From an ex-mattress salesperson


Nov 26, 2000




Once upon a time I sold mattresses. All the major brands - Simmons, Serta, Sealy, etc. The brand is not important. I am not going to discuss brands, but tell you how to buy a mattress in the real world.

All of the major companies make a decent mattress. They each claim to have some sort of system that makes theirs a better mattress, but they all make a decent mattress.

To start, even before I explain how to choose a mattress, I should tell you that the system is designed to confuse you. Most of the major brands have a system wherein they change the names of the SAME mattress at each different chain store so that you can not price shop. What is the Simmons "Royale" at Macy's will be the "Regency" at Penny's. You can not price shop by name or color of the cover. You can only price shop by specifications. If the "specs" of one Simmons mattress is that it has a wool cover and a certain number of coils, then that is all that you can use to comparison shop.

Now, as a mattress salesperson for almost 10 years, I could never keep track of this coil count stuff and I don't expect you to, either.

Each company makes certain "levels" of mattresses. There is the cheapo, the decent cheapo, the good one and the better one. With each company, they usually have 2 tiers. With Simmons, the "top line" is the Beauty Rest. With Serta, it is the Perfect Sleeper, for instance.

Well, who cares? Here's the deal: with mattresses, you get what you pay for. A cheapo mattress is about 10% material - foam, steel, padding, whatever and about 90% air. A middle of the line mattress is about 40% material and 60% air. And so on.

Go in the mattress store and start lifting up the corners. Some are heavy, some are light. Now look at the price tags. Surprise!

Weight in a mattress is directly proportional to how well it will hold up in the long run. Weight ON the mattress is also proportional to how long it will hold up. When I slept alone and weighed a 100 pounds, I could not wear out a cheapo mattress.

Buy a cheapo, lightweight mattress for the guest room, if it is not often used. Buy it if you are a student and going to throw it out in a year or two. But, if you are heavy and have a heavy spouse, you head right over to the heaviest, most solid mattresses in the place.

But don't buy a pillowtop. I shock everyone by saying this. A pillowtop mattress is a normal mattress with a layer of extra padding on top. It will wear out and flatten down, long before the actual mattress will begin to show a dent. But it is sewn on! And you pay an extra hundred bucks for it! Buy a mattress pad instead. Pay 40 bucks and throw it away when it mashes down. And get another one. Cheaper than a new mattress.

Now, for the rest of it. Lie down on the mattress in the store. Roll around. If you sleep on your side, lie on your side. Hang out for awhile on it. Now lie on your back. Place your hand under the curve of your back. There should not be a space. The mattress should be conforming to the curve of your back. Very hard mattresses will not and there will be this big gaping space between your back and the surface.

You will toss and turn all night. A too hard mattress will cause you to lose circulation in parts of your body and your sleep will be broken due to your turning to alleiviate this. Each company makes an outrageously hard mattress, but even the companies themselves tell the salespeople to discourage the sale of these to anyone over 60 or with circulation problems. But there are those who feel that they can't sleep on anything else. So, don't blame me if you are always tired.

Determine what level of mattress you need. Do you need the one that will hold up for 10 years? Are you heavy? Is this for your 60 pound child? Are you going to get married one of these days and dump the twin-sized?

This gives you your price range.

Now go try a few. Some you can reject immediately, the too expensive, the pillowtops or the ones too obviously hard or soft. This will give you 4 or 5 to truly test. Spend an hour on them. One or two will feel right.

Then you can go ask about coil counts or warranties, if you must. But, trust me, you can always tell by the weight of the mattress.





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