As founder of a mattress information website, people often ask me what I think of the information that Consumer Reports provides about mattresses. This question comes up enough that I thought I’d share my answer publicly.
What do I think about Consumer Reports mattress information?
Let me start by saying that I love Consumer Reports. I’m a big fan of their mission and methodology, and a long-time reader of their publications. When I bought my last car, Consumer Reports was an invaluable resource. I’ve also used their information to guide other major household purchases, such as kitchen appliances. In fact, before starting GoodBed, I even read through their many articles about mattresses and found a number of useful ‘shopping tips’ in them.
That said, when it comes to providing specific recommendations about which mattress to buy, Consumer Reports is perennially stymied. The thing is, the heart of their model is in making ‘one-size-fits-all’ recommendations based on deep first-hand research of select products. However, in the mattress category, this approach has two critical downfalls:
Problem #1: There is NO ‘best mattress’ for everyone.
This is perhaps the first thing that every mattress shopper should know. In fact, there is not even such a thing as a ‘great mattress’ for everyone. Not even at a given price point. In short, this is a complete fallacy. As a fan of Consumer Reports, it’s very disappointing to see them perpetuate this fundamental misunderstanding. The reality is that everyone’s mattress needs are unique — depending (for example) on your body’s specific size and shape, and your personal comfort preferences.
Mattresses are actually more like pants than they are like washing machines. As such, publishing a list of the ‘best mattresses’ is kinda like saying the ‘best pair of pants’ is the Levi’s 535 Jeggings in a size 7 Long. Obviously, it would be crazy to recommend this exact pair of pants for everyone…
Unfortunately, most consumers don’t know this about mattresses, and might well make the mistake of relying on Consumer Reports’ recommendations. This will surely lead to unhappy consumers — and perhaps even unhappier retailers, who’ll need to deal with the resulting returns, comfort exchanges, negative consumer reviews, and the like.
Problem #2: Each mattress shopper needs to be matched with a specific model.
Choosing the right mattress is like being ‘fitted’ with a product that is tailored to your personal needs and preferences. To have confidence in your decision, you need information about the exact model you’re considering, and how it works for people like you. General information about that brand or about another model from that brand is not sufficient — and can even be completely misleading.
Unfortunately for Consumer Reports, there are thousands of available mattress models at any given time. Yes, sometimes the same model is sold under multiple different names, but knowing (with confidence) when this is the case is nearly impossible. And even models that share the same name often come in several comfort levels (eg, Firm, Plush, Cushion Firm, etc.), which usually gives them very different characteristics.
So, how many models are covered in the heavily promoted new study from Consumer Reports (forthcoming in the May 2013 issue)? A grand total of 12 models. For context, the average retail store shows 40-60 unique models on their sales floor, and there are many thousands of models listed on GoodBed from across the country. Unfortunately, if you’re considering one of these thousands of other models, you’re out of luck.
So, is there a better approach to mattress information?
Having focused exclusively on this problem for several years now, we believe that mattress shoppers need the following:
- Information about specific models that are available in your area.
- Ratings for those models from people like you.
Can GoodBed provide this? In short, yes we will. But, in order to create a resource that will finally help consumers choose the right mattress (and buy it with confidence), we’re going to need a little help from those of you that share our beliefs that everyone deserves a good night’s sleep, and that shopping for a mattress doesn’t have to suck…
Is there hope for Consumer Reports in the mattress category?
As I said earlier, Consumer Reports is a great organization with a noble mission. In many ways, our mission is to be the Consumer Reports of the mattress category. We aspire to the level of trust and respect that Consumer Reports has earned over its many years. And yet, our dedicated focus on mattresses allows us to develop a specialized solution that meets the unique needs of this category in a way that a generalist publication could never do.
At the same time, I also believe there are things that Consumer Reports can do that will be harder for us to offer. For example, scientific studies of durability require specialized equipment, a large laboratory, and significant expertise in testing and measuring such things. Predicting durability is a very important question in the area of mattresses. We hope to see more from Consumer Reports in this area, and we would even be interested in partnering with them in this regard.
In the meantime, I hope Consumer Reports will refrain from misleading consumers into thinking they can rely on a ‘one-size-fits-all’ list of mattress recommendations. Mattress shoppers are confused, and desperate for a simple answer like a list of the ‘best mattresses.’ It’s incumbent upon reputable information sources like Consumer Reports to protect them from this type of misinformation, not foist it upon them.