My husband and I are in the market for a new mattress but are overwhelmed by all the different types, brands, and promises. Any suggestions? - Sally Shopper
Dear Mrs. Shopper: According to ShopSmart and to sleep experts, if your mattress is more than 5 years old, more than likely it's no longer giving you the spinal support you need for both side and back sleep. But you're right - shopping can become a nightmare instead of those sweet dreams for which you're searching.
ShopSmart's (Consumer Report's) secret shoppers and testers reported on sales tricks and what to do to combat these tricks.
• "Out of stock" explanations in order to get you to buy a pricier mattress. Call ahead to see if the model you're looking for is actually at the store and note the name of the salesperson. While shopping, if you learn the one you want isn't available, then don't let the door hit you on the way out.
• Salespersons pretending to be medical experts. Obviously, the more support the better. Don't listen to these faux "experts;" lie down on the mattress you're considering, roll around, and spend at least 10 minutes on each side, your back, and stomach, depending on the position you sleep. Be your own expert, based upon what your body tells you.
• Unexpected return fees. Even though most stores have a 30- to 90-day return policy, they can still hit you with shipping and restocking costs if you're not alert. Ask about trial periods, return policies, etc. before buying. Plus, check if the store will pick up the mattress as a freebie, as does Costco. (In fact, use Costco as a bargaining tool.)
• Showing you the more expensive mattresses. Usually near the door, the pricier ones greet you first. Work your way around the store to see a range of prices and types. Furthermore, ask to try the lowest-priced ones first. ShopSmart's secret team tested some of the cheapest models that also offered the most support. Again, be your own tester.
The best mattresses tested include: back sleeping: Serta Perfect Sleeper Elite Pastel Firm; medium firmness, Stearns & Foster Lois Luxury Firm; best memory foam, Tempur-pedic Tempur-Simplicity; toss and turn, Sealy Embody Insightful; bargain foam, Novaform Memory Foam Collection Serafina; and best overall, Simmons Beautyrest Glover Park Firm Pillowtop.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.