More often than not, purchasing a new mattress comes with what I like to call, a “mental tug-of-war”.
On the one hand, we understand how important it is not to sacrifice quality; after all, the saying goes that we spend a third of our lives laying on them. But on the other hand, mattresses can be so darn expensive! Honestly, unless you’re going to “invest” a few grand (I wish) on a luxurious poofy cloud of gooey goodness reminiscent of a fresco scene at St. Peter’s Basilica, it’s probably fine to choose that $400 mattress over that $500 one… right?
To add to this, these days most of us do all our mattress shopping exclusively online. The wondrous world of online shopping, we were told, was supposed to free us from annoying mattress salesmen pitches and generally make the whole experience way easier. Instead, it seems more complicated than ever due to the sheer number of products you encounter online. New brands seem to pop up every day: spring coils, hybrids, memory foams, and the list goes on. So the big question is, how can you safely navigate the proverbial minefield that is online mattress shopping?
Well, as a starting point, we can focus on what NOT to do.
Below are the 5 biggest mistakes people make when shopping for mattresses online, and how to avoid them entirely. The first 3 can be applied to any type of mattress, and the last 2 are more geared towards memory foam mattresses.
Mistake #1: Assuming a US brand = “Made in America”
When it comes to quality, mattresses made in the USA (and select countries in Europe) are generally at the top of the list. On the other hand, Chinese-made mattresses tend to be made from cheap (and sometimes unsafe) raw materials, and they should be avoided unless you know where to look and what to look for.
However, a big mistake we often see shoppers make is they automatically assume that “made in USA” mattresses are always made from raw materials that come from the USA.
This, unfortunately, is not always the case.
These days, more and more US-based mattress companies are choosing to source their raw materials from China. They take these low-quality raw materials, ship them over to their company in the USA, and put the mattress together over here.
Then, they slap on a “made in USA” sticker, and market the product as such to unsuspecting shoppers!
How to avoid this mistake: Always, always, always do your research on mattresses. You can often just google the brand you’re interested in and find out whether or not it is a true “made in America” product.
Also, educate yourself on different certification standards like Certi-PUR for memory foam; these certifications of quality are typically given to true “made in USA” mattress companies.
Lastly, if you are unable to find the info you’re looking for, contact the company and request the pertinent information you need. If they are reluctant to tell you (or worse, they completely ignore you), assume they are using Chinese raw materials and avoid them.
Mistake #2: Trusting Amazon star ratings too much
Amazon, in many ways, is an awesome website because they provide a marketplace for many competing mattress brands. Each product page usually comes with very in-depth descriptions, pictures, Q&A’s, and arguably the most important aspect – star ratings!
However, these star ratings can not only be deceiving, but are sometimes outright lies.
Up until October 3rd, 2016 (when Amazon implemented a new review policy) it was completely kosher for Amazon sellers to give away free products to ordinary people in exchange for reviews on Amazon. This was usually done for brand new products that didn’t have any previous reviews, as it would add a signal of quality and increase exposure to the product. Therefore, it’s safe to say that many products – especially mattresses – listed on Amazon could have significantly inflated ratings due to this practice.
How to avoid this mistake: quite simply, don’t place so much significance on Amazon reviews, especially 5-star and 1-star reviews. 5-star reviews tend to be reviews written by people who received the product for free in exchange for a good review; 1-star ratings tend to be fake and written by competitors who want to hurt their competition.
The most important star-rated reviews (in order from most to least helpful) are typically 3, 2, and 4-star reviews.
Once you’ve read enough of these reviews and have a better idea of the product, check Google for reviews written by 3rd party websites or by professional mattress reviewers. You’re then well on your way to making a final decision!
Mistake #3: Returning an unwanted mattress way too soon
At first, this may seem like more of a smart decision than a mistake; after all, if the mattress you buy turns out to feel super uncomfortable, why keep it around any longer?
Well, the thing is that our bodies don’t immediately adapt to a new sleeping surface over the course of one night, or even a week. Buying a new mattress (unless it’s the exact type and brand of your last one) will not fix your back issues overnight.
How to avoid this mistake: You have to give it at least a couple weeks of regularly using that mattress for your body to get used to the new sleeping surface. This is especially true if you are switching from one mattress type to another, like for instance from spring mattresses to memory foam.
So don’t return that mattress just yet; try it out for around 1-3 weeks. Once you do that, you will notice that either the mattress is magically feeling more comfortable than before, or that it is still quite uncomfortable. Only then should you return it.
Mistake #4: The “1st time mattress switcher”
Many 1st time purchasers of a mattress type different than their own do not take into account that different mattresses, well… feel different. For instance, many people who have slept on spring coil mattresses their whole lives will purchase a memory foam mattress because they hear about how soft they are.
But after trying it out, they realize the mattress is way, way too soft, and they decide that memory foam mattresses just aren’t for them! So what’s the mistake being made here?
If you are thinking of switching from one mattress type to another, you have to adjust your expectations accordingly.
“Firmness”, for instance, is something that is measured scientifically but ultimately is up for interpretation. How soft a specific mattress is, will change significantly depending on the person trying it out. Therefore, if you’ve slept on spring coil mattresses your whole life and want to switch to memory foam mattresses, you should look for one with a higher firmness than your original mattress.
This is because memory foam is typically more forgiving than spring coil, so what you may consider a “soft” sleeping surface for a spring coil mattress would be actually considered a “medium-firm” sleeping surface for a memory foam mattress.
There’s a lot more to say regarding this topic (for instance, learning about ILD and other metrics that measure mattress firmness) but it’s a bit overkill for the majority of mattress shoppers.
***Nevertheless, we can definitely write up a guide to these metrics if there’s enough interest.
Mistake #5: Thinking more layers = more comfortable
Last but not least, when it comes to memory foam mattresses, more layers does not automatically mean more comfortable. Memory foam mattresses typically feature 2 or more layers, with the thickest layer being a high-density foam base that maintains the mattress’s shape and prevents your body from automatically sinking through the top layer(s). The top layer(s) tend to be much, much softer, and give memory foam mattresses that “laying on a cloud” feel.
So why does more layers not mean more comfort? Because mattresses with more than 2 layers are typically more unstable and less durable than others.
The more layers you throw on top of each other, the higher the probability that these layers will shift and become unevenly distributed on top of each other over time.
How to avoid this mistake: It is generally advised to purchase a 2-layered memory foam mattress; just make sure you’re buying something made with high-quality memory foam.