‘How To Buy A Mattress The Right Way’ Told By A Former Bedding Salesman

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I have spent many years in the field of sales.  I have sold everything from cars, antiques, electronics, collectibles, food, furniture and bedding.  I would like to say I am fairly well versed in how the retail world works. Retailers purchase items on the cheap, mark them up and pay us salesman a commission to sell them at those inflated prices in order to turn a profit. It truly is a very simple process and one that keeps our economy up and running, it is also keeping big business wealthy and keeping the middle class salesman, a middle class salesman.


The one item that I sold over my long career in sales that I always found rather remarkable, was the mattress, or the mattress and box-spring combo. I found this item rather remarkable because of the incredible mark up they have. From the moment the mattress is put together to the time it is delivered into someones home, that bed will be marked up through the roof!  Bedding retailers are getting massive percentages of profit on these mattress and the consumer is simply over paying in a big way.  Sadly, the market is set so this is acceptable. HOWEVER, this doesn’t have to be the case.

Most bedding retailers want you to purchase a mattress and box-spring from them, of course. They do no want you leaving the store and going elsewhere to “look around”.  You will always find a mattress you like no matter where you shop and retailers know this.

With that said, here are a few tips on how to purchase a mattress and get one for a price you feel comfortable with. 

First tip : Knowing what a retailer can do for you in regards to price. 


Most retailers are more than able and will go down on their prices, all you have to do is ask and be persistent. Remember how I mentioned that retailers don’t want you to leave their store to purchase elsewhere, well use that to your advantage to get the price YOU want to pay, not the price on the tag.

There are very few mattresses out there that are “price locked” by the manufacture. Tempur-Pedic and Serta’s I-Series and IComfort lines are all price locked. Those two are the most popular. “Price locked” meaning that the retailer is unable to adjust the price as the price is set and locked by the manufacturer. But that does not mean that the retailer can not and will not throw in a couple free pillows, a free frame, a mattress pad or free delivery to the deal! 

If you are looking at Serta Perfect Sleeper, Sertapedic, Simmons or Sealy mattresses, these are not price locked, therefore the retailer can and most likely will go down on their price. Buying a mattress is very much like car shopping and in most cases is harder.

Second Tip : Know what makes the mattress worth what the salesperson is stating its worth. 


Mattress have come a long way over the years. We now have the regular coil based mattresses, all foam, memory foam, cool gel, latex and air mattresses.  So what do you choose? I can’t tell you what will make you most comfortable, but I can tell you from experience what you will be wasting your money on.

Latex mattresses are slowly fading out.  The latex beds are nice and soft and do have some nice support values, but latex is super expensive, typically has an odor and doesn’t have the contour factor in regards to your body.

Coil based mattress are still around and will always be around. You want to look at four very important things when choosing an all coil mattress.

1.  Are the coils individually pocketed or continuous.  Individually pocketed coils are the way to go and will provide a better nights sleep. Continuous coils will not help with the transfer of motion, so when you are laying on the bed with your partner and they move, you will feel it.  Having individually pocketed coils should lower the transfer of motion.

2.  Is the mattress foam encased. What foam encasement means  is this, when you feel around the edge of the mattress you should feel foam.  If you feel around the edge of the mattress and you feel that metal bar and springs…it’s time to keep moving on and find another mattress. Having a mattress that is not foam encased will break down faster over time as there is less support on the edging of the bed. Most people sit on the edge of their bed quite a bit during the lifetime of their mattress, not having proper support on the edge will cause damage to the edge.

3.  Know what is on top of the coils.  This is very important! Knowing what materials the mattress is made up of is essential when purchases a mattress. You don’t want to pay $2000 or a mattress only to find out that there is nothing more than generic egg crate foam on top of the coils. For $2000 you could have got a mattress that has wonderful memory foams, cooling agents and different types of layered foams that will benefit your body.  Don’t take a salesman’s word for it either, do a little research.  Ask the salesman to see a breakdown of what is inside the model bed you are looking at.

4.  Know what the coil count is.  This is also very important as the higher you go in price, you should typically have higher coil counts. The theory of the coil count is simple…the more coils, the better!

Memory foam mattresses can be tricky territory.  This is when you need to know the good foams vs. the bad foams. Hopefully I can help with this briefly.

