Many ads for innerspring mattresses are appropriately dreamy. Attractive people are shown sleeping or lounging in their beds—and, of course, smiling. The advertising come-ons tell shoppers to “Have a good night’s sleep on us” or promise that when it comes to mattress shopping, “It’s all about You!”
So buying a mattress should be a pleasant experience, right? (Watch our video report, right.)
But it isn’t, say many of our readers, who find buying a mattress frustrating and tell us that they are not sure they’re getting a fair deal. A big contributing factor to these problems, as we noted in “Why Consumer Reports Doesn't Rate Specific Models of Mattresses,” is that the model names of the top mattress brands differ from one store to the next, so there’s no way to truly compare models. What’s more, even for mattresses that retailers claim are similar, significant differences exist in quilting, padding, and springs, according to our experts.
We thought some of the nightmares would end when the spokesman for a major U.S. mattress manufacturer—let’s call it Brand S—told us in January that his company was going to revolutionize mattress shopping. “We recognize that there’s confusion. We’re changing that. Retailers now require that they be able to name their own mattress,” said the spokesman of the change, which was slated to go into effect this spring.
The manufacturer was planning to introduce the same branding from store to store: A queen-size Brand S ExtraDreamy firm mattress you’d test out at store A would be exactly the same (except, perhaps, for price) at store B and store C. “When consumers walk into the store, they’ll see a [Brand S] mattress at one retailer and the same at another—it will have the same [Brand S] branding,” promised the spokesman.
The manufacturer would recommend that all its retailers use the Brand S mattress name on their store signs but, according to the spokesman, retailers could still call the mattresses whatever they wanted on in-store signage.
This move could shake up the industry, so we called several major mattress retailers for comment. Two didn’t call back after repeated tries, and the spokesman for a third wouldn’t allow his comments to be published.
But our phone did ring just a day later. It was the spokesman who’d informed us of his company’s radical plan. “[The company] is trying to change this, but if a retailer says they won’t take the mattress—they don’t want it—then that’s their decision,” he said. The manufacturer wouldn’t be changing its branding policy.
We asked him what the company’s decision would mean for mattress shoppers. “For the consumer, nothing has changed,” he explained.
That’s unfortunate. But we’re working on ways to help you shop for mattresses, so stay tuned. In the meantime, read “How to Buy a Mattress Without Losing Sleep” (available to Consumer Reports subscribers) for expert advice on selecting the mattress that’s right for you and analyzing prices.—Kimberly Janeway
My wife and I are in the third night of owning a Tempurpedic and thus far we HATE it.
The chemical smell is so overbearing and has not dissipated. My wife gave it up and went down and slept on the couch tonight.
As far as comfort...my bad back and sore hip feel worse than they ever have.
Maybe it needs to be broken in...but when you pay close to 5-grand for a mattress (King size) I expect to be able to get a superior night's sleep right from the first night.
Also, we read where a mattress pad is not recommended for the Tempurpedic series as it takes away the benefits of the foam. So the first night we used a mattress pad, the second and third nights we went without the pad.
Not sure why the sales person insisted on selling us a pad (uh, gee let me think...$$$$$), when the company itself does not recommend it. Although Tempurpedic does have a "special" pad they will sell you.
Also we have been told that it takes two weeks for the overbearing chemical smell to go away.
Don't think we will wait. We are seriously thinking of asking for this bed to be swapped out ASAP.
The more I read on the subject, the more I see where Consumer Reports is coming from here. Rating mattresses seems like it really would be a futile enterprise in light of the deliberate obfuscation that exists in the marketplace; the effort would be compounded by the fact that we has people are all "built" differently too and one person's comfort could be another person's pain. In the end, all we're looking for as buyers is (1) a quality product and (2) value (not feeling duped or cheated).
Here's a novel thought, how about we treat "mattress shopping" itself as a product and rate that, instead of the particular product itself? I think this would be a good opportunity for Consumer Reports to innovate in its approach and keep up with the times, where customization and personalization is becoming "de rigeur" in many product markets - making it pointless or impractical to rate a specific product instance.
