The "Minimum Advertised Price" (MAP) is the lowest price at which a retailer can advertise a given product. Although MAP models do show greater uniformity in pricing, consumers should not assume that MAP-priced models are a better deal than other models, nor should they assume that prices on such models are truly uniform across retailers.
Under typical MAP pricing agreements, a retailer agrees not to advertise or promote a product below a certain price level that is set by the manufacturer. Under some agreements, retailers also are not allowed to sell the product below this established price. If a retailer violates their agreement, the manufacturer has the right to cancel the relationship. MAP pricing is sometimes referred to as MMAP (Manufacturer’s Minimum Advertised Price) or IMAP (Internet Minimum Advertised Price).
MAP pricing has become increasingly common in the mattress industry, thanks largely to the success of Tempur-Pedic, who was one of the first mattress players to enforce MAP pricing across all of its products. Its popularity derives from simultaneously addressing consumers' fear of overpaying for their mattress, and retailers' fear of having price competition drive down their profit margins. Weary consumers are eager to believe that the manufacturer has protected them from having to comparison shop, when in reality the manufacturer has deigned to prevent them from comparison shopping. In the end, retailers get a slightly better deal, as their MAP-priced products tend to be amongst their most profitable.
Just because a mattress is MAP-priced does not mean it will always be sold at the same price by every retailer. Many retailers will try to sell mattresses at a price that is higher the MAP price (we see this all the time in our price tracking). So it still pays to compare the price of the mattress you want at several stores.
Likewise, even though retailers can’t advertise (or in some cases sell) below a certain price, this doesn't mean you can't find a better deal. First, retailers are sometimes allowed to sell a MAP-priced mattress at a discount of 10% or more — they just can’t say that in their promotions. (Note that if you’re buying online, additional discounts offered by the retailer may be visible only after the mattress has been placed in your shopping cart.) And, even under the strictest MAP agreements, retailers are typically allowed to add freebies to your purchase, such as free shipping, accessories (eg, pillows), or even a gift card or coupon. So, be sure to compare prices on a total package basis to be sure you're getting the best overall deal.
When purchasing a MAP-priced model, be careful if the invoice for the mattress carries a listed price that’s lower than the MAP price, as this can sometimes affect the warranty should an issue arise. The manufacturer may regard the lower price as a violation of their agreement with the retailer, or it may assume the product you purchased was a floor model — both of these situations could void the warranty. Before buying a mattress with a price discrepancy like this, make sure to check the warranty and/or ask the retailer to confirm the exact coverage in writing.
The legality of MAP pricing is a frequent topic of debate. Under current regulations, as long as manufacturers set their policies independently, and present these policies to retailers on a "take it or leave it" basis, they are generally allowed to establish and enforce MAP prices as they wish. What they must not do is cooperate with their retailers (or with other manufacturers) in setting these prices. More details about the legality of MAP pricing can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website.