In an effort to provide a simple, no non-sense guide for a new mattress buyer, I recently conducted an interview with Josh of Northwest Mattress Outlet in Portland Oregon. You’ll quickly see that Josh is a straight-shooter who knows his way around the mattress buying process. If you are in the Portland area, check out this mattress buying guide and stop by to see these guys in person.
1. Tell me about Northwest Mattress Outlet and the customer experience you provide:
Northwest Mattress Outlet in Portland
At Northwest Mattress Outlet I really only have one goal in mind when it comes to my customers’ experience. No games. Personally, I dislike sales people, and statistically people would much rather shop for a car than a mattress. To me this speaks volumes, since shopping for a car sucks. I understand what a borderline horrible experience shopping for a new mattress can be; this is why I interact w/ everyone as if they’re my friends. The atmosphere of my store is extremely laid back and casual, absolutely no pressure to buy. If they simply want to be left alone, I’ll leave them alone. All I do here is educate my customers, if they buy, great, if not; I try to shoot them in the right direction of someone that can help them out. Along w/ this I try to arm them with the necessary tools to shop comparatively while they do their research and shopping around. This industry is near impossible to compare apples to apples. So I let them know exactly what info they need to gather to be better prepared and educated.
As far as my store is concerned, I’m a legit outlet store. I operate on small margins because I can. I’ll never hire a salesman; never use any of the sales tactics you’ll find in the bigger retail stores. I’m all about building long term relationships, making my customers feel at home, and having fun while doing it. I want to provide the best possible mattress for everyone’s budget, hands down. And I believe I’ve fine-tuned my inventory to where I achieve this on a daily basis. You’ll find I’m completely different than any other mattress store in the valley.
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?
I try to keep things as simple as possible. People want to ask me my opinion, what comfort level the mattress is, etc. Just lay down and get your feet wet. Find out what feels good to you. Don’t get wrapped up in all the specs. If you’re going to ask questions, find out what kind of foam is in a particular mattress you’ve laid on that feels good. Is it individually wrapped coils? Traditional innerspring unit? Again, this is a dumbed down version, but to me, if you know you absolutely love Latex or memory foam, great that narrows it down a ton. Are you annoyed when you feel your partner toss and turn in bed? Individually wrapped coils would be the way to go, or a foam core mattress. Knowing and understanding those 2 key things will cut out a ton of unnecessary time bouncing from one mattress to another. I know it sounds simple, but that’s what I’m all about here.
3. In reality, what is the most common question you hear from mattress buyers and how do you answer it?
It’s hard to peg down just 1 question. I think I get asked fairly frequently the expected life of a mattress. Industry standard is 7 years now, even if you have a 25yr warranty, the manufacturer definitely isn’t saying your mattress will last that long. The reality is, just as everything goes, they don’t make them to last 15-20 years like they used to. But really, who wants to keep their mattress that long anyway?!
Another question I consistently get is a customer asking me what comfort level a mattress is. I may be in the wrong here, but I honestly don’t generally answer them, I simply ask them how it feels to them. Point is, I’ve had 2 identical models lying next to each other, one a Firm and the other a Plush. To me the firm actually felt softer. The comfort is in the eye of the consumer, what feels firm to me may be way too soft to someone else. This goes back to what I mentioned previously, just lie down and find what feels good to YOU. Don’t worry about the tag saying plush, cushion firm, luxury firm, or whatever it says.
4. What are your thoughts about memory foam mattresses? Pros and Cons? Any specific brands or models you would say are the best memory foam mattresses?
I tell my customers either they’ll love a memory foam mattress, or they’ll hate it. Generally there’s no grey area, it’s a love hate relationship. I won’t get into the numerous benefits of memory foam, there’s a million sites out there with a ton of great info. I will say this, there’s a reason hospitals, and of course NASA use this foam. It’s a great contouring comfort foam. I’ve had customers come in that have medical issues and they rave about their memory foam mattresses. Of course I get the exact opposite testimonials as well. The 2 biggest cons to memory foam are the heat, and the mold you get stuck in after a few minutes of lying down. New advancements in memory foam have combated both these issues very well. The biggest thing out now is the gel infused memory foam. Much more efficient at regulating the temperature and it responds a lot faster so it won’t feel like you’re stuck in your personal body mold.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of memory foam mattresses, I really enjoy an inch or two of memory foam in my mattress, but I don’t like the foam core. Just feels weird to me.
As far as good brands are concerned, there’s too many list. Sadly, the majority of the manufacturers get their foams out of the same factories. Just under different names. I’ve carried 5-6 Temperpedic “knock offs” brands. From customer testimonials, and personal experience, a company that doesn’t import their foam would be the way to go for me. They tend to last a bit longer, however they’re generally a good 10% above other imported foam companies. And this is my opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. I personally carry a line of imported memory foam mattresses, and am extremely happy with their product.
5. 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?
You kind of hit the nail on the head here. That’s all it is, a “band-aid”. Completely temporary solution. I’m not going to sit here and say this is a horrible idea, if that’s what your budget calls for, it’s better than the alternative of having a horrible mattress without the nice comfort layer on top. But soon that topper will wear out, and to keep buying them is a waste of money. Most people don’t understand that memory foam is NOT a support foam, it’s simply a contouring foam. So to put the memory foam topper on an old broke down mattress, isn’t doing you any favors in the long run.
On the flip side, if you purchase a mattress that is a tad too firm, go ahead and throw a nice topper on it. As long as the support system is there, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. Remember, you can always make a mattress softer, never the other way around.
6. 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?
Oh yes of course there’s room to negotiate. It’s not expected, but if you don’t ask for it, you don’t get it. For a first time buyer, don’t be scared. The worse thing that will happen is they’ll say no. But most big box retail stores allow their salespeople to deviate 20% from the sticker price. Even if it’s on “sale”, everything’s negotiable.
7. 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?
Don’t get frustrated! I’ll close with what I tell all my customers that are doing their shopping around. Ask the right questions. What manufacturer is the mattress made by? What model is it in the manufacturers’ hierarchy? Is it a pillowtop, plush top, tight top, firm, etc.? What foam are in the mattress? And finally what type of coil configuration is it?
These questions are all you need. What happens when you try to get the info from the salesmen 9 times out of 10? They give you some name of the mattress that doesn’t mean anything. That identical mattress you’re looking at probably has 30-40 different names unfortunately. There’s a reason retailers do this, makes it virtually impossible to compare apples to apples. Here’s an example of what you should walk away with:
Simmons Beautyrest (Manufacturer) Black Label (Model)
Pillowtop w/ gel infused memory foam
Individually pocketed coils
This info will take you much further than the name they’ll give you “Roxanne” or whatever it may be. If you bring this into a store, they’ll know EXACTLY the type of mattress you’re looking for. Good luck!