I think, frankly, that in this particular case such an approach to rating and reviewing the experience might actually drive reform in the mattress industry.
I propose it after a recent experience of my own, trying to find the right mattress. Instead of relying exclusively on my own subjective standards of comfort to make my final choice, I decided I wanted something a little more scientific to back it up, and the vetting of a rather large and forward-thinking furniture (chain) retailer to support my decision from a quality perspective. This retailer has a "sleep lab", nestled between vast sections displaying dining room sets and living rooms. They encourage you to try the lab first before choosing a mattress - a dynamic platform that analyzes and graphically renders a person's sleep-position pressure points and helps the salesperson determine (apparently with great accuracy) which mattress is right for that individual. The display was fascinating, but I found myself wishing for a little privacy at the point where my specific image was splashed on the lab's 60" screen for all to see.
While I had seen this approach provided by a specific manufacturer at another mattress-only retail chain (leaving me suspicious), the "sleep lab" in the larger store was ostensibly brand-neutral and led my salesperson to immediately have me try - as the first of four alternatives for comparison purposes - the mattress I eventually bought a mere 15 minutes later.
Was this purchase the right one for me? Will it meet my expectations? Will it be durable? Will the comfort last? Am I still happy with the mattress two years on? Was the retailer responsive to any complaints I had on the mattress? Was it a hassle to find redress on such complaints? I'll be turning in great reviews if the mattress lasts, or failing that if the retailer replaces or substitutes it in an amicable, stress-free fashion. So, only time will tell.
But I firmly believe that taking this view of rating the process, instead of trying to measure the highly idiosyncratic products that mattresses are, will completely derail future any attempt - whether by the retailers or manufacturers - to carry on with their tactics of confusion. If I am dissatisfied with my experience, it should reflect poorly on the retailer rather than the mattress manufacturer, and no amount of marketing mumbo-jumbo will convince me to go back. If we begin to rate retailers on that satisfaction, and whether they offer recognizable brands with consistent product lines and durable quality products, resulting in a good customer experience overall, it becomes their responsibility - in fact, their urgent need - to begin to think differently about how they market their product and what they demand from manufacturers.
Consumer Reports has made it clear that, apart from a few basic characteristics representing manufacturing quality, it is impossible given buyers' individual preferences to provide a useful comparison of specific products. Instead of throwing in the towl at that, though, a thorough, brand-agnostic, longitudinal review of "customer satisfaction" in the mattress retail space would be exactly the kind of "smack-down" retailers need to eventually get to the point where the result is a better product for everyone!
With this economy I believe everyone is looking for a deal. Purchasing online was scarey for me, especially for a mattress. I was searching for a great deal on a Select Comfort Sleep Number, but settled for an American National and I believe I ended up getting a much better bed for an incredible deal at www.liquidationMattresses.com. Instead of paying $2049 for the Select Comfort I paid $1350 + shipping for the American National, 3 inch removalable pillow top. I would recommend anyone seeking an air bed.
My mattress experience will cause me to end my subscription to Consumer Reports. I read everything offered by CU and then spent $700 for a mattress only (no box spring). Within two weeks, there was an obvious depression in the bed. I talked with the person I bought it from and was told, that a depression is normal and finally, "Sorry you bought a mattress that was too firm for you"!
I then began an online search and discovered so many published opinions on this product and on problems getting the manufacturer to honor the warranty that it became clear to me that this is a defective product -- and for me, an expensive purchase mistake that I had hoped CU would help me to avoid.
I have turned it over so the side with no padding is on top -- then added a $150 foam topper. This is better than sleeping in the trench, but still does not offer a restful (and pain free) night's sleep.
While I understand the reason for not providing the product ratings, a better option needs to be found. For example, a review of the unscientific but pervasive data available on opinion websites. While there are obvious problems with this data, one can ascertain a very bad product from a good one.
