I recently got in touch with Scott Oster of Parklane Mattresses in Portland, Oregon. I let Scott know that we are putting together a series designed to serve as a mattress buying guide for someone who is unfamiliar with the mattress buying process. As you’ll see, Scott is truly an expert on this topic and has plenty of useful advice for prospective buyers. If you are in the Portland area, you should certainly check these guys out. (You’ll soon see why). Without any further ado, let’s get started with the interview:
1. Tell me about Parklane and the customer experience you provide:
Parklane was founded in 1921 on the east side of Portland, Oregon. Parklane is the oldest mattress manufacturer still operating in Oregon. Parklane sells direct to the public through 8 local showrooms offering a wide range of mattress models including latex, gel, memory foam, pocketed coil, and fine wire innerspring models. Parklane’s goal is to fit every customer to the right mattress that supports their unique body and sleep position irrespective of price. Our pricing is set once per year and we do not offer promotions, sales, or discounts so that we remove any haggling or gimmicks to the mattress fitting process. We do not artificially inflate our prices to offer “free” items. Parklane’s founding philosophy is to build a better mattress using only the best available components so that the mattress will last/perform better longer and so that each customer is happy to refer Parklane to their friends and family.
2. Buying a Mattress is often though of like buying a car – people tend to be anxious about their decision. If I am a first time mattress buyer, what are a couple of the key questions I should be asking from the store I am buying from?
First question to ask is does the store fit mattresses to specific sleep positions? For example “I’m a back sleeper can you direct me to the models designed specifically for back sleepers”
a. Once directed to the models. “Can you explain why this model is best for how I sleep”
b. Next question to ask is if the store has a similar model to what you are currently sleeping on. It is a great frame of reference to understand what the customer is comfortable sleeping on by knowing what type/brand of mattress they currently have.
c. If the first question from a store is “what is your budget?” or “this mattress is on sale/special” the store is not interested in fitting you to a mattress that will improve your sleep and work best for your body and sleep style. More than likely the mattress being offered is what provides the store the highest profit or biggest spiff/commission for the salesperson.
3. Many people look to thing like memory foam mattress toppers to put a “band-aid” on an old mattress, seeing this as a way to save money. What are your thoughts about this approach?
Memory foam toppers have their place as most consumers buy too firm of a mattress that does not fit or improve how they sleep. A memory foam topper can soften up a too firm mattress and improve overall comfort. However if a mattress is no longer providing support, is not keeping your spine, hips, and shoulders aligned at night, or is causing pressure points and numbness while you sleep a memory foam topper is only going to mask the problem with the mattress and may make things worse. The overall quality of mattress toppers has dramatically dropped over the last several years as the big box and warehouse stores have flooded stores with inferior products in an effort to continually lower prices. There are very few mattress toppers available today with a useful life of more than 6 months, on a per day cost of use a $99 memory topper actually costs more than buying a high quality $1000 mattress that will last 10 years ($.55 per day for the topper vs. $.27 per day for the mattress)
4. The first instinct when you walk into a mattress store is to start sitting or laying on some mattresses to see what you like. Do you think this is the best way to test out a mattress? Are there any other tactics or things a buyer should be checking out when they are in a mattress store?
When mattress shopping first realize that to get the best out of the experience you need to devote at least an hour per store. You will be spending over 2000 hours on the mattress during the next year, a solid hour testing the mattress should not be a huge sacrifice. If possible wear comfortable clothes, nothing tight or restrictive, remove any jackets or bulky items and shoes if you can. Try to find a pillow that matches how you sleep at home and supports your neck properly, once you find a comfortable pillow in the store carry it from mattress to mattress to get a better comparison between different models. Try and limit your mattress choices to a maximum of 3 models (ideally 2 models) within the first 10-15 minutes of shopping. Once you have narrowed your selection spend the next 20-30 minutes on the mattress. The goal is to try the mattress in the same sleep position as you sleep at home, this is huge hurdle for most customers as few stores have privacy built into their showrooms and few feel comfortable trying to sleep in front of other people. If you are a side sleeper, laying on the mattress on your back with your feet crossed (the top position most customers try when laying on a mattress) will provide a dramatically different feel than actually laying on your side or in your “normal” sleep position. The top reason customers return a mattress is that it feels different once they have it delivered then what they felt in the showroom. The primary reason for this is that in the showroom the customer tested in a “not normal” sleep position, once at home they are able to sleep in their “normal” sleep position and the mattress feel is markedly different then either what they remember or is uncomfortable for their “true” sleep position.
5. In general, is a buyer expected to negotiate a little on price when buying from a mattress store? Any tips you would have on this thinking from a first time buyer perspective?
Our philosophy is different than most retail stores on pricing in that we are the manufacturer and sell direct to consumers, we establish our prices once per year and do not mark them down or haggle over pricing. This is in stark contrast to most mattress retailers that are actually “resellers” they buy the product from a manufacturer, mark it up and resell it. Many artificially mark the mattress up higher just so that they can mark it back down “on sale” or add in “free” items that are never really free, they are simply added into the final cost of the mattress. For a first time buyer that does not shop with Parklane a few tips to wade through the artificial “price wars”. No store can survive in business selling at 50% off or higher discounts – this is simply a game to make a customer believe they are “winning”, the price is simply artificially inflated to be marked back down. Always pay attention to the final sales price – the price you will pay if you want to take it home the same day, all the other prices quoted or listed are simply marketing spin. There is never a “today only” price, the store is in business to sell mattresses, if you come back the next day 99% of the stores in business will offer the same price, they want to sell product and not allow willing buyers to walk back out the door a second time. Again if you are not shopping with Parklane we suggest you find a store that has their final price marked everyday without having to haggle over pricing.
6. What are your thoughts about a mattress warranty, and what a buyer should be looking for in this regard?
Mattress warranties are important however they should be viewed similar to warranties on tires for your vehicle. A tire with 50,000 miles still works however it will not have the same grip and performance as a brand new tire. Mattresses are similar in that they wear with use and a mattress that is 8-9 years old will not provide the same level of comfort and support as a brand new mattress. A mattress warranty details how long the materials will last in the mattress not that a mattress will provide the same comfort and performance a decade into use. The key element for discussing mattress warranties are what does the warranty actually cover – repairs or replacements and how often or rare a specific model has had warranty issues. Parklane produces 100,000 mattresses per year and averages a .0003% warranty rate – or 30 mattresses out of 100,000 (industry average is 12-14%).
7. If you are comfortable answering this, do you recommend any particular brands or manufacturers that you know make a quality product? What sets them apart?
The best brands are those that put the customer first and invest in design and durability, while still handcrafting a large part of their products. Each use superior components and do not attempt to simply make the cheapest product possible. Some of the best builders of mattresses today: McCroskey, Kluft, Aireloom, Savoy, Carolina Mattress Guild, Carpe Diem, Hastens, Custom Comfort.
8. Is there anything else you would add that I didn’t specifically ask about which would be helpful for someone who has never bought a new mattress, and wants to make sure they get a fair deal and a quality product?
While the internet is great in providing information nothing beats an informative salesperson that you trust, and while the industry is fascinated by technical information on product specs what truly matters is getting better sleep, try to find a salesperson you trust and allow them to be the expert at guiding you to a product specifically fit to your needs. Read reviews on the stores you are shopping at – not just the products. Ask your friends and family for referrals to a store they trust.