Recently started mattress shopping, and it’s tough. The mattress industry is a peculiar and isolated throwback with a rich history of chicanery and outright fraud since the early 1900’s, when the product was not-infrequently stuffed with foul vermin-infested rags (which incidentally is why they now have those imposing tags full of legalese). It’s uniquely difficult for the consumer to navigate, and makes the used-car market seem straightforward and transparent by comparison.
The best objective information resource I’ve found is themattressunderground.com. The “Beducation” series on YouTube (by Jeff Sheuer of Mattress-To-Go in Michigan) is honest, informative, and a definite must-watch. Here’s a few things I’ve learned:
- There’s practically no such thing as “overstock” in this industry. Factories don’t make 10,000 units and then go scrambling to sell that last 1,000.
- “Scratch-and-Dent” is a myth. If a mattress arrives at a retailer with minor damage, it’s shipped back to the factory, repaired, and sold as new.
- Used mattresses are more common than you’d expect. Those that are warranty-returned due to defects or returned during a 90-day trial period get cleaned-up and resold as “remanufactured”, “secondary”, “scratch-and-dent”, etc. Though many online companies that make and sell foam mattresses (“bed in a box”) do donate returned units to homeless shelters.
- The “law tag” should show the date of manufacture as well as the name of the store in which it’s being sold. If it lists another store or has a date that’s not relatively new, it’s probably used. Legally, any mattress that includes any pre-used material should have a second tag sewn-in that states it contains pre-used materials, but fraud is not uncommon.
- Beware of reviews. Many companies, most notoriously the new generation of “bed-in-a-box” online foam mattress manufacturers dedicate serious resources to maintaining a social media presence, and there are lots of paid shills out there, or customers encouraged or incentivized to write reviews after only owning a bed a few months or less. Many low-quality foams can start dipping and compressing after a year or so, and anyway most people moving from an old worn-out mattress to a new one will sleep better and be happy with the purchase for the first 6 months regardless of quality or durability. The important thing to focus on is the materials themselves and how they’re assembled.
- Be aware that many of the bed-in-a-box online “manufacturers” are actually resellers (though they won’t state this on their website). Neither Casper nor Tuft & Needle make anything themselves.
- If looking for a foam (or any non-innerspring mattress), look for one that has separate support and comfort layers that can be swapped-out. Often the top layer wears-out before the firmer, underlying “support” layer, and you can save money down the road by simply replacing the “topper”. You can also swap-out the topper if you need something with a different firmness or you’re sleeping hot and want to replace the top layer with a more breathable one made of latex, etc.