CU -- you've let me down. After 40 years, I had grown to depend on your information.
The Last writer bought a mattress for $700.00 and noticed a depression after two weeks but was not kind enough to name the brand and type so we can all stay away from it or the mention of it might force the manufacturers to make changes. Well i guess one unlucky person might make the same mistake.
You guys have missed it, including CR. THIS IS COLLUSION and requires ATTORNEY GENERAL level involvement. This is an illegal anticompetitive practice that has been allowed for far too long. Class action suit, please!
After much debating over traditional, sleep number, and Tempurpedic – and seeking advice on the web, including Consumer Reports, but mainly in store trials, we purchased the Tempurpedic foam mattress. Our number one reason for doing so was motion isolation, and the foam mattresses out-perform in this category. My better half often turns cartwheels in her sleep, leaving me exhausted in the am. 2nd priority was comfort, which we weren’t sure of the different feel of foam when we made the purchase. But we had a 30d free trial, on the ‘advantage’ model which we felt was reasonably priced. Prior to this, we had only slept on traditional mattresses.
Experience – Our biggest fear based on online reviews was the smell of the foam mattress. When removed from the plastic, there is undeniably a strong odor that smells to me like something in between plastic and rubber. The salesman had made us aware of this but stated that if we leave the mattress uncovered, and let it air-out for 24 hrs it would dissipate. We did this, but it took 72 hrs with our bedroom windows open and a ceiling fan on before the smell was somewhat bearable… able to sleep on it. It took an additional month before the smell was all but gone. Now 4 months later, if I press my nose to the mattress and think about it, the smell is still there, but otherwise it is not noticeable.
Motion Isolation – works 100 percent – I haven’t slept this soundly in years. No more being awakened by a light night trip to the restroom or my wife dreaming a 5k run. The comfort took some getting used to as it is certainly a different feel from a traditional mattress, but now I am a fan of foam mattresses. I notice extra support/firmness, but it is a comfy firm. I have not experienced the heat/breathability problems some reviews have mentioned, but I am not a hot sleeper.
Overall, we are satisfied with the mattress. The only negative was the smell. It was much worse than I anticipated. So if you go this route don’t be surprised, but ours did eventually dissipate. This is surely something the manufacturer should make an effort to reduce, but based on other reviews it doesnt appear they are doing so.
I think an organization like Consumer Reports has an obligation to help consumers trying to sort thru the mattress maze. In this "Caviat Emptor" age, we continue to be at the mercy of the mattress industry. Shouldn't Consumer Reports be pressing for mattress legislation?
There are probably more myths perpetuated about bed mattresses in the USA and globally than about almost any other regularly bought consumer product.
The habit of many retailers giving the same mattress different names obviously further obfuscates already cloudy issues. This is not just a USA practise, however. It also happens in the UK and in Australia. Nonetheless, not all mattress makers engage in this duplicitous practise. For instance, IKEA sell their same range of Sultan mattresses worldwide, including in the USA, with each Sultan model sold under the same name in every market. And there’s also the argument that in the end a mattress is just a mattress, and that there's very little difference between the internal constructions of well-made mattresses sold in Germany, say, to similar mattresses sold in the USA or in the UK.
In my view, Consumer Reports needs to make greater use of the experiences reported in its sister magazines overseas. For instance, the two German consumer magazines, Test and OkoTest have regularly reported in the past that pocket spring mattresses score more highly for comfort than other types of mattress construction. Choice Magazine, published in Australia, also has published useful articles on mattress selection and buying. Choice found, for instance, that the materials used in the pillow-tops or cushion-tops sewn onto mattresses rapidly compacted.
Some of Choice’s online articles are free and well worth looking at. Which? magazine in the UK is also worth looking at on this topic but their monthly subs are ridiculously expensive compared to an annual sub to Consumer Reports. Choice Magazine and Consumer Reports are by far the best value online, English language consumer magazines that I have come across so far. I have subscribed to both for many years.
