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Buying a new mattress? We've got your back! -- Page 2

Water beds
The water bed may not be quite the daring fad it seemed to be in the 1960s, but the water bed has stayed the course and has much to swell with pride about. The water bed is an excellent option for allergy sufferers, and its liquid cushioning is ever-gentle, pressure-pointwise. Even better: Some are said to be up to 90-percent waveless. Quality water beds can cost $1,000-plus.

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Ready to go shopping?
"Choosing a mattress is more an art than a science," notes Terri Long, who is well-positioned to know. Her family's New York-based business, Long's Bedding & Interiors Inc., is selling mattresses to the children of the children of the children of their original clients from 1911. People get all caught up with coil counts, corner guards and the like, she says. But, she says, that's not how you buy a bed.

And how do you buy a bed? You lie down on a mattress in the store and get into your usual sleep position -- and don't be shy!

Diane Trull, a schoolteacher in Dalhart, Texas, recalls the time her teenage daughter and her friend, who had been flirting with the cute matttress salesman about their age, died of embarrassment when mom gave the twin beds they needed for college a test-drive.

"The girls actually walked away from me!" says Trull, who managed to buy the best beds, once the girls decided to follow mom's smart lead.

"Some people just poke at it," says Long of mattress-testers. "We say, 'You don't sleep on your fingertips!'"

And how long should you go through the motions, laying on the bed and thinking of sleeping in your own bedroom? A recent study on mattress-buying at Consumer Reports suggests 15 minutes.

In addition to the "sleep test," here are other points to consider and questions to ask before making the deal.

Don't pay list price for a conventional innerspring mattress, especially when sales and deals abound, advises Consumer Reports. "Specialty mattresses usually have a set price, but you can save at least 50 percent off list price for an innerspring type," notes the magazine's latest study on the subject.

But make sure you read the fine print. One ad the magazine cites heralded 75-percent savings on mattresses, but a footnote said that the list price from which the discount was calculated "may not be based on actual sales." In other words, no one may have been foolish enough to pay the higher price, making it a rather pointless comparative figure.

You need a new box spring, too
The two components are meant to work together and generally wear out together. Even if your old foundation is in pretty good shape, consider that today's mattresses are much heftier, deeper and of overall better quality than yesteryear's, and need something up to the task. Or you and your back may well pay for it.

Buy with confidence and ask lots of questions
You shouldn't assume that the big guys have the best prices, that the little guys will give the best service -- or any other stereotype. Once you've whittled your potential venues down to a few, using such criteria as longevity in business and recommendations of satisfied friends and family, ask the hard question: If I'm not satisfied, how long do I have to return my mattress? Answers will be as varied as those to your next questions: What charges, if any, will a return incur? Will your deliverer set up my new bed? Any charge? Will he discard my old one? Any charge?

Ask about manufacturer and store warranties. No matter how diligently you research and test out a mattress, you never really know until you live with it -- kind of like with people. Richard A., a newly married technology-industry analyst in Washington, D.C., said that he highly recommends his space-age foamy bed for sleeping: "However, for any other form of human endeavor involving a mattress, consider something with springs," he added. "They're there for a reason."

Use the free resources at your fingertips. Surf over to to take the pulse of the people who've just bought bedding. Also, check out the interactive tool at, designed to match the product you're seeking with an "equivalent model."

Seek a small, simple fix. Sue Moyer is so busy with her job as an office manager that she purchased a bed untried and unseen, from Sleepy's. She loved the service and she even loved the bed -- but it was a teeny, tad bit too firm. Rather than arrange a return -- and risk the nightmare of her cat Otto stowing aboard the departing boxes again and nearly going AWOL till the doorman intervened -- she ordered an inexpensive soft "topper" from the Home Shopping Network for $150 and called it a happy ending.

Ask and ye may well receive -- extras, that is. A pleasant and forthcoming consultant at 1-800-Mattress informed me of a free sheets offer with an order, in force at the time of my call. In this case, I didn't even have to ask. But had he not offered, you bet I would've inquired. As should you, of any potential vendor.

Buy all the bed you can afford -- and house. While complaints about too-small beds are legion, no one's ever complained about excess bedding. Indeed, my cousin Jay in Calabasas, Calif., reports that getting a whopping well-coiled king-size bed has been so "great" that whenever he travels, "I miss my mattress almost as much as my dog."

And cousin Jay really loves his dog.

Laura Shanahan is a New York-based freelance writer and shopper extraordinaire. Her previous articles for Bankrate include "Confessions of a coupon clipping queen" and "Month-by-month guide for finding sales."

-- Posted: July 8, 2005




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