Friday, March 15, 2013

Buying A Mattress A Tiring Experience

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, March 15, 2013.


By Bill Gouveia

I am an out-of-touch shopper when it comes to most items of the household variety. It constantly amazes me how much things cost.

Now, talk to me about an HDTV or an updated computer, and I’m okay. Even new cars are something I can be conversant about pricewise. But get into furniture, curtains, carpeting or flooring – and I am lost. Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you.

That’s why the past few weekends were such a shock to me as we went out to buy something everyone has in their home – a mattress. Our old mattress dates back to one of the Clinton administrations, and was clearly in need of replacement. I remembered vaguely what we paid for our king-sized bed back then, and figured things couldn’t have changed that much. My wife just smiled and said we’d go shopping.

As I recalled, mattress shopping was a simple thing. You go to a store, you try out a few in the display room, and you pick the one you like. I tend to go for a softer sleeping surface, while my Beloved prefers a firmer mattress. I figured we’d debate, discuss, compare the alternatives – and then she would tell me which one we were buying. That’s how it usually works.

However, things have apparently changed a bit since we were last in the market. Upon entering a local store, we were guided to a computer where we entered our name, age, general physical characteristics and other information. We were then escorted to a small bed adjacent to the computer, where we were instructed to lay down one at a time and be “measured” for our perfect sleep fit.

That surprised me and immediately removed me from any comfort zone I might have been in. As I grudgingly reclined on the bed, I felt a bit like a large fish being hung on a hook at a dock to pose for a picture. A small television screen above my head extolled the virtues of this sleep system and the importance of selecting the right mattress.

I was told the results of this “screening” immediately pinpointed what kind of mattress we needed. To say I had my doubts would be an understatement, but I played along. After all, this had the potential to shorten my shopping experience. That is almost never a bad thing.

We were then shown to several of the displayed products for more traditional testing. The task now was to agree on a specific mattress we could both live with for the next decade or so. As with most things, that would prove to be more difficult than anticipated.

We proceeded to do the Goldilocks routine. I said the first bed was too hard, my wife declared the second bed too soft, and I was hoping the third would be just right. But when I saw the price, I decided we needed to do more shopping. She just shook her head.

The following weekend we went to a different store and went through a similar experience. Once again I was “measured”, though by this time I was convinced the colored lights were just a scam and looked the same for everyone. But I dutifully listened to the analysis of how I could now be shown the perfect sleep surface.

We were thorough and careful in our consideration. We tried several beds, and finally settled on the one my wife really liked. I thought it might be a bit firm for me, but it did seem comfortable during my brief sampling. So we made the purchase, though it felt like they should at least include dinner and movie for the price we were paying.

The bed was delivered and my Beloved was thrilled. Truth be told, I liked it a lot when I went to sleep those first few nights. On the third night I awoke about 4 am wondering why my back and shoulders felt like they had been beaten severely for an extended period of time.

It’s been a week or so, and I’m getting used to it. I am barely hunched over when I walk now. My wife says we can make an exchange if I want.

I’m afraid she may mean me.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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