I thought I would take a break from alienating readers with posts about politics, and instead talk about sheep.
Yes, I mean you. And me. And the average American consumer. We are all sheep.
This is the latest in the $ave Money Series. Click here to see a page with all of them (at time of publishing this is #2, but more are planned).
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Don’t Be a Sheep
The US retail industry has pulled the wool over our eyes for decades. They have used truths and pseudo-science and marketing to create product lines and convince us we need them. They’ve created brand names and used celebrities to convince us we need to have one that one specific version of that one specific thing, because nothing else will satisfy us.
They are quite good at what they do.
Take Cheerios. Honey Nut Cheerios, to be specific. There is an individual in my house who only wants the brand name. I tend to oppose this viewpoint.
I’ve mostly lost this argument.
However I decided to run an experiment. I secretly bought a box of generic Honey Nut Cheerios and filled up the brand name box with generic cereal. It’s been 2 weeks, and so far no one has noticed.
Wait for it… wait for it… yes, that sound you hear is my phone blowing up.
Ok, so I did not actually perform this experiment. If I was wrong, I lose. If I was right, I would lose for other reasons.
However I may still perform this experiment in the future. Now that I’ve said I am going to do it, I can’t get in trouble for doing it. I think that’s how marriage (and research) work, right?
So I strongly encourage you to try this at home. Cereal, juice, whatever. Give it a try and report back here how it goes.
Let’s Talk Sleep
Joe Consumer has opened his eyes, largely thanks to the Interwebs, and taken a look around.
Greater access to information and new methods of retail have rapidly evolved in the past 20 years. We’ve gone from buying and selling used crap on eBay and college textbooks on Amazon, to using our smartphone to have $4 items delivered from hundreds of miles away within 24 hours. I believe this is considered progress.
The retail industry responded slowly, not recognizing the danger of The Interwebs. Those who have not adapted have been killed or eaten (by Amazon and other disrupters).
Based on my lack of research, the brick-and-mortar retail mattress industry has been slow to adapt.
On its surface, purchasing a mattress in-person seems important. We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping, usually on a bed (though some of you may have slept under tables or various other places in college). We can’t purchase a mattress without having a chance to lay on it and know whether it feels right. Right?
That certainly is what the traditional mattress sellers act like. Clearly I write this because they are wrong.
Once you have a vague idea of the type of mattress you want (i.e. if you want super firm, get a Klingon bed), you are 90% of the way there. Thirty seconds of laying on a bed does nothing more than make sure you aren’t purchasing a marshmallow. It does not help you decide if you will sleep well on it for one night, let alone 10 years.
My wife and I purchased our first mattress, shortly after marriage, using the traditional “lay on a bunch of mattresses” methodology. That mattress, purchased in 2006, devolved by last year to having a single sweet spot in the middle where you wouldn’t feel as if you were rolling down into a crater. Unfortunately, two of us were using it, leading to sub-optimal sleep conditions.
It’s been an uncomfortable mattress for awhile — she suffered through a third pregnancy with it — but we just hadn’t put much thought into replacing it until we moved to a new home and wanted a bigger bed.
So last year we were in the market to purchase three mattresses. Rogue One’s mattress was roughly 20 years old (kids don’t complain but this is also an occasional guest bed), we wanted an extra bed to use as a real guest bed (also to be used when one parent needs an escape from kids invading our bed), and we wanted a new one for us.
After looking at some competitors online and reading extensive reviews of many online companies such as Casper and common in-store brands, I decided to purchase from Saatva. Options have continued to increase.
Browsing At Saatva
I had pre-decided on a “traditional” coil type mattress.
If you want a memory foam mattress, check out Loom & Leaf. If you want a super-duper high end mattress that actually can be flipped over to provide a different firmness level, try Zenhaven. All three brands are marketed (there is that word again) as high-end, but the prices are well below any high-end mattress in any brick-and-mortar store. We went with the Saatva Mattress brand.
I love the memory foam concept, however my experience with memory foam mattress pads and pillows many moons ago were not stellar, so I had pre-determined to buy a traditional mattress. It sounds now like there are many phenomenal, higher-quality, memory foam products now, including Loom & Leaf.
Prices for all three, including the main Saatva brand, are transparent — you can find the cost in about 5 seconds. A queen mattress at Saatva Mattress is currently $999, and a foundation is $250.
Saatva offers three firmness levels: super soft, super firm, and in between (called “luxury firm”), which they recommend for most consumers. We knew we didn’t want an extreme soft/firm mattress, so we chose the “luxury firm.”
