The 6 Most Insidious Scams That Mattress Retailers Use - How To Avoid Them And Get The Most Mattress For Your Money And A Comfortable Night's Sleep

A couple buying a mattress

You Too Can Have A Good Experience Shopping For A Mattress ... If You Avoid These 6 Common Mattress Scams

Buying a mattress can be a challenging experience. That is a nice way of saying that buying a mattress can feel akin to buying a used car. While not all mattress retailers are trying to pull a fast one, there are some insidious scams that mattress retailers have been using for years that are still being commonly used in mattress stores everyday.

That isn't to say you can't find the mattress that you want and get a good price. But your chances for getting both the right mattress for you at a great price will go up drastically if you come armed with the rarely revealed information from this page.

On this page we will lay out the 6 Most Insidious Scams of the Mattress Industry. Then we will teach you how to avoid being scammed. To get started, we will start with the longest running scam in the mattress industry ...

1. The Ever Changing Name Scam

This is an oldie but goody. This has been going on for decades, and is a basic way mattress retailers try to keep customers from comparison shopping. Here's the deal - while all mattresses of a particular name brand manufacturer (Serta, Sealy, Simmons, etc.), are made at the same factory, the factory will put different names on the exact same mattress that is going to different retailers. That way, if you shop for a mattress with a particular dealer, you will find that you can't comparison shop the same mattress (by name) with another dealer. So, even though the other dealer will have the exact same mattress, they will have it with another name (and perhaps a different outside cover as well, to better throw you off). This little trick protects each retailer's turf, and also allows them to try to sell you on their own "personalized" line as somehow better than the identical mattress from their competitors (but since it has a different name, the consumer has no idea that the whole thing is a bunch of hooey).

The best thing for you to do here is to buy a mattress based on its inner components, rather than looking at the particular brand names. Of course the problem with this approach is…

2. The Mystery Components Scam

So now that you are wised up about the Brand name scam, you decide to buy based on the quality of the particular components of a mattress. You do your research, and you are looking for a particular coil count, checking out the layers of good quality foam or maybe even latex or memory foam if you are trying to go for the more high-end, quality components.

What happens then? Well, you quickly find yourself drowning in a bunch of esoteric mattress lingo mumbo jumbo. For example, if you ask about the foam used in a mattress, you may be told that the foam is "medical" grade - whatever that means. Or you could be told that it is their special, proprietary "supersoft cell" foam. As opposed to their "superhard cell" foam? And it just goes on and on. It is like trying to herd squirrels to get a straight answer out of the salesmen to basic questions that might allow you to compare one mattress' ingredients to another. When I asked a salesman about the density of the foam used in their pillow top layers, he looked like a deer caught in the headlights. After 15 minutes of him looking in the mattress' spec notebook, and calling their main office, he finally told me he'd have to get back to me.

Being unable to get the basic specs on a mattress' innards just makes comparison shopping about impossible. But even if you somehow can pry the information out of them, you run into the next hurdle…

3. The Comfort Scam

If you do get lucky enough to get the details on a mattress' construction, the next step would be to lie down on some mattresses to see which one might be comfortable for you. But, again the mattress industry is ahead of you - unfortunately, for many mattresses, the feel and comfort of the mattress in the store just isn't what you can expect on that particular mattress in your own home.

This seems to make no sense - why would a mattress feel different in the store than in your own home? Here's the inside scoop:

  • Mattress manufacturers use layers of comfort material (foam, cotton batting, etc.) on the top of the mattress to give it a nice comfortable, even luxurious feel. But they have found that they can use relatively inexpensive foams, and layer them, to get the same comfortable feel of a more expensive comfort layer made of the good stuff (dense foam, latex, or high quality memory foam). This way, the mattress manufacturer makes a lot more money on a mattress (since the lower quality foams cost a lot less than the good stuff). Also, because of the layering technique, you really can't feel much, if any, difference between the two mattresses when they are new at the store. But the one made of lower quality comfort layers will break down pretty quickly (and leave the bed feeling much firmer and even cause dips or depressions to form). So you can end up buying a "premium" bed that feels great at the store, only to find that in a relatively short time you are back to a too firm, uncomfortable bed.
  • Some materials either take time to break in or they may be harder or softer in different environments. An example of this kind of problem is the components used in memory foam mattresses (both the dense "core" support foam layer and the memory foam top layers). In a show room, a memory foam mattress may feel pretty comfortable, but often people find that the new bed that arrives at their home is much firmer. This is because the core support foam layers have not been broken in (unlike the one in the store, which was broken in from all the previous customers that were lying on the bed). Another variation of this has to do with the memory foam layers. Some memory foams are much firmer at certain temperatures - even temperatures just a bit below 70 degrees. So the memory foam mattress that felt great in the store, where it is a cozy 75 degrees, may end up feeling hard and unforgiving when you get it home to your 70 degree bedroom.

