In desperate need of a comfortable bed, Mulletman and I hopped from store to store to try mattresses.
Testing mattresses before purchasing is really quite simple. All it takes is a little common sense preparation:
1. Dress for success by wearing your *pajamas to the store. You're not going to experience an actual sleep simulation scenario wearing tight jeans, buttons, body jewelry and LLBean boots. It is also best if you leave your wallet or purse at home. Otherwise someone might saunter away with them when you doze off.
2. Always bed shop with your spouse. Naturally, your spouse will agree to go with you. He/she will assume that they are coming to help you select the mattress. By all means, let them go on thinking this! If a spouse is not available, drag along one of your best friends by luring them with a promise of **lunch afterward. Whatever you do, don't skip this "bring a buddy" step! A comrade is absolutely essential for step 3.
3. Avoid sales people at all cost. These are the hungry looking folk lurking near the entrance to the store. Sometimes it is possible to slip past them unnoticed, but this requires great cunning and skill. If you are not exceptionally sneaky when entering their lair, they will pounce on you within moments and hold your hand through the entire mattress shopping ordeal. They will bore you into insanity by showing you models and posters of mattress innards and detailing all the latest scientific data proving that Mattress A is your best choice. Then they will turn around and go through exactly the same for Mattresses B, C, and D. They will not waste their time on Mattress E because it's the only one you can afford and their resultant commission would be miniscule.
Once they have turned your brain into mush with their hyper-attentiveness and drivel, they will swoop in for the kill as you actually test the beds. They'll adjust pillows and hover over you smiling encouragingly while you make some semblance of an attempt to relax and see if the bed is comfy or not. If you complain that the bed is too hard, the salesperson will immediately offer to sell you an outrageously priced "topper" for the mattress. They'll dazzle you with offers of free delivery with this one or a free pillow (just one) with that bed. They'll try to sell you headboards and night stands and dressers and fashionable bedding at fantastically "low" prices if you buy them as a package deal with the mattress set; And, of course, the deal is only good if you buy it all ***NOW. That's when they start shoving the papers in your face.
This is what you want to avoid. This is why you need to bring your spouse! As you enter the store, either you or your partner (whichever one is the better liar, heretofore referred to as Person A ) should immediately waylay the imminent salesperson attack by asking them to check on the living room set you ordered last week, but are still waiting for. As they scurry over to the desk to check the delivery schedule, person B should run, not walk to the nearest mattress display and immediately start testing the wares. After a few moments of absolutely insisting that you ordered the living room furniture AT THIS STORE just last week, Person A should suddenly slap their forehead and say, "Ohmygoodness...I'll bet it WASN'T here. Come to think of it, I KNOW it wasn't! (insert rolling eyes and a cheesy laugh at this point) Silly me! I'm so sorry to waste your time. Well, since I'm here I'll just look the place over and see what you've got." This is where Person A beats a path to the bed section and joins Person B on the quest - sans salesperson!
4. Now comes the actual testing of the mattresses. Person B will find a night mask and ear plugs quite helpful in providing the necessary setting for simulated sleeptime. Some shoppers also find it helpful to bring their Teddy along. It is important to test the bed by laying (lying?) in your normal sleep position for several minutes. This is quite easy and relaxing in those huge, rambling furniture warehouses. Shoppers have been known to become so relaxed they actually fall asleep. (Shoppers have also been known to be locked in the building at closing time. This happened to my in-laws, but that's another story.) If you DO fall asleep and you wake up feeling chipper and refreshed, BUY THE BED!
Relaxing is not quite so simple in discount stores - especially if you live in a small community. You'll just have tuned out the squalling kids and jumbling teen boys and the shouts over the intercom system, and someone you know from church will walk up to the bed you're trying to rest on. "Well, hi Groovy and Mulletman! What're YOU doing here?"
To have folks holler greetings to you when you're hovering near much sought after zombiedom in your own bed - or in the bed that MIGHT become your own bed - is just plain awkward. Do you ignore them so you can go on with your testing? Do you acknowledge them briefly with an embarrassed smile? Do you sit up and chat cheerily and then start all over from scratch? Do you invite them to join you?
At any rate, discount store shopping will probably involve more of a bounce-on-bed-and-rate-it than a thoroughly-test-and-decide-intelligently methodology.
5. Taking notes is extremely important when testing the mattresses. Carefully record the name of each store, then list the name of the mattresses (ex. Sealy Posture Improver or Joe's Back Killer), it's price and, of course, your impression of that bed. (ex. soft, too soft, marble slab-ish, bouncy, squeaky, etc.) You also might want to note if the store provides free delivery or if you're going to have to tie that sucker to the roof of your car and hope for sunshine.
6. Now it's time to make the final choice. Whatever you do, DO NOT GO HOME NOW. You will be feeling exhausted and confused at this point. If you go home you will NEVER get a new bed because you will decide that the whole air mattress on the floor situation is easier (and cheaper) than actually buying a real bed.
Instead, take your notes and your spouse/partner and go sit in a restaurant somewhere. Drink a cup of coffee, then look over your notes and discuss all the merits and liabilities of each mattress. Your discussion will sound something like this:
Mulletman: Let's look over our notes and discuss all the merits and liabilities of each mattress.
Groovy: (scrounging several small slips of paper and business cards out of the deepest recesses of her back pocket) Um..Ok. Lemme see. We looked at, I dunno, like 37 beds in 19 different stores. Are there any we can just, you know, rule out?
Mm: I didn't like that real hard one.
G: WHICH real hard one?
Mm: The real hard one in that store with lots of beds in it.
G: You mean the one with the pink plastic shoe protector? Or the one on the third floor of the rickety old converted hotel?
Mm: No, no, I'm talking about the white one with the space-age coil comfort system.
G: (shuffling frantically through the notes) Ooooohhh-K. Got it. Now we've eliminated that one. What else?
The next day you'll still be there because A) you can't remember which mattress was which and B) you have to wash the restaurant dishes because you left your wallet at home.
Finally however, you will just decide to backtrack to the nearest store and buy the bed closest to the exit. You'll have to ask them to hold it because you don't have your wallet!
*If your usual pajamas consist of negligés, skivvies or skin, you may consider substituting a nice set of flannels. Of course, in a tight spot, you could wear a sweat suit or dancewear.
** You won't be able to actually buy them lunch because your wallet/purse is at home.
***They CAN'T force you to "buy it now" because your wallet/purse is at home!
Stay Tuned for Part 3: Why shopping for a bed is a waste of time…