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Mattress Prices
How to Navigate the Mattress Pricing Jungle

Last updated on April 28, 2015

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.  Understanding the landscape of mattress pricing before you start shopping will help you find the best deal.

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 sell (or at least advertise) them below a certain price

It's worth noting that some Name Game models also have MAP pricing -- combining both ways of preventing price comparison -- however, this tends to be the exception more than the rule.  It's also worth adding that some models that are sold under the same name in each store do not have MAP pricing -- meaning price comparison can be done more easily, as it can with other types of consumer products -- however, this too tends to be rare.  Finally, it should be said that some products are sold directly by a manufacturer, or are exclusive to a single retailer, and thus don't fall into either of the above camps either.

"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 price these models, savvy consumers are more likely find the 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 expect 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.

The origins...and the end...of deceptive mattress pricing practices

Given the widespread consumer distaste for the rather smarmy practice of setting fictitious list prices, many people wonder how this practice ever took hold in the first place.  On this front, it is worth considering that it is actually the consumers themselves whose behavior brings it about. 

Take for example, the case of two retailers offering the same product under different names.  One retailer is offering it for $999, marked down from $1,999 -- a presented savings of 50% off.  The other retailer is offering it at an "everyday low price" of $999.  Clearly, the second retailer is trying to take a more honest and straightforward approach with his customers.  But the consumer, having bought his/her last mattress 10 years ago, is not familiar enough with either of these retailers to know which (if either) of them can be trusted.  And as a result, they will more often take their chances on the (seemingly) more discounted product sold at first retailer. 

This is an example of how the historical mattress environment has actually rewarded "bad behavior," while penalizing good behavior.  At GoodBed, we believe consumers need more accurate and unbiased information to choose who to reward with their business -- and we believe that in the end, this transparency will allow the (many) good actors in this industry to finally get credit for the good things they do.  We encourage you to help bring greater transparency to this industry by using GoodBed and contributing feedback about the products and stores you patronize.

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