Mattress shopping

The average adult will shop for six or seven mattresses in a lifetime, about as many as cars. This estimate assumes that your beds are picked for you before 20 and after 80, that you don’t switch cities often, that you avail yourself of a few 100-day return windows, and that on, at least on occasion, you rode one pony longer than the recommended ten years, into dust. Factoring all those, I arrive at six or seven.

We’re just so much passive cargo to each, but car shopping feels proactive and forward — researching, test driving, kicking actual wheels and pumping actual breaks. You steel your resolve for the dealer desk inquisition, then wilt under the hot-sleaze pitch, which always starts with “We do things different here.” Still, there’s a sense that your initiative, aggression, and toughness will be rewarded.

Mattress shopping is ready, set, lie down!

Traditional brick-and-mortar bed-buying has its own sleaze issue. It comes in the form of an industry-wide collusion. Sealy and Serta and the rest supply all the major department and furniture stores, but the product lines are re-aliased for each. The Westminster at Sears was the Windham at Penney was the Malibu at Montgomery Ward. Comparing store to store is in effect impossible. And any scale that begins at extra firm would hardly be considered a serious industry standard at the Department of Weights and Measures.


Bed to bed you go under the water-damaged ceiling tiles and the deep-set lighting, a prop on a set, conscious of your shoes, watched by a man. You try to carry the nervous system imprint from one unit to the next. You try to extrapolate eight hours, a third of your life spent pouring dreams, airs, and fevers into a quilted top platform with which you will eventually have as much in common, genetically, as your children. Everything seems to ride on this choice.

We bought a Casper. It needed some time to become itself and fulfill its potential, in the corner. It took a day to figure out what it wanted to be. We gave it space. You can’t force these things in your mold. After a couple of months on it, I realized what a little research could have told me at the start — it’s a well-made product, but firm foam mattresses are not ideal for side sleepers and their pressure points. Liz was konked, but Liz can sleep on a formica counter. Casper was tearing up my upper back, and I am lower-back guy.

We got a Wink bed, hybrid foam and spring. Edge strength is its weakness, and I sometimes feel I have a hard time centering on it, as in life. But the overall sensation will settle for no less than “delicious.” Liz is konked.

Props to Casper, however, for a fine product, an efficient return process, and a good-will policy of donating returns to local charitable agencies. Ours stayed around here, to keep an eye on me and to remember fondly the woman who would not move.


Read more installments of Village Voices by John Burdick.