the cost of most mattresses is set higher than what they're worth.

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A mattress is a unique item because it's essentially a commodity that's marketed as if it was some kind of high-end luxury product. Salespersons take advantage of the fact that buyers don't usually come into a mattress store with a lot of experience in the industry. Like the car market, a savvy negotiator can walk away paying hundreds less for the same mattress if they play their cards right.


"As with any negotiation, the key to getting a better deal is to demonstrate that you know the product's real value and won't pay more," Vox reported. "The easiest way to do that is by playing brick-and-mortar stores against online ones. Once you find a mattress you like at a brick-and-mortar mattress store, use your favorite search engine to find the lowest price for that same mattress from an internet retailer."

It's not always enough to negotiate effectively, however. The mattress industry isn't the most transparent market, and mattress sellers have been known to use ploys that prevent consumers from accurately evaluating the price of their products. Take branding, for example: a lot of brands rename identical mattresses at different retail locations, leaving buyers in the dark about the true costs.

Rockland Mattress

Things to look out for when shopping for a mattress.

The best practice when visiting a mattress store would be to ignore brands entirely, Slate's Seth Stevenson explains. In an article about mattress marketing, he wrote:

"The heart of an innerspring mattress is the coils. Otherwise it's just foam, cotton, quilting, and stitches. But the big-name mattress makers (with some exceptions) all get their coils from a single company, Leggett and Platt, for their highest-end mattresses down to their lowest. This is akin to every single car on the market, Lamborghinis to Kias, using an engine made by Ford. Except that mattresses are far less complicated than cars. In fact, they're so simple that there's no real difference among them at all."

Also beware of "extra features" gimmicks. Is that fancy ticking and quilting really worth the added costs if you're just going to cover it with sheets and blankets? Do you really need a "no flip" mattress? (You're supposed to flip your mattress every three months or so, and these "no flip" designs — which are apparently popular — allow you to skip the extra chore.) And if a good mattress lasts 10 to 20 years, what's the point of spending hundreds on a 10 or 20-year warranty?

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That said, make sure your local mattress store has a 30 or 60-day return policy. It can be difficult to determine if a given mattress is right for you, so being able to take it home and try it out for a few weeks is an important step. Some mattress stores charge hefty fees — as much as half of the original price — to process a return.

The rise of mattress start-up companies. 

Companies such as Eve, Casper, Leesa, and Keetsa have recently surged in the mattress industry, offering a limited selection of products at prices that, well, make sense. These start-up mattress companies flip the traditional business model on its head, with transparent pricing and online marketing campaigns that don't try to trick you with exorbitant discounts. What you see is what you get. 

Casper, which is essentially the Warby Parker of the mattress industry, sells six types of mattresses, starting at $500 for a twin-sized. They offer a 100-day trial with a free return policy. Order it online, try it out, and decide after a couple months if it's right for you — that's the model that consumers appear to be shifting toward, The Wall Street Journal reported

Take this information with you the next time you're in the market for a mattress and, ideally, you'll get the best bed for your buck.