A longstanding tradition in the mattress industry is for manufacturers to sell the same mattress under different model names. The purpose of this confusing practice is to prevent you from comparison shopping between retailers — and in spite of consumer ire, most large mattress retailers continue to use this approach. That said, it can be beaten — and when it is, these "name game" models frequently offer the best value for mattress shoppers.
With "name game" product lines, a manufacturer will typically produce 10-20 variations of its models, which will then be sold under thousands of different names across the country. Each model name is exclusive to a given retail chain, and some manufacturers will even provide unique names to retail chains with as few as 1 or 2 stores. In addition, many variations of fabric coverings are used, especially amongst stores that compete in the same geography. Usually, the mattresses are exactly the same on the inside, but making the models look different further extends the illusion of their uniqueness. In some cases, the largest chains are able to negotiate a minor (and meaningless) variation in the padding layer of the mattress in order to further solidify their claim that the price of that mattress can't be compared with versions available at other stores.
As Consumer Reports has pointed out, this industry-wide name game makes it effectively impossible for the average consumer to comparison shop for the best price. As a mattress shopper, you have no way of knowing that the Alison Plush mattress you saw priced at $1,799 at one store is also available for $1,199 as the Heathrow Plush mattress in another store.
At GoodBed, we track prices at over 50 top retailers, so we have seen first-hand the wild fluctuations in mattress prices. We've observed that prices for a given model vary widely, both across retailers and over time. In other words, most retailers are constantly moving their prices up and down for each model — sometimes by as much as $1,000 at a time! So on any given day, a model's price may vary by that same amount from one retailer to another. Knowing that 67% of consumers say that they do not need to negotiate the price of a mattress before buying, this means that walking into the wrong store on the wrong day could easily cost you hundreds of dollars.
That said, name game models in general tend to produce the same or lower margins for retailers than models with uniform pricing, known as MAP-priced products. This means that while Name Game models are your best chance of overpaying (if you don't do your homework), they are also your best chance of getting a below-market deal (if you do).
At one time, we had assumed that a common practice of the most savvy retailers would be to closely monitor their competitor's model names, so that they could confidently show customers their comparable versions when asked. To put this hypothesis to the test, we called 19 different retail stores — a mix of mattress-only retailers and department stores — each of whom carried Sealy Posturepedic (a popular name game product line). With each sales representative, we asked for the mattress on their floor that was the closest equivalent to the Sealy Posturepedic “Reyna Ridge” Euro Plushtop model sold at Macy’s. To our surprise, not a single one of the salespeople with whom we spoke was able to confidently point us to their most comparable mattress, even after looking up the specifications for the Reyna Ridge. Our conclusion? Don't expect the average salesperson to be able to help you with your mattress comparisons, even when it's in their best interest to do so.
With the right information, most consumers can compare the specifications of two mattresses and determine if they are the same. Therefore, the key to beating the name game system is having an efficient way to find comparable models, obtain their detailed product specifications, and compare them side by side.
That said, finding out exactly what’s inside a mattress is often easier said than done, since not all manufacturers provide such specs to retailers, and not all retailers provide them to their customers. Some retailers will disclose the layers of a particular mattress, but not the quantities or the order or these layers. Even when the information is available, there’s often some translating required to effectively compare two mattresses. One retailer may say a mattress has “two inches of memory foam” while another retailer will refer to the same layer as “two inches of UltraSoft visco-elastic foam."
Once you know what mattress you are interested in, your best bet is to look for it on GoodBed. Our database includes information on nearly 10,000 different models. With this data, we can help you identify similar models that are available under different names, so that you can be sure you're getting a fair price.
Here at GoodBed, we know mattress specs and how to interpret them. We have sophisticated algorithms designed to find comparable models, and a side-by-side comparison tool that helps you assess the equivalency of two models. We even have extensive historical data about models that are no longer available, which we can use to help you find an equivalent to the bed that you're replacing.
Of course, finding comparable models is only part of getting a great deal. Once you have identified comparable models, you'll want to use GoodBed to compare the total purchase cost (including delivery fees) — as well as seller ratings and return policies. This is how GoodBed can help you find the best deal on the mattress you want.