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Mattress Pricing Games
How to Navigate the Mattress Pricing Jungle

Last updated on August 19, 2020

The mattress industry is infamous for its pricing practices.  Giving mattresses different names in each store, and posting fictitious "list" prices in order to create phony "sale" prices are just two of the tricks that are commonly used. 

Approaches to mattress pricing

It's no secret that mattress retailers don't want you to be able to price compare.  For this reason, most mattresses sold today tend to fall into one of two general camps:

  • "Name Game" models -- broadly speaking, these models have different names at each retailer, but the retailer can usually discount the product as much as it wants
  • "MAP" (Minimum Advertised Price) models -- these models often have the same name at each retailer, but the retailer is not allowed to advertise them below a certain price

"Name Game" mattresses

Name Game models are ones that are sold under a different name at each store.  To mask the underlying similarity of the models from ordinary consumers, each retailer is typically given a unique cover design as well. As a result of this system, finding comparable models becomes infinitely harder, and assessing the degree of similarity between two models requires a detailed side-by-side comparison of the specifications. That said, because retailers have the most flexibility in setting the prices of these models, savvy consumers are more likely to find below-market deals on these types of models (while less sophisticated consumers are more likely to pay an above-market price).

For details on how to beat the mattress name confusion, see our mattress name comparison guide.

"MAP-priced" mattresses

MAP priced models are ones whose pricing is regulated by the manufacturer.  Under MAP agreements, retailers are not allowed to advertise (or in some cases, to sell) a given product below a certain price. Given these protections against price comparison, many MAP-priced models are sold under the same name in every store. Although a MAP pricing policy simplifies things for consumers, it also limits how good a price can be obtained. That said, even MAP-priced products can provide opportunities for bargain hunters, most often in the form of package deals.

For details on getting the best deal on a MAP-priced model, see our MAP pricing guide.

Fictitious list prices and phony sale prices

The other mattress pricing tactic that draws the ire of consumers is the practice of setting a fictitious "list" price for a mattress.  Having this price as a reference point allows them to present their actual price as a "sale" price.  Observant consumers will note that this practice is the reason why many mattress stores have a SALE sign in their window nearly 365 days a year...

Conventionally, the list price is set to 2x what the retailer ultimately expects to charge for the mattress, after all sale prices and negotiated discounts are factored in.  At this level, a retailer can offer a sale price of 40% off (eg, for a special "holiday promotion"), allow the consumer to negotiate an additional 10% discount, and end up right where they wanted to be.

That said, this markup is completely arbitrary, so there are many stores that set their list price higher (as well as lower) than this mark.  The retailers that really want to keep you on your toes will even change their list prices from time to time.  In this way, even if their "sale" price is unchanged, the retailer can make it look more or less marked down by comparison.  Since most consumers do not pay close attention to mattress prices over time (like we do), this is not a practice that many people are aware of.

But online sellers are more transparent... right?

Online mattress brands (like Purple, Casper, etc.) are generally available online, at their own showrooms, or at a specific partner store. The online brands have hung their hats on simple and transparent pricing. But in our tracking of online brands, they too can pull some of the same pricing tricks.

For example we have seen online retailers raise their pricing by a few hundred dollars, then promote a holiday "sale" for that same amount, resulting in no real change in what the company is getting for the mattress.

And because online brands are only available on their own websites and showrooms, a consumer's ability to shop around and compare pricing is a dead end. As with MAP pricing, though, some consumers find such standard pricing a relief from having to negotiate or haggle at a store.

We do find that most online brands, however, are not changing their prices weekly or even daily like mattress stores sometimes do, so it's easier to track prices over time and recognize a good sale when you see one.

Online brands run holiday sales just like the physical stores. If there's a holiday coming up, check GoodBed's lists of the best holiday sales and discounts.

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