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The mattress industry - an introduction

 

No matter how much knowledge a consumer may have about mattresses, without a way to put this knowledge to practical use by knowing where to buy a mattress and why, this knowledge will be wasted. This is the reason for this section of the website. In conjunction with the forum, it can provide the specifics of where to go in any area so that consumers have a way to connect with knowledgeable and experienced manufacturers and retailers in their area that have their customer's best interests at heart and that they may not otherwise even find out about because they are so often drowned out in the "noise" of misleading and misinformed advertising and information.

There are currently over 500 mattress manufacturers in the USA and perhaps a hundred more in Canada. While many of these represent the many subsidiaries, hidden and otherwise, of the larger mattress manufacturers, hundreds of them are also independent local and regional private companies that are owned by people who love producing mattresses and have amazing value. They know their stuff and genuinely care about the products and the value they produce. They and the better retailers that sell them are accountable to their customers and their reputation rather than the profit margins they "sell" to large corporate chain stores or the profits and return on investment of shareholders and investors. In other words ... they are "mattress people" rather than "money machines".

I have been fortunate to have had extended conversations with dozens of them and it is an understatement to say I was amazed at how willing they were as a group to share their knowledge and information about their mattresses, their business, and the industry as a whole with me. I came to quickly understand that if every mattress in the stores was made by manufacturers such as these, then not only would higher quality mattresses cost much less, but it would also be so much easier to know what was in your mattress and make a purchase that was suitable for your circumstances.

As I became more and more intrigued by what I was discovering, my conversations continued. I also quickly discovered that some of these manufacturers were struggling and that many of them had gone out of business since the last census ... not because of poor quality design, construction, service, or value ... or even from a worsening economy ... but because more and more their value was not being recognized as they were being overwhelmed by larger companies who began to dominate the information flow and the floor space of the largest retailers with misleading information and lesser quality materials promoted as being better than they were. Many of these had been in business for several generations and had passed their knowledge on to each succeeding generation who in turn refined it and "brought it up to date". Sadly, some of these are already gone.

In a similar way, specialty retailers, sleep shops, and other outlets that focused on value, quality and service were (and are) are being driven out of business by the information flow and dominance of lesser quality, overpriced mattresses and "name brands" that many consumers have come to believe represent their best choices. I have had dozens of conversations with many of these as well and they too are struggling as a group against the misinformation, deceptive sales practices, and false claims that have become the norm in much of the mainstream industry. When they truly offer something better ... it is often considered as being "just another claim" in an industry where stories have become more important than genuine information and consumers have become jaded because they truly don't know where to turn.

Consumers who do not have a reliable source of information or frame of reference to determine which claims or stories are true and which are not, will often just take the "safe" approach of going to a chain store and buying a mattress "on sale" which they believe represents good value ... even though it rarely is and any discount is based on a fake "regular" price. More often than not they are buying the story rather than the mattress. These hundreds of quality retail outlets are also in many cases privately owned and run by "mattress people" who love what they do and truly do their best to educate their customers and offer mattresses that represent real value ... even though they are being lost in the maze ... or the haze ... of the overall direction of the industry. I have seen countless examples of consumers who live in a large city who don't even know that the best retail outlets and manufacturers in their own city even exist.

The larger manufacturers, also called "name brands" or "S" companies because the names of so many of them happen to start with an "S", and the chain stores and larger retail outlets with which they have a completely co-dependent relationship, call these local and regional manufacturers "off brands" and in this segment of the industry this is considered to be a derogatory term. It is equivalent of saying "stay away" and a not so subtle way of influencing consumers not to consider them as an option through comparative shopping. The only comparisons they were and are comfortable with are with other mattresses ... made by subsidiaries of the same companies ... using the same materials ... and going by a different name with different ticking (covers) so they look like a different and "unique" mattress.

These mattresses are "differentiated" (a common industry term) by different stories or endorsements rather than by real differences in construction, quality or materials. Since all of these "comparisons" are similarly overpriced, and more and more consumers don''t where else to look for value, or would even have the ability to recognize it if they did, mattresses in general are rising in price and becoming lower in quality. If you look at many of the larger manufacturer websites, you will even see the emphasis on "differentiation" and the stories they conveniently provide to do it. You will rarely find useful information about the materials they use or their methods of construction.

The introduction of one sided mattresses under the guise of "greater convenience" was a major example of this to the point where some consumers actually believe that one sided mattresses are superior to two sided constructions. These lesser quality one sided mattresses quickly became as expensive as their two sided counterparts people were used to buying. The widespread use of low quality polyfoam, memory foam, and airbeds, are a few more examples of "changes" in the industry that have certainly had some benefits but the exaggerated claims attached to them, and the prices that go with these exaggerated claims, have further added to the perception that price and quality go hand in hand. There are many other examples of the industry's ongoing search for ways to use lesser quality materials to produce lower priced mattresses that sell for higher prices while at the same time convincing consumers through a story or endorsement that their deficiencies are either "normal" or desirable.

More and more of the kind of accurate and specific information that is truly needed will appear on this website over time however I also realized that in spite of my focus on finding out the truth, that I was developing a "bias" and a "favorite" brand along the way that actually had a name. This brand was called "off brand" and was made in very high quality and with exceptionally high value by hundreds of manufacturers and sold by thousands of independent specialty stores and sleep shops around the country. This recognition and the realization that consumers needed to be re-connected with the manufacturers and the retail outlets that sold them was the beginning of "The Mattress Underground".

