When is a mattress sale not a mattress sale?

With a little savvy and patience you can get the price you want

Last updated: February 12, 2016 02:30 PM

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Not all mattress sellers run sales, but those that do seem to make up for the rest. During holiday weekends in particular, huge markups often let retailers lower prices by 50 percent or more. But even at other times of the year, department stores and some specialty mattress sellers invariably put something on sale. But don't take a salesperson’s word at face value as you may end up paying top dollar for a mattress that you could have gotten cheaper.

Here’s why: No matter what time of the year, the intention is to get you into the store. Salespeople on the floor typically work by commission, so if you pay half-price for the exact model advertised, that’s half the commission, too. So you’ll typically be steered toward “better” mattresses said to be firmer, more comfortable, recommended by the most customers, and whatever else it may take to sway you. And it doesn’t end there. Other upsells—think mattress covers, comforters, or the foundation—bring the price of the overall package higher still.

And even if you insist on a particular low-priced mattress that you saw online or in a circular, the $300 sample might not be anything you’d really want to take home. The salespeople know this, and if you spend the 10 to 15 minutes that we recommend to lie on the mattress before making a decision, you’ll know it, too. Which is part of the game.

Consumer Reports' mattress Ratings give you a sound basis for selecting among the dozens of innerspring, memory foam, and adjustable air mattresses we’ve tested.  The safest strategy for getting a great mattress at a price that won’t keep you awake nights: Over a period of weeks or even a few months, monitor the full selling-price range of the mattress you’re considering at the retailer you want to patronize. And once you’re ready to buy, insist on that mattress alone—and at the lowest price you’ve seen the store advertise it.

Chances are, you’ll get resistance, perhaps even a flat-out refusal. The salesperson, after all, is counting on you to want to settle the deal and walk out with a delivery scheduled, done with the onerous process for the next decade. But even if you desperately want the whole thing over, say thanks anyway and head for the door. You won’t make it. And once you shake hands on the deal, at the price you wanted, resist the upsells.

Not all stores routinely put mattresses on sale. Bob’s Discount Furniture and The Original Mattress Factory are among sellers that set one price for their mattresses and seldom, if ever, discount them. Others, such as Sleep Number, run sales only a few times a year. But that leaves myriad other sellers that play price games every day.

Top mattresses from our tests

Our mattress Ratings score beds on support, durability, and other criteria, with top-ranked models such as the innerspring Sealy Posturepedic Hybrid Elite Kelburn, $1,350; the Novaform 14-inch Serafina Pearl Gel, $800 at Costco; and the adjustable-air Sleep Number i8 bed, $3,000. We also feature survey-based Ratings of mattress brands and stores to gauge shopper satisfaction. Be sure to check out our mattress buying guide before venturing out to the store.

—Ed Perratore (@EdPerratore on Twitter)

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