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- What happens to that mattress when you return it or exchange for a different one?
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What happens to that mattress when you return it or exchange for a different one?
Some retailers offer free shipping, even for returns, which makes me believe they're either losing a lot of money on those or are somehow able to re-sell the returned mattress.
Any info on this?
I think the most accurate answer I could give you would be "almost anything you could imagine".
This could range from donating them to a charitable cause (such as a homeless shelter), selling them as a floor models, selling them in clearance or liquidation outlets or clearance sections of a website (with or without clear descriptions), selling them to other retailers or online sellers that have arrangements with them to purchase their returns and in turn resell them (sometimes in places like ebay or craigslist), selling them in auction lots to liquidators who in turn may sell them as "scratch and dent" or "stock overruns" etc., selling or donating them to a recycler who recycles the materials and may either reuse them to make mattresses (with or without the proper tags) or grind them up to make other products (such as carpet underlay), selling them as used or sanitized mattresses, or worst of all (and illegal) rebagging them in plastic and selling them as new mattresses.
This is the shady side of the industry and the state laws that govern the sale and tagging of used and sanitized mattresses or mattresses that use recycled materials and the degree of enforcement of the laws varies widely from state to state.
But some of the local stores where I live sell their slightly-used mattresses to scuzzy resellers who don't clearly disclose that the mattresses they sell are used. I won't name any names but two of the biggest sound like Ravvy and Lattress Ciscounters.
As Phoenix describes, you've touched on a historically shady part of the mattress business. The standard rule of thumb applies: if the deal is too good to be true, then it probably is.
At Novosbed, when a customer returns their mattress, we arrange pickup with a local mover and transport it to a charity (homeless shelter, women's shelter, church group, etc) or recycling facility (see a list here: www.sleepproducts.org/ispa-earth/recycling-facilities/ ).
How many people return? We work hard to match customers with the best bed for them, so only a very small portion return.
I'm curious if many online mattresses get returned. They're a PITA to repack and ship, and would cost a fortune to ship anyhow. Most of the mail order mattresses are compressed by machines before shipping, which you can't do at home. So my guess is it's a tiny problem.
The return policies of different retailers and manufacturers (local and online) vary widely and can be an important part of each person's personal value equation. The cost of an exchange or return policy is sometimes listed separately or may be included as part of the retail cost of a mattress.
As you mentioned ... mattresses that are compressed for shipping so they can be shipped for a lower cost through courier can't be re-compressed when they are returned and require a common carrier to return which can be costly. The return polices of different manufacturers or retailers varies widely from some that require their customers to pay for return shipping or in some cases the original shipping cost as well when a mattress is returned, some that change a restocking fee, and some that only charge a minimal amount for return shipping or in some cases no cost at all (they pay any return freight and arrange for pickup).
Some manufacturers also offer layer exchanges where individual layers can be exchanged for a minimal cost (they can be returned by courier instead of common carrier) or in some cases no cost so that a mattress can be customized both before and after a purchase rather than having to start all over again and in these cases there is no period of time where you won't have a mattress (in between the return and receiving your replacement or new mattress) because they will generally ship out the new layer before you need to send back the old one.
I think it's fair to say that a large majority of people are happy with a mattress purchased from a good manufacturer or retailer but because you can't test a mattress ahead of time with an online purchase, the risk is always higher and the return or exchange policy can be more important than it is with a local purchase.