One myth perpetuated by mattress retailers for which there is very little evidence is that we are all so different that we all need different mattresses, and that the only way to find out what mattress suits us is to “test drive” a mattress in a shop before buying. This might help if we replaced our mattress every few months, but most us of plan on keeping our mattress at least five years. And there’s the rub – mattresses are like running shoes. The soft, comfy layers of padding in the top layer of a mattress are the ones that flatten first. So the mattress that feels so comfy in the shop can feel as hard as a rock less than a year later when the top layers have permanently compressed. A further problem is that typically one only lies on the mattress in the shop for a few minutes at the most. In principle, a thirty day money back guarantee can help here.
In my view, however, what helps most is a basic but good understanding of physics. Cheap, soft materials like spun polyester are comfy when new but have little resilience. Once such materials have compressed, that’s it: low resilience materials will not spring back into shape. The most comfortable sleeping surface, initially, I have ever slept on were double futons my wife and I bought back in the early eighties. I say initially, because after a year the “all-natural” materials of horsehair and cotton had compressed to less than half their original thickness and our so-comfy futons were almost as hard as rice mats!
As I have written elsewhere, well-made, well-tempered mild-steel springs and blocks of natural latex continue to be the most resilient materials used in mattress making. All other things being equal, a higher cost large number of well-made, individually-pocketed small springs will be of equal resilience to a lower cost interlinked mattress spring system with a relatively low spring count, and provide more comfort for most sleepers. The law of diminishing returns applies, however. Beyond a certain point, probably around a thousand or so pockets springs in a queen-sized mattress at the very most, the addition of more pockets springs adds to the mattress cost with little improvement in sleeper comfort. To add more pocket springs above the thousand per Queen sized mattress, manufacturers simply add more layers of pocket springs. So, one can buy Queens with five thousand pocket springs – but typically they consist of up to five layers of mini pocket springs per layer.
Mattresses of layers of natural latex of different densities, with the softest on top, will typically last at least twenty years due to the very good resilience of natural latex. But, again many buyers should beware. Many sleepers find latex mattresses extremely hot to sleep on because they are sleeping on what is in effect a block of solid rubber. Creating holes in the latex to allow the circulation of air and water vapour can help somewhat, but may still not be enough for many hot sleepers.
In my view, the biggest con of all by mattress sellers has to be memory foam. Memory foam is brilliant when used for applications for which it is suited, like the inserts of ski boots. I discovered this first hand back in the late seventies when, after wearing good-quality memory-foam hard-shell rental ski boots at Zell am See one season, I had to rent leather boots in the Italian Tyrol the next. But a mattress is not the same as a pair of ski-boots. A pair of ski boots with memory foam is designed to lock your foot snugly into place in the boot as the memory foam warms up and changes shape under the pressure exerted by the inserted foot. Most sleepers naturally adjust their position every few minutes, so how does memory foam which supposedly changes to the sleeper’s shape, but takes some minutes to change shape fully, keep up with the ever changing position of the sleeper and improve their sleeping comfort?
I completely understand where Consumer Reports is coming from. It's nearly impossible for the consumer to compare mattresses from the 3 "S" Brands because each mattress isn't exactly the same. Even mattresses that have the exact same padding layers may have them rearranged. For the most part it's really only specialty sleep products that you can compare. Tempurpedic for example does not change the names from store to store. Nor does Select Comfort. The only problem with those two companies is pretty much everywhere you go the price is the same. So price shopping can be a joke. I ended up going with a Tempurpedic through www.MattressInsider.com and got them to give me a discount. So far so good.
