For mattress retailers, Labor Day weekend sales are all important. For consumers, timing is everything. Markups are so high that stores routinely advertise sales of 50 percent off or more, but that means if you don’t time it right you can end up overpaying by hundreds or even thousands.
Our online search for Labor Day sales turned up all kinds of offers—no interest for five years, 50 percent off select models, or up to 65 percent off department store prices. But competing stores might sell similar beds under different names, making comparison-shopping difficult. As for those really cheap mattresses that retailers advertise, they’re meant to bring customers in, but probably aren’t for everyday use.
So where to start? Pick a size then a type. Innerspring mattresses are the best sellers and no longer have to be flipped to extend their life. Solid-foam mattresses vary in the feel they offer. One type, memory foam, conforms to your body and is heat sensitive, so if you tend to feel warm while sleeping, this foam can make you feel hotter. An inflatable airbed, such as Select Comfort, allows you to adjust the firmness level on each side with an electric pump.
Now scan the newspapers and circulars. Check online for sales, and look for a heads-up from other consumers in the forums on such sites as www.fatwallet.com and www.slickdeals.net. Then see our Ratings of mattress stores and brands (available to subscribers). Personal preference, as well as store-to-store product differences, make it difficult to rate mattresses. Once in the store, kick off your shoes and try out various brands, starting with the less expensive models and working up the price line. Lie down for at least five minutes in each of your sleeping positions, for at least 15 minutes total. When you find a bed you like, look at others in that price range.
Retailers may try to sweeten the deal with a free mattress cover or sheets, but stick to your guns—you want a comfortable mattress and a good deal. So haggle, working out specifics such as the delivery fee and removal of your old mattress, warranty, and return policy. And when the mattress is delivered, lie on it to be sure it’s what you expected. If you see any damage, refuse delivery and ask for a replacement.