Recently I was at the gym and while working out I listened to an excellent Dos Marco podcast featuring Michael Magnuson, founder of Good Bed. In it, Michael discusses what he perceives to be the three greatest threats facing the mattress industry. I thought that the points Michael made were not only important to retailers, but also germane to consumers. I’ll summarize some of what Michael said and also include my own comments.

Threat 1: Cheap Mattresses

Magnuson brought up that back in the day, if a queen mattress was advertised at $200 and you went into a furniture store, they’d point out to you right away the poor quality of that product. With the rise of cheap $200 mattresses on Amazon, the public is now incorrectly being led to believe that these are good quality products, based upon star ratings (which have no validity to quality) and consumer reviews (which are no indication of quality and are initial-term). Also, this is conditioning the public to look at mattresses as a disposable item.

I’d totally agree with this. I’ll add that many of the major manufacturers are placing the consumer into a short-term comfort cycle, with products lasting only 3-5 years (regardless of price) due to the poor-quality comfort materials that are ubiquitous these days. Sorry to break the news folks, but there isn’t a good quality $200 mattress that stacks up to something using high-density foams costing $800-$1000. Anything that tells you the opposite is deceptive marketing trying to get you to buy a product.

Threat 2: Amazon

Magnuson mentioned that there are two ways to succeed on Amazon – ratings and low price. Ratings, even if many of them are fake, are easy enough to cultivate, and in the short-term many people will give a positive review to even a cheap mattress, as it takes time for even a poor-quality mattress to break down. Also, many of the people buying cheap mattresses tend to be indiscriminate, and many can sleep upon anything.

Having a low price is also a way to succeed, as often people looking on Amazon are simply looking for the least expensive item and quite often consider all mattresses as being the same, regardless of quality or price. Both these things tend to drive the race to the bottom.

This is one thing I speak about constantly – the fallacy of reviews (see this Beducation video). Short-term opinions about whether someone likes something or not is purely subjective and totally meaningless. These are comments rendered by people unqualified to provide an educated analysis of a product. You shouldn’t care what mattress I sleep upon and what I like – you should only care about the quality of the componentry inside and the appropriateness of the mattress you’re considering for your particular needs.

Threat 3: Review Sites

Magnuson offered some interesting facts here. He tracks these review sites, and right now there are over 100 active mattress review sites. And about 20% of those mattress review sites are mattress corporate owned!

Almost all the mattress review sites are pure nonsense, strictly marketing with people promoting whatever brand pays them the highest affiliate link, with the site in turn giving those brands the highest rating.

Magnuson mentioned three immediate clues a consumer can use to tell if the site is promoting biased marketing nonsense:

Clue 1: The site has