i just wanted you all to know that you should never,ever buy a sterns and foster mattress. three years ago when we moved to georgia we bought a brand new bedroom set and a new sterns and foster mattress. the mattress and boxspring cost 1,800 dollars. it was never really great to sleep on but now there is a indentation in the middle of the mattress. i called sterns and foster and they said there was nothing they could do about it,they told me to get ahold of haverty's furniture store,where we bought the bedroom set and mattress.they also said there was nothing they could do. at the time we bought the waterproof mattress pad for 119.00.haverty's told us to contact the mattress pad company and they said of course that comfort or an indentation was not included in the guarantee. well,we cannot sleep on this mattress anymore so we are going to donate it. we went today and bought a new serta mattress and boxspring for 2,000,that we cannot really afford to spend anymore on another new mattress,but we need a good night's sleep. i just wanted to let you know what happened to us.i also want to tell you that i take great care of my things. this mattress look's as good as the day i bought it.and once a month we turn it around like you are supposed to.of course we do not turn it on the other side,the new mattresses are only one sided. we used to pay a lot less and you got more mattress for your money.i hope this is helpful.
Has anyone had experience with Denver Mattress Factory, a company that manufactures and sells its own mattresses? I am seriously considering buying from them because their salesmen seem to be extremely knowledgeable about their mattresses and able to give specifics on coils and the components of the padding, etc., and what type of sleeper tends to like or dislike that particular mattress. Their website gives reviews from consumers on their various mattresses. In other words, it seems too good to be true since they are never mentioned as a major player in the mattress world. I would love a little input from a site I consider impartial.
I want to love my mattress for at least 5 years.
if considering a Tempurpedic, HolidayInn Express uses them now, at least in the newer hotels, slept 2 nights on one and it was great for me. so, might be worth your $ to book a stay at a hotel with these and try a night or two on one before buying.
I purchased a englander mattress several years ago and 3mths later we developed body indents and the company swapped it out for a new one and 3mths later it did the same thing. we spent approx. 3000.00 on this king, no flip mattress. i have damned it every since...looking to buy a new one but can't decide and don't want to spend that kind of money on another dud...the company claims a 20 yr. warranty but that's a joke. i even reported the store of purchase to the BBB.
We just purchased a new king size mattress at a local furniture store. Upon purchase, we were told we must buy a $90 waterproof mattress cover. The store says, if the mattress has any stain at all, they will not honor the warranty.
I don't really care about the warranty. I don't want to put our new comfy mattress in what amounts to a plastic bag -- even one that the company says "breathes." So. Anyone recommend a decent mattress pad -- perhaps water resistant -- that's not plastic?
I'm done with "SelectComfort number bed", spring mattresses and air mattresses.
Can anyone tell me their pros and cons experiences to horse hair beds and where they get them?
It seems to be the next avenue to venture.
In place of trying to spend enormous amount of resources to compare different mattresses from different retailers, we should lobby FTC and congress to fix this mess. This practice to deceive consumers should be illegal. If FTC can not fix it we should lobby congress to make a new law to fix it.
I agree that shopping for a mattress can be a chore, but I don't think it is as bad as some people make it out to be. I live and have grown up in New York City, and every time I need a new mattress I have just gone to sleepys. I have never had any serious problems. In fact the last mattress I bought from them was about a year ago and it was a tempurpedic. Frankly I love it.
I hate buying a new mattress. It's like trying to find a spouse in 15 minutes. My approach in the past has been to find a good, basic innerspring mattress with minimal padding, then customize it with a couple layers of foam or latex foam pads. These can be fiddled with to get just the feel one wants, and can cheaply be replaced as they wear out (unlike the pillow tops etc which are sewn to the mattress).
Another thing I tried a few years ago when we had a lot of guests was taking one of those big camping air mattresses - the ones that look like real mattresses - filling it up very full so it was pretty stiff, then putting a foam eggcrate and a real cloth mattress cover on it. It was incredibly comfortable once we go the air pressure fine tuned - as good as any bed I have slept on! The secret was using the eggcrate to soften it, so the bed could be inflated enough to give full support, and the mattress cover, for a little extra padding and insulation, and so it could breath. Alas, those air mattresses always seem to develop small leaks very quickly, otherwise we would have replaced our main mattress with it!