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Should You Buy a Mattress Online?

Updated on May 5, 2015

Time for a New Mattress?

You are routinely waking up either feeling not well rested, or with aches and pains. You can't trace these aches to a point of origin. Waking up at night when you previously hadn't, or more often than before. Unable to pinpoint the problem at first, you contemplate going to the doctor. Then one night, due to your exhaustion from lack of quality sleep, you fall asleep on the couch or in the recliner, and you wake up pain free. The next night, paying much closer attention, the sag in the mattress that wasn't previously obvious, can now be felt. It's been around ten years since you bought this mattress, and now its use has finally, inevitably, taken its toll, and rendered it worn out.

A mattress is a sizable purchase, and its delivery has to be arranged - you may need to take off work to be home at the scheduled time - and is going to stay with you for the next several years. Knowing this, you want to be sure that the one you buy is going to give you a good night's rest. You start to do research online about the various types - innerspring, memory foam, hybrids, air mattresses, waterbeds, and latex. Then you browse the various brands - Sealy, Stearns and Foster, Simmons, Select Comfort, Tempurpedic, and so on. Then their various models. You find some with very good reviews on Amazon, with your preferred size, features, and firmness. Lo and behold, it also has an acceptable price.

Now the thought of buying right there and then crosses your mind. But then you remember the conventional wisdom. You're supposed to treat mattresses like cars - test them out before you buy, right? You decide you should go to one of the brick and mortar stores and lay on them, only none around your area end up having the model you fell in love with online. Should you buy it anyway? Is it really necessary to lay on a mattress for twenty minutes or a half hour before you buy? The answer is, not necessarily. It is a wildcard. It may be advantageous, depending on if the circumstances line up in your favor. However, it could also actually be not only unnecessary, but there are potential disadvantages as well.

Testing out a mattress in a retail store may or may not give an accurate feel of what you will have at home.
Testing out a mattress in a retail store may or may not give an accurate feel of what you will have at home. | Source

Haggling, Advantage - Showroom

If you are a well informed buyer, and you know a few things about beds and mattresses, you can use that to your advantage with a salesperson in a showroom. They have your target mattress in mind, and you are not going to be influenced by the salesperson's pushing of another type, probably more expensive type of mattress.

While he now realizes he is not going to sell you the mattress of his choice, he also sees that you are determined to buy. So, this sale is better than no sale at all. Mattresses are sold at a high profit for both store and salesperson, so you now have quite a bit of room to haggle to get a better deal. In the case of online buying, haggling is a very difficult, and when dealing with some online retailers, impossible.

Competitive Pricing - Advantage, Online

When dealing with a manufacturer online, there is no salesperson that will need a commission. They also know that most people will tend to want to haggle over their price, due to the overall cost of most mattresses, and doing that online can be difficult for both parties. Therefore, to offset that difficulty, mattresses are often marked down in price online.

The conclusion - if you are not a very good haggler, and most people aren't, and depending on the time of year or type of mattress, you most often will end up getting a better deal on price buying online than in a physical store.

Return Policy - Advantage, Online

To preface this point, it needs to be noted that there is a substantial variance in return policies between the manufacturers and retailers. That said, in general, online manufacturers and retailers generally have more customer friendly return policies. Perception and leverage are the two reasons for this.

The manufacturers realize that there is a risk to buying a mattress without trying it out first. They also realize that the general belief among customers is that the net risk of buying without testing is higher. Therefore, they tend to offer a compensating quality of service by a better return policy. Physical retailers tend to claim some leverage to charge certain fees and deduct a percentage of the refund by claiming that the customer had and took advantage of the opportunity to lay on a demonstration model before they bought.

Buying a mattress online can have some advantages over purchasing from a retail store.
Buying a mattress online can have some advantages over purchasing from a retail store. | Source

Customer Service - Advantage, Showroom

This is one of the two simplest points to understand. If you need help with something related to your mattress, you can go to the physical store from which you purchased it. For instance, exchanging an accessory like a mattress protector.

Mattress Availability - Advantage, Online

This is the other of the simplest points to understand. In a physical store, space is limited, so they can only carry so many types of mattresses, both for sale and for show. If you buy one online, it can come from any of their warehouses, so no matter which model you decide on, unless it is currently out of stock, it will be available.

Testing Out the Mattress - Advantages and Disadvantages

As mentioned in the introduction and elsewhere, virtually every customer sees a value and visible advantages in testing out the mattress before they buy. And indeed, there can be. You can actually feel the product for yourself. And even if you don't end up wanting that specific mattress, by laying down on different mattresses from various manufacturers, you can get a feel of what their definitions are of firm, medium, and plush. Like clothes measurements, what is one company's firm may feel less or more so than that of another. Even if you don't buy from a showroom, it may not be a bad idea to do this, so if you wish to buy a different model from the same manufacturer online, you will have a better idea of what it may feel like.

There are, also, some potential disadvantages to testing out a mattress. For some types, particularly memory foam, laying on it for ten or fifteen minutes may not be representative of how it will feel overnight. It takes time for the foam to shape to your form. There is also the factor of eventual temperature buildup.

A mattress in the showroom also may or may not have been broken in, depending on how new it is to the display, and how many people have used it.

This leads in to another point. A mattress' feel on the first night of sleep may be variably different than how it feels after being broken in. So a case can be made that testing out a mattress may not give you a representative feel.

Another factor involved is that of variability. Many mattresses have more inner complexities than they appear on the outside, especially innersprings or hybrid foam/innersprings. Therefore, you can have variances in the feel of the mattress you try out versus the one you actually buy. That is another reason to check out the return policy.

Salesperson Influence - Advantages and Disadvantages

A lot of this can and will depend on the salesperson you end up dealing with in the showroom. Salespeople are human beings - they have different moral compasses, levels of knowledge, and competencies. These factors can sometimes be affected by their own store's incentive policies. Some salespeople really want to sell you the best mattress for you, and will do everything they can to get that task accomplished, even if it may mean a slightly less profitable sale. There are others that want to get rid of stock of a certain item, or convince you that the most expensive mattress in the store is the right one for you - even if it is not.

Because many of them are knowledgeable of their product, they can answer questions you may have without you having to look them up online. However, depending on the character of the person, they may be misleading. Whether or not you speak to a salesperson, it is always good to do your own research as well. Perhaps ask him a few questions that you know the answers to already, to test his credibility. The influence of a salesperson can help or hurt your cause based on the existence of above variables. Online, you will not have this type of instantaneous response, but you will also eliminate an additional potentially biased influence.

The complex makeup of a mattress makes room for a range of variances in resulting feel, even within the same brand.
The complex makeup of a mattress makes room for a range of variances in resulting feel, even within the same brand. | Source


Whether it is better for you to buy online or in a showroom is dependent on a lot of factors - your own knowledge and ability to haggle, the quality of the service of the store, and availability of mattress type in the showroom. Many satisfied customers have been made going both routes. Keep in mind the advantages of each, weigh them, and then decide which path is right for you.

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