|There's a wonderful CarMax TV commercial airing these days - an absolutely brilliant marketing campaign - in which a white animated line appears and guides prospective buyers and sellers toward the information they need to make their decision. |
Unfortunately, no such magical line appeared for us when we asked, "Gee, where to start?" when it came to mattress-buying.
TV commercial thumb screengrabbed from Google.
|Being Houstonians, we started in the only logical place, which is Gallery Furniture. Even if we don't end up proceeding with a purchase here, the GF reality check feels like an obligatory step in any furniture-buying process.|
But here's the thing: Jim McIngvale got his legendary nickname "Mattress Mac" many years ago. Much has changed since then, and his store no longer has an overriding focus on mattresses.
|Thirty years after it first opened, GF is more about solid wood than sawing wood. |
Houston freeway billboard pic screengrabbed from a Reddit post.
|There's plenty at Gallery Furniture to entertain - or distract, depending on your goals and how you experience the place.|
At one point as a salesman was elaborating with great verbosity on a particular mattress model, I caught a glimpse of Mr. McIngvale as he walked briskly behind a showroom partition.
"Elvis is on the lot," I quipped with a raised eyebrow and an exaggerated expression of sagacity on my face, echoing the title of McIngvale's 1996 book of the same name, which of course I own a copy of.
|Downsampled screengrab from this Amazon site.|
"He's on the other side of the wall. I'm referring to the book," I explained with great amusement.
"Oh yeah - I read it," the salesman hastily interjected.
"Maybe you ought to read it again," the hyper-vigilant Mr. McIngvale growled from behind the partition.
Hilarity aside, we did not proceed with a purchase from Gallery Furniture that day. We came away from that initial shopping experience feeling that we needed additional retail data points for reference.
Sleep Number store.
Mattress Firm store.
|Up until this shopping trip, I had never set foot in one of these places, nor would I even have considered it. This is just my personal opinion, but these stores look SO JUNKY to me!! Cheap mattresses screaming sales prices piled outside, as if it were La Pulga or something!! Is it too much to hope for just a tiny bit of class in a shopping experience?? A retail esthetic that does not totally grate on a person's artistic nerves??|
|And all that garish neon hype plastered all over the windows... "no credit check, no quality" is what messages like this suggest to me. |
By the way, you can see the iconic NASA Value Center reflected in these windows.
|These are just the local Mattress Firm stores - this doesn't include the knock-offs. |
Screengrabbed from the Mattress Firm website.
The Mattress Firm sales people were extremely nice - helpful and responsive but not pushy. We actually focused on a pair of Mattress Firm stores - the clearance center in the NASA value center, and the mainstream retail outlet which is directly across the Gulf Freeway on its east side (in a strip center north of the Webster Cinemark; store numbers 2 and 3 on the map above). The clearance center sells new mattresses but re-stocks are also offered at a reduced price.
We ended up choosing a brand new mattress rather than a re-stock, as we were emboldened by the store's "Happiness Guarantee" of full money back if we ultimately decided not to keep it.
|This one, actually. Neither my husband nor I had slept on a memory foam mattress before, and it's a big financial decision that a person has to live with for years to come. The idea of full money back gave us the confidence to try this route.|
Note that "extra-firm" in Tempur-pedic terms doesn't mean the same thing as "extra-firm" in innerspring mattress terms - it's actually softer (in my opinion).
My recommendation if you become a Tempur-pedic owner: spend the extra money to get the matching pillow because they work together (memory foam goes with memory foam). We got two Symphony pillows in addition to this mattress.
- What I thought I wanted in a mattress wasn't exactly what I needed in a mattress. As noted above, the Contour Select is not the firmest mattress on the market, but somehow it seems to work.
- The best measure of a mattress might not be "how good it feels", which is an instantaneous response to a device that you actually have to use for six to ten continuous hours each day. It's analogous to taste-testing soda pop: if all you get is one sip, you might prefer the sweeter one. But by the time you drink your way to the bottom of each glass, you might find yourself gravitating toward the less-overwhelmingly-sweet brand instead. Similarly, the measure of a good mattress might be the degree to which it doesn't intrude upon your daily life. If you stumble out of bed in the morning without a single reflective thought (negative or positive) about your mattress, it's probably doing its job.