What you need to realize is that you can only tell so much about a mattress in the showroom - and that the feel of the mattress at home may be very different. This means that it really is vitally important to be able to try the mattress in your own home, in your own bedroom's environment, to really know if the mattress will work for you or not. Since it may take a bit of time for the different layers to break in, you need to be able try it out for a period of time - it can take a month or even two for some of the denser core foam layers to really break in. But that isn't a problem, right? The retailer always has a "money back guarantee". That is where they get you with the next one…

4. The Money Back Guarantee Scam

So the mattress isn't comfortable. You can take it back to the retailer and get your money back - right? If only it were so. In most cases, what you will find instead, is that the dealer will let you exchange the mattress for another of equal value (but you may have to pay delivery charges all over again). Or you might get store credit if no other mattress suits your taste. But in most cases, you will not get your money refunded to you. It has just been one of the bedrock principles that the mattress industry has been built on - there should be no money back trials on a mattress. For most dealers, the idea of a money back guarantee is almost physically painful. What would they do with the mattresses that came back? Best not to get them back and avoid the whole thing. And that, for the most part, is what they do - a money back guarantee is simply something most retailers don't offer.

So you need to ask upfront - can I get my money back if I don't like the mattress? On the very slim chance they would offer this, ask if they would have any fees they might take out (restocking, etc.), or any requirements about the mattress (that it be in new resellable condition, for instance, which in reality means they will never take it back (since a dealer can't legally resell a used mattress). Bottom line - you really need to watch your back on this one. I've talked with lots of people that ended up eating the cost of their mattress, and sometimes more than one, when their new, expensive mattress ended up being uncomfortable.

5. The Spring Scam

I've saved the most insidious scam for last, because it is one that pervades the entire industry. What most people in the U.S. consider the prototypical mattress - the innerspring mattress - just isn't inherently a comfortable mattress.

If you think about it for a minute you'll understand what I mean. Sleeping on a bunch of rolled, steel springs by themselves just wouldn't be comfortable at all. Steel is a pretty unforgiving substance, and even when you put it in coil form it still isn't something you are going to want to lie down on all night.

As the years have gone by since the introduction of the innerspring mattress, people have demanded a more comfortable and luxurious feeling bed. As a result, innerspring mattresses have become absolutely gigantic in size because of all the comfort layers that manufacturers put on their mattresses to overcome the inherently uncomfortable steel spring core of the mattress.

This has gotten completely out of control in the last 10 years or so. While the average size of a mattress used to be 6 inches, maybe 8 inches if it was "plush", now innerspring mattresses routinely clock in at 12 - 14 inches - some even more. And they weigh exponentially more than they used to as well, since they are double the height and using a lot denser comfort layers. So just try turning these new innersprings - they're hernias just waiting to happen!

And this is all due to the inherent design flaw of using an uncomfortable material (steel) as the core support feature in a bed. But technology has come a long way since the innerspring mattress was first developed in the 30's, and these days you have lots of options for a more comfortable mattress…

6. Getting to the Core of the Problem

In my research, I was surprised to find out that the fastest growing segment of the mattress industry in the last 10 years has been what it termed the "specialty mattress" segment. What is this? The specialty mattress term encompasses the latest technologies in the bedding industry: memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses, and air beds.

While these specialty mattresses do differ greatly from each other in both construction and what types of sleep issues they may work best for, they share one common bond. Unlike the innerspring mattresses, they are comfortable at their cores. That is to say, while you wouldn't find it comfortable at all to sleep on just a bed of steel springs, sleeping on a mattress just made of foam, latex, or air is pretty comfortable. The core of the specialty beds just offers a huge improvement in comfort over steel springs, and so this comfortable core means the mattresses made of these cores are just inherently more comfortable than an innerspring.

That isn't to say all memory foam mattresses, latex mattresses, and air beds are alike. These broad groups of mattresses have somewhat different feels and attributes and so appeal to somewhat different types of people.

Memory foam is the hottest segment in the mattress industry, and for good reason. The unique way that memory foam cells spread pressure and conform to your body make memory foam beds a good match for those with sleep problems, pain issues, or those looking for a mattress that custom molds to their shape. Memory foam mattresses can be very comfortable, but there are huge variations in the feel of different manufacturers' memory foams. And the quality of memory foams used in mattresses vary dramatically as well.

Latex mattresses are a great alternative for those looking for a firm, supportive sleep surface. And they are also a terrific choice for those looking for an environmentally safe mattress. To my surprise, I learned that not all latex mattresses are created equal. It is a little told fact that most latex mattresses actually are made of a combination of real latex (made from the sap of the rubber tree) and artificial latex (made from petrochemicals). I never got a great answer to why latex beds are mostly made of this blend of artificial and natural latex. The best I came away with was that this is just how it has mainly been done. But I found the natural latex to be much more comfortable, and as long as you are paying for latex, you might as well get the real deal. Of course if you are wanting the environmental benefits of sleeping on latex you will want to make sure that what you are looking at is made from all-natural latex. If you think latex might be the solution for you, please check out the recommendations section below for a dealer that only carries all-natural latex mattresses with a 365 day money back guarantee.