What you see here so far is just the start. It is also interesting that the "alternative version" of the origin of The Mattress Underground and how it started that I posted in a forum in a light hearted moment on Christmas eve of 2010 ... was more true than the "funny story" that I thought it was at the time. You can read it here if you wish.

The manufacturers that produce these high quality mattresses, and the retailers who sell them in a spirit of knowledge, service, and value deserve to be both recognized, rewarded, and to prosper. The greatest beneficiary of their individual success will not only be the consumers who "discover" them and buy a better quality and value mattress, but all retailers and manufacturers who share these values, and the industry itself. Re-connecting these three parts of the industry who share common values and goals is the purpose of The Mattress Underground and the reason it began. This site and the information in the forum is a way to help you recognize and discover who and where they are.

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Karenmo's Avatar
Karenmo replied the topic: #2 17 Jul 2017 04:47
Hello! Just joined and read this overview article, which left me with appreciation that I found this group and that rare but cherished feeling of "these are my people." I am old enough to have had a mattress misadventure or two, and hopefully with this internet tool & community, that will happen no more!
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #3 17 Jul 2017 12:20
Hi Karenmo,

Welcome to the forum! :)

I'm happy that you've found us and I hope the information presented here will be assistive as you begin your mattress shopping journey.

Phoenix
onekimberly's Avatar
onekimberly replied the topic: #4 27 Feb 2018 14:18
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this research and develop a website to share your findings. I’ve been searching for trustworthy reviews and have had a hard time determining what’s what.
I live in California, in the San Fernando Valley area, 91335 zip code. Can you give me a few places to start?
Thank you again!
Phoenix's Avatar
Phoenix replied the topic: #5 27 Feb 2018 18:57
Hi onekimberly.

Welcome to our forum! :)

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that you find our site to be assistive in your research.

I’ve been searching for trustworthy reviews and have had a hard time determining what’s what.


I understand your confusion and lack of trust that you have with the many “review” sites that are in fact “revenue” sites that are the new more subtle face of marketing systems. A big part of the underlying problem is that consumers as a whole put too much trust in mattress reviews in the first place (either positive or negative) in the mistaken belief that they are a good way to assess whether a mattress would be a suitable or a durable choice for them so they end up choosing a mattress for all the wrong reasons based on other people's experiences and reviews or on the "deal" they think they are getting instead of legitimate "fact based" research that would be relevant to their own unique needs, preferences, and criteria. This is more of an issue with consumers in general that can really only be solved with education about how to buy a mattress but because reviews have become so important in today's online market they have gained a false aura of legitimacy and while they may not be the cause of the problem ... many mattress companies are well aware of their ability to influence people and change buying habits and certainly take full advantage of the mindset and target market that pays significant attention to them so they are really just taking advantage of a "reality" that they know will sell mattresses for them.

While most reviewers are certainly well meaning ... because most reviews aren't relevant to anyone but the reviewer and can be "influenced" so easily and in so many ways ... for the most part (with only few exceptions) mattress reviews are a classic example of garbage in / garbage out even though the "garbage" may be well meaning and true to the experience of the person writing the review. In many ways it reminds me of MLM companies which turn customers into salespeople where people will say whatever they need to say in their "testimonials" in order to sell their products and their business to others.

I am not very sure what you’ve read since finding the site, but just in case….the first place to start your research is the mattress shopping tutorial here (there is a condensed version of it at the end of that post) which includes all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you make the best possible choice ... and perhaps more importantly know how and why to avoid the worst ones. Two of the most important links in the tutorial that I would especially make sure you've read are [url=]post #2 here [/url]which has more about the different ways to choose a suitable mattress (either locally or online) that is the best "match" for you in terms of "comfort", firmness, and PPP that can help you assess and minimize the risks of making a choice that doesn't turn out as well as you hoped for and[url=] post #13 here [/url]which has more about the most important parts of the "value" of a mattress purchase which can help you make more meaningful quality/value comparisons between mattresses in terms of suitability (how well he will sleep), durability (how long he will sleep well), and the overall value of a mattress compared to your other finalists based on all the parts of your personal value equation that are most important to you (including the price of course and the options you have available after a purchase if your choice doesn't turn out as well as you hoped for).

When assessing any product, also be sure that you find out information listed here so you can compare the quality of the materials and components to the durability guidelines here to make sure there are no lower quality materials or weak links in a mattress that would be a cause for concern relative to the durability and useful life of a mattress before making any purchase.

I live in California, in the San Fernando Valley area, 91335 zip code. Can you give me a few places to start?


We have decided to discontinue the provision of listings of potential retailers in various geographic regions (unless they are already approved site members), because of the difficulty in maintaining such lists in a retail landscape that is constantly changing, and most importantly the confusion it was creating with the consumer members who incorrectly assumed that these businesses had indeed gone through the strict qualification process and were approved as members of The Mattress Underground. Such an assumption is unfair to both the consumers seeking assistance, as well as the very businesses and manufacturers who meet the criteria to become Trusted Members of The Mattress Underground.

You can perform a Forum Search and you can type in the "key term" any city or area you would be closer to and consider driving such as San Fernando, or Los Angeles or any other area and see what other businesses have been discussed in that region which may be helpful to you.

Whatever business you’re considering, I would always confirm that any retailer or manufacturer that you wish to visit is completely transparent (see this article ) and also make sure that any mattress that you are considering meets the Post #13 quality/value guidelines here .

Good luck! and once you've had the chance to narrow things down a little further, feel free to post back with any specific questions and I or any of our Expert Members will be happy to assist you.

Phoenix