The three most popular foams out there are Visco Memory Foam, Tempur-Pedic Memory Foam and Serta’s IComfort Cool Gel Memory Foam. There is typically a good rule to follow when looking at memory foam bedding.  If the mattress is under $800, than the mattress is more than likely just a solid block of Visco Memory Foam. Typically any mattress higher in price will be of higher quality foams.  Here is a quick breakdown of the three types of foams I mentioned.

1.  Visco Memory Foam – A basic memory foam that typically only lasts a few years until is starts to lose it’s memory, sag and create body impressions.  Visco is also what they call closed cell structured, meaning air does not flow through the foam, so when you lay on the bed, your body heat get’s trapped in the foam and you will sleep hot!

2.  Tempur-Pedic Memory Foam – This type of foam was the best of the best at one point in time. The foam itself was engineered via NASA many years ago and was purchased by the Swedish company Tempur-Pedic for use in bedding. This foam is expensive and in my opinion, if you get the right model Tempur-Pedic, totally worth every penny. The foam is open cell structured so air flows through it, so you should sleep relatively cool. The foam will also last a very long time and should not lose it’s memory. If a Tempur-Pedic loses it’s memory in just a few years, there is a manufactured defect.

3.  Cool Comfort Memory Foam – Serta came out with this foam roughly 6 years ago to rival Tempur-Pedic and they did one heck of a job doing so.  The foam is a mixture of 70% open cell structured memory foam and 30% gel. The idea of adding gel to the foam was actually quite genius. You know those cool gel pads you can get for kids when they have a fever, the ones you put on their forehead? The purpose of those pads are to draw the hot body heat away so you can cool down. Adding gel to the memory foam gives you the same results. The foam itself is breathable and on top of that you have the gel drawing your body heat away so you don’t sleep hot! I told you it was genius. If you are going to purchase one of these mattresses, Serta IComfort is the best as they are one, the pioneer and creator of this product and two, they have the highest ratio of gel to foam, which is what you want.

Lastly, Air Mattresses are in my opinion something you should steer clear of.  There has been a lot of hype around and about the Sleep Number beds and others like them. I truly believe that this is just hype and your hard earned dollars are better spent elsewhere.  I always called these beds a “glorified air mattress”, glorified to the tune of $5000 plus in most cases.  I really feel that over time these types of mattress have a negative effect on your body. I used to tell people these air mattresses have what I call the “Balloon Effect”. Think of it this way, If you have a balloon filled with air and you put weight on the middle of the balloon (just like your body on an air mattress, people hold the most weight in their mid section) the air will disperse to the top and bottom of the balloon, creating a hammock effect where the middle is lower than the top and bottom. So picture yourself laying on that balloon, your mid section would go lower, your head would get elevated and so would your feet.  Therefore your body would be sleeping in a “V” like shape. Even though this may not be visible to the naked eye while you are laying on your Sleep Number air mattress, this effect is still happening and will take a toll on your body over time. It is simple psychics, the air has to go somewhere when you lay down and it will go opposite of wherever the most weight is being placed.

Third Tip : The Truth About Warranties


I will keep this portion short because the warranty process on all bedding is the same. Every warranty on a mattress is voided if there is a stain on the mattress. Most every place that sells mattresses will also sell a mattress pad. I can understand not wanting to add the extra mattress pad due to pricing and what not, but it is worth its weight in gold and here is why.  When you purchase a mattress pad from the dealer it will be on the same sales slip as the mattress. If you ever need to take advantage of the warranty throughout the years and there is a stain on the mattress, the warranty will not be void as long as your purchased a mattress pad at the same time as the mattress.  This holds true for nearly all retailers.  This is a very good question to ask when checking out. Also, ask the retailer what constitutes coverage under the warranty.  Ask them how much of a dip or indentation in the mattress is considered normal and what is considered a manufactures defect.

Fourth and Final Tip : Know where to shop!


I will always advise to shop locally if possible when purchasing a mattress. You local retailer will allow you to dicker the price of your purchase and most importantly they will provide you service if ever needed.  The last thing you want to do is go up against the customer service of a mattress giant to get a simple issue resolved. Shopping locally will give you assurance that if there is ever an issue with your mattress, it will be taken care of.

Oh…one more thing…when trying a mattress…LAY DOWN ON IT! You won’t find the right mattress for you by pushing your fists on it or sitting on the edge! 

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Hope this helps! Happy shopping!