Saturday, December 3, 2011

Tempurpedic Mattresses

Are these memory foam mattresses any good?  They are OK, but a little expensive.

Tempurpedic mattresses have grown in popularity to capture about 10% of the bedding market.  This may not sound like a lot, but even the largest bedding manufacturer has only about 14%, with the bulk of the market (nearly 50%) divided up among a multitude of small no-name manufacturers.  Tempurpedic has achieved a pretty remarkable market share in a short period of time.

We have actually owned two of these mattresses - one for our Summer home and one for our Winter home.  Of course, now we own just one.  And we have been using them for about six years now, so we have some experience with them.   We bought them because Mark has a compressed disc in his spine and is prone to back problems.  They seem to help with his back, I think.

Are they a good mattress? I would say yes.  Are they worth the money?  Maybe - that is a personal judgement call.  Are there any quality concerns, over time?  Perhaps.  But then again, nothing lasts forever.

But before we address those questions in detail, let's look at the seamy underside of the mattress business.

Mattresses are the most over-hyped and over-priced piece of furniture on the market.  If you listen to the radio or watch TeeVee at all, you will hear or see a loud, obnoxious mattress ad before long.   And chances are, even if you live in a small town, there is maybe one or two mattress stores there.  They are not hard to spot, as they are usually painted in garish colors with the words "M A T T R E S S" on the side.  Red, orange, yellow - they are painted up like a fast-food restaurant, and often have fluttering colored flags like a used car lot.  Look at these trimmings as you would Police Tape - warning of danger ahead!

Mattress stores, like used car lots, sell mattresses on installment plans, and often hike the price of these plebeian items into the stratosphere.  We are lead to believe, by a mattress salesman, that a pile of springs, some foam, and some cotton ticking is worth thousands of dollars - more than you'd pay for a solid good used car.  The markup in these things is incredible.

Avoiding this trap is simple.   First, just don't go to a mattress store.  The bigger and brassier the store is, and the louder their TeeVee and radio ads are, the worse deal you are going to get.  Any type of store where salesmen work on commission is not going to be a good bargain for you, whether it is the stereo store, the rug store, or the mattress store.  If the prices are not clearly marked, and they try to sell you "on time" - via monthly payment, just walk away.

Walking into a high-pressure sales store is never a good idea, whether it is cars, furniture, boats, rugs, mattresses, or whatever.  If you walk in with little idea of what you want, and no idea of rational pricing, you will most likely get screwed.  Shop around, be astute, don't talk to salesmen, and walk away from a place that can't put a price tag on a product, but forces you to "ask" about pricing.

Having had to furnish two homes and two rental units recently, we found that traditional furniture stores were much better bargains, at least for us.  To them, the sale of the mattress was incidental to the sale of the furniture, not the whole enchilada.  One of the best mattresses we ever bought was a mattress from a rattan and wicker store in Pompano Beach, Florida.  We ordered a king-size mattress in extra, extra firm, and it was so comfortable.  As I recall, I think it was about $500, for a king-sized bed, too.

Most people go the other route - ordering super-soft mattresses, assuming that softer is more comfortable, when in fact, it just bends your spine.  If you lay on your back on a soft mattress, your butt sinks in while your head and feet do not.  What ends up happening, is your body assumes a bent position, like a jack-knife, which rotates your pelvis relative to your spine.  Back pain results.

The ordinary no-name $500 mattress, in extra firm, is one of the more comfortable mattress - and least expensive - I have ever owned.  And over the last 50 years, I calculate that I have owned about 10.

This is not to say the Tempurpedic is bad, only that an ordinary mattress, which is far less costly, can be just as good, if not better.  How costly?  We paid about $2000 for each king-size set (king-sized mattress and two box springs).  That is a lot of money for a mattress, although the construction of the mattress is arguably more expensive than a traditional coil spring mattress.

Are they comfortable?  Yes, although the experience can be a bit disturbing at first.  I liken the experience to a foam lined camera case.   You put your camera in one of those and close it, and when you open the case again, the camera is still there, in the exact same position.  A memory mattress can be the same way, at first.   You lie on it and fall asleep and the next day, you wake up in the same position.  It is more like being in a stasis chamber than sleeping in a bed.

Are they durable?  Yes and no.  One problem we have had with both beds is that the box springs squeak.  I traced the problem to the staples holding the ticking cover on the box spring.  After a while, they work loose, and the plastic edge covers slide, so when you get in and out of bed, the box spring creaks and moans.  Not a big deal, and rotating the box spring 180 degrees eliminates the problem - for a while.

Does the memory foam last a long time?  Yes and no.  After six years, I notice that the mattress on my side is starting to make a bit of a permanent dent where I sleep.  In other words, it is like most mattresses, over time.  They sag.

Can you really dance on the bed with a glass of wine balanced on the other side, like in the commercials?  Yes, but for the life of me, I don't know why you'd want to do that.

What about the Tempurpedic Pillows?  We did get two of these.  Mark likes his, I can't stand them.  They make my neck hurt.  Badly.  And I have a compressed disc in my neck.

My overall verdict?  They are a good product, but a rather expensive one.  I think a quality firm mattress would work as well, for about 1/4 the cost.  Tempurpedic is not a rip-off, but not a screaming bargain, either.

What prompted me to write this was the fact that I get a lot of Tempurpedic junk mail, nearly every week - a cardboard mailer telling me of the advantages of the Tempurpedic mattress and pillow.  They certainly are marking the snot out of it.  I think they have a good product, but it isn't cheap!