Finally, air beds are a nice option for those who want to be able to adjust the firmness of their mattress to their own unique preferences. Make sure you get an air bed with a dual chamber if you sleep with a partner - this will allow you to each individually adjust the firmness of your own side. Like all other mattresses, there are lots of ins and outs of buying an air bed. One thing that I came away with was that, if possible, to get an air bed that has a top layer of memory foam. The top layer of memory foam might seem redundant since the air bladder is individually adjustable - so why do you need memory foam (which also conforms to your body)? The answer is that in an air bed, the actual air chamber is the support layer - the core of the bed. Think of it this way - the air chamber replaces the springs. So you need the air chamber to be fairly firm to be supportive. This is why the memory foam layer really makes an air bed much more comfortable. It lets you use the air chamber as designed, as the support layer, and the memory foam layer provides the cushioning and comfort for the mattress. Unfortunately, it can be very expensive to get an air bed with the memory foam layer. But as you will see in my recommendation section below, I've found a dealer that only carries an air bed with memory foam at a really good price. They also back their air bed up with a 365 day money back guarantee, so you won't get burned.

A Retailer To Check Out

The best way to avoid getting scammed is to make sure you deal with reputable dealers -- ones with a good, verifiable track record. Both in business dealings generally and also in regard to the products they sell.

I've come up with a dealer who really exceeds the bar in both respects. The mattresses he offers have been very highly reviewed by his customers, he has a spotless record for customer service, and offers very generous money back trial offers on his mattress (so you won't get stuck).

In the spirit of full disclosure, and because I don't want you to feel scammed by us in any way, the dealer I recommend below, Habitat Furnishings, is a sponsor of this site. His sponsorship is a fixed monthly fee, not a fee based on clicks to them or any ultimate sale. So you can click all you want to their sites without it having any financial affect on me. Rather than trying to find various advertisers and run a bunch of ads that would detract from the actual content of the site, I decided that sponsorship was a better way to go -- it allows me to concentrate on the content of the site, rather than ad promotion, and I also feel comfortable that this dealer will do right by any people I refer, which is very different than running ads that might refer people to sites I have no particular knowledge of the quality of their products or business practices.

This sponsorship program is our way of financing the advertising for this site -- which is the main way people are able to find our site. If there was no advertising for the site, we could only get our information out to a very small amount of people who happened to come across our site in the course of their searching on the internet. By advertising the site, we are able to get our site and its information into the public eye.

So we do accept a sponsorship fee in order to keep this enterprise going. We think it is great that the dealer supports us in our efforts, and we hope you will at least look at the information he provides on latex mattresses, and air beds -- even if you don't buy from him, he provides very in-depth information about these types of mattresses, including really informative videos that really help you understand which, if any, of these mattress options might work best for you.

The dealer I really like for latex mattresses and air beds is Habitat Furnishings. They offer both a line of 100 percent all-natural, environmentally friendly latex mattresses as well as their custom Air Mattress System. The Habitat Furnishings All-Natural Latex Mattress comes in a basic 6" model and a more plush 8" model. Both of these models have received rave reviews from customers (one neat thing, they have actual audio testimonials from their customers on the latex mattress that you can listen to on their site). If you are interested in a latex mattress, you should check out the Habitat Furnishings site just for the information they offer. I really learned a lot about latex mattresses from their 3 online videos (one explaining the difference between natural and synthetic latex, one on the eco-friendly properties of latex, and one on the details of their all-natural latex line).

"...It is simply the most comfortable thing I've ever slept on. I
transferred over from a $2500 ... spring bed, and its fantastic. The
service so far from Habitat has been fantastic. I got my bed 10 - 15
days faster than I thought I would. Marc is a fantastic manager. ... "

Habitat Furnishings also manufactures their own custom line of Air Bed Systems . The Habitat Air Bed line incorporates the best components they could find (best air bladders, pump, memory foam layers, etc.), and so far surpasses the quality of that offered by the standard air bed companies. Their top of the line air bed comes standard with 2" of memory foam on the top - at about ˝ the price of the leading air bed manufacturer's air bed with memory foam, and even features a layer of. natural latex, giving the bed a plusher, more luxurious feel than any other Air Bed in the industry. They offer a more basic model as well which features a layer of high tech foam that provides great support and comfort. Again, you will find lots of information about air beds on the Habitat Furnishings site, including two terrific videos (one that explores all the components of the Habitat Furnishings Air Bed Line, and another showing in detail how the Air Bed is put together - something I didn't find on any other site, and really shows how easy it is to put together).

"... My wife and I had searched for months and months for a bed that
is not only durable but extremely comfortable. And luckily we found
one at Habitat Furnishings. I've got to say that the latex bed is the best
bed we ever had. So if you are on the fence, give it a shot."

Habitat Furnishings is also a rock solid company with over 3 years as a member of the BBB with never a complaint, and a 4 1/2 star rating. And they do offer an unmatched 365 day money back guarantee for both their Latex Mattresses and Air Bed System.