The only other decision you make (other than king, queen, etc.) is the depth of the mattress (either 11.5″ or 14.5″), based mostly on aesthetics and depth of the frame. If you purchase a foundation, you can choose the foundation height as well (choice is 4.75″ or 8.75″). Foundation essentially equals box spring, which I had to learn. There is no cost difference between the heights.
Once you make the purchase they set up a delivery date and deliver it straight into your bedroom. I thought I had to pay a small fee for them to remove our old mattress/foundations, but the website currently offers this for free. They also offer a basic adjustable frame if you want to purchase one directly from them.
I DID look at mattresses in person a few times last year as we were already looking at bed frames, and those stores sold mattresses. I had not fully committed to Saatva, hadn’t shopped for a mattress in a decade, and felt compelled to see what was available in stores.
The prices for similar material/quality mattresses was generally 2x-3x the price of Saatva. Salespeople tried to sell me on “zero gravity” mattresses with adjustable bases adjustable side-by-side sleep numbers and all sorts of fancy things. It all sounds very appealing until you realize they all cost at least $3,000, and their return policies suck.
I asked them how they compared to online retailers such as Saatva, and they uniformly had no idea what I was talking about. I can’t say if they didn’t want to acknowledge the competition or really weren’t doing their homework, or if the disruption had not really hit yet. But no one knew what I was talking about.
I also saw at local thrift stores they were selling new mattresses for 1/3 to 1/2 the price of Saatva, though there were no salespeople around telling me how great (or not great they were). I didn’t try to convince my wife to let me get one of those.
Saatva offers a 120 day return policy — no penalties, no shipping costs, no fees. So I felt fairly comfortable we would have time to decide. They also offer a 15 year warranty — complete free replacement in the first two years. In years 3-15 they will repair/re-cover the mattress for ~$200 (shipping each way).
They also offer the “Fairness Replacement Option.” From their website:
You get to keep your original mattress. If you choose, instead of us repairing your Saatva in years 3 to 5, we will deliver and install a brand new Saatva mattress for only 25% of the original price you paid. Within years 6 to 10, we will replace your mattress for only 50% of the original price you paid and years 11 to 15, we will replace your mattress for only 75% of the original price you paid. The only other fee is the delivery charge of $99; and remember, YOU KEEP YOUR ORIGINAL MATTRESS, be it for another room in your home, a family member or friend, or to donate to the charity of your choice.
Buying From Saatva
So we purchased a queen bed from Saatva, as well as a foundation (I was only familiar with the term “box spring,” but the foundation is serving the same purpose). The purchase and delivery process was seamless, though it can take a couple weeks to get your mattress. Laying on it for the first 30 seconds, it was easy to tell it was much better than the old one (just like in the store). But what about the first few nights or first few weeks?
After a month, the first mattress continued to feel great. We liked the warranty protection, so we decided to purchase two more (with foundations) — one for Rogue One (which will occasionally be a guest bed as well for the in-laws and grandparents), and one for our bedroom (the first mattress was meant for the main guest bed).
We made all three of these purchases nearly a year ago — all three beds are quite comfortable and I’ve recommended this company to other people already (even before this blog existed or blog post was planned). We have beds and foundations of both heights to fit the different frames we were working with, and as far as I can tell it has no impact on the quality of the mattress.
My wife and I have slept on all three of them (even Rogue One’s, due to the occasional game of musical bed). We’ve had guests sleep on the full size and queen size, and everyone has remarked the bed was comfortable.
This is not a scientific review, but everyone is sleeping better than we did before. Rogue One hasn’t said much, but the guests who used the old and new one have felt a difference. There is no difficulty getting comfortable, the beds are not “hot” no matter the room temperature, and they are maintaining their comfort level over time.
Most brick-and-mortar retailers for other products are adjusting their business models to adjust. Prices are going down, warranties are improving, and perks are appearing.
However a year after our online mattress purchase, I can unequivocally state I have no reason ever to purchase a mattress in-person again (barring some emergency that requires me to haul one off immediately, which seems unlikely).
If the local mattress stores do not adjust faster, soon enough they will be the sheep, and they will be eaten alive.
My wife and I use Personal Capital for our monthly financial check-in, and I use it as an easy way to monitor our investments. It’s free to sign up and the account/investment tools are free to use. Use this link to take a look.
What are your thoughts on mattress purchases? Have you used an online-only retailer?