The Bed-in-a-Box Fad

Mattress Fad


What has given way to the recent explosion of mattress retailers offering one-size-fits-all mattresses?

The explanation is perfectly illustrated by a quote from Jefferson Graham’s 2015 article from USA Today:

“I went to Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s first, and there were so many options. Mattresses are complex and there are too many decisions. With [a Bed-in-a-box Company], you order the mattress and don’t have to think about it.”

Mattress manufacturers keep creating new options in an attempt to personalize the buying process. This creates a flood of different options, ultimately leading to consumer confusion. So what’s not to like about the bed-in-a-box? These companies offer a universal product at a lower price with free returns. Best of all? You don’t have to talk to real human being! However, there are some inherent problems with this system:

Does One Size Really Fit All?

You’re a snowflake. How do these companies know what works for everyone else will work for you? And if 15 of these companies have mattresses that work for everyone, how much variation can there really be? Truth is they’re all just stacks of polyurethane foam.

“But mine has medical grade, SuperChill™ cooling foam?”

Yeah, it’s just a polyurethane foam.

“Not this one, its got two UltraSuperLumbarSupport™ foam layers!”

Yeah, still just a polyurethane foam. 

The problem with these fancy-named foams? Polyurethane foam is created using a combination of petrochemicals – chemicals obtained from petroleum and natural gas – to create foams with varying properties. These foams break down more rapidly than organic compounds, and often times have an unpleasant odor. They might feel like a great mattress out of the box, but they aren’t built to last.

Cheap Price

Of course the price is lower, that’s simple economics. They produce a massive amount of one product, using inexpensive materials, and do all their sales online. This way, they don’t have to support a brick and mortar store or a sales team. Price does NOT equal value. Don’t be fooled.

Buying Blind

Are you going to buy a car without a test drive? Sign a lease without stepping foot on the property? No, that would be insane. Research and plan out your decision. A mattress is an important purchase because you spend 8 hours a day, every day, using it. For tips on making the mattress buying process easier, click here.

How Free are the Returns?

Most of these mattress manufacturers don’t actually take the mattress back. They have partnerships with various organizations that help them recycle or donate the lightly used mattresses. All that sounds great, and eco-friendly, but the reality is a large proportion of these mattresses end up in the landfill. This issue was addressed in Ron Lieber’s 2016 article in the New York Times:

“Evan Cohen, the general manager of the 1-800-Got-Junk franchise that covers Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island, says that it manages to completely recycle 30 to 40 percent of the mattresses. The other mattresses go to transfer stations, where some parts of them may be recycled before the rest of the material ends up in a landfill.”

The dollar amount for returns might be zero, but the ecological footprint has a much higher cost. Donation and recycling are not always the easiest or most cost-effective disposal routes, so those options are often overlooked in favor of the landfill.

Fight the Fad

Do your due diligence before making a final purchase so that you know you’re getting exactly what you want. We have a number of blog posts about how to improve the mattress buying experience (e.g. Mattress Shopping: It’s Not Rocket Science, 3 Mattress Shopping Rules). And if all of the information on the web becomes overwhelming, feel free to pop into our store for our “How to Shop for a Mattress” class, where you will get a non-biased informational session dedicated to the mattress industry every Saturday morning at 9:30 am. Whatever you do, wherever you go, please: Try before you buy!

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