Unrealistic Mattress Price Expectations

A gentleman walks into the mattress store and is promptly greeted by the salesperson. After exchanging names and pleasantries, they begin to discuss his mattress needs. It turns out he is looking for a California King set, good quality of course, for himself. His budget…. $500.

Let me be really frank for a moment. NOTHING exists of any quality in a California King for $500. There may actually be a product available at that price, but I would suspect it would be of horrendous quality, re-manufactured or used/clearance. And even that would be doubtful since Cal King sizes are usually a special order product and often cannot be returned.

I experienced the above often during my time on the floor. People would come in with wildly unrealistic expectations on what a quality mattress should cost them. There are many reasons for this.

1. People purchase a mattress on average once every 10 years. They are operating under the assumption that mattress prices stay static, or even go down with time. On the contrary, foam and steel prices are subject to inflation along with labor, health care, taxes, marketing, and transportation costs, all of which drive up the overall price of any mattress set.

2. Customers see little value in quality sleep. They willingly shell out more than a hundred dollars a month for their hi-tech phone/Internet access, a more than $1,000 a year expense with little health benefit, but balk at spending even half that amount for a mattress that they will spend 8 hours a night on for the next decade!

3. Unlike a car, furniture, clothing or even smart phones, mattresses are rarely seen by friends and family. There is no status assigned to the unseen mattress in the bedroom. This is a status symbol driven nation that would rather buy for image instead of practical reasons.

4. People often will spend money on health care, doctor visits, medication or therapy, before addressing the root of many of their health problems – lack of quality sleep. Mattress shopping often becomes an act of desperation after spending lots of time and money treating symptoms. When they finally do go shopping, there is a built in aversion to spending any amount for fear that it will not provide anymore relief than the rest of their futile efforts.

5. They have purchased an expensive mattress before, and were either misled, or not matched with the correct mattress. Feeling betrayed and angry by their mattress that now looks like Crater Lake, but not deep enough for a warranty claim, they resist spending any amount of money for fear of experiencing the same issues all over again.

The Mattress Industry Also Shares Responsibility.

1. When people see ads on TV, or hear them on the radio promoting that $199 queen set, or $399 pillowtop set or $99 each piece sale, that sets up an expectation of what a mattress should cost. It does not matter that it is insulting to mattresses everywhere what is being offered at those price points. They are NOT mattresses. They are dreadful pieces of garbage that no human being, not even someone on death row, should be forced to sleep on.

Even if the consumer KNOWS that these are loss leaders that they could never in a million years sleep on, they still cling to the hope that a mattress “in that price range” might work. When the poor salesperson attempts to help them get a bed that will work for their body, he is seen as the enemy, attempting to make them spend much more than they should. Everyone loses.

2. Manufacturers and retailers work together to make multiple, slightly different variations of the same mattress, causing consumer confusion and creating much frustration when attempting to compare the value of any mattress set. If I visited 6 retailers with 6 nearly identical products, 6 different price points and 6 different feature/benefit stories, I would probably give up and stick with my old mattress too. It should not be this confusing.

3. A manufacturer with a solid brand name willingly places their brand on a substandard product breeding confidence in the consumer’s mind in a very deficient mattress. If I’m Mr Major Mattress Manufacturer, there is no way I want my name on one of those products being offered for $299. They are not my product by any measurement. But consumers may not know the difference and the salesperson may make no effort to explain the differences.

4. And closely related to #3 above is the practice of placing the brand logo on inferior product to sow confusion. Again I must use fictitious examples to explain. Imagine Purple Hippo was a major mattress manufacturer. Their main line may be called the Purple Hippo Pedics while their inferior line may be called Purple Hippo Premiums. The same logo or “bug” may be used on both the product and in advertising. But there might be a world of difference between the quality of the two. The Premium may have a completely different innerspring, a wood box, and lack many other important features. But when you see the ad in the paper or the product in the store, you may not understand the difference. It is misleading and frustrating to the customer who is looking for a quality mattress set.

5. Price, Price, Price – This is what you see promoted in virtually every mattress ad. Very little effort is placed towards educating consumers on the value of sleep. Store execution is almost universally built around hype, or building a sense of urgency to force a quick decision. Few retailers, and for that matter not many manufacturers either, spend time actually understanding the needs of the customers and matching them with a quality sleep solution.

The goal should be quality sleep, not selling a mattress. If the customers are told they can get it by spending $200, everyone loses. The customer spends money foolishly on a product that will never meet his or her needs. The retailer gets an angry and dissatisfied customer. The manufacturer gets a reputation for making inferior mattresses. There are no winners.

The mattress industry needs to grow up and become serious about sleep. The “used car salesman” approach does not work anymore. The gimmicky sales techniques need to go away. No more promotional hype and mind games on the sales floor. Get rid of the sales people and hire sleep professionals that are committed to matching people with the correct mattress.

The goal for everyone, from consumer to manufacturer, is quality sleep at a fair price. Consumers will willingly pay for a product that for the next decade will properly support them, without pressure or massive craters. Based on mattress experiences I have had, and others have shared, I don’t blame customers for doubting the industry. If the industry expects customers to spend more, they better be ready to deliver much, MUCH more.

Happy Mattress Shopping! – May You Find the Mattress of Your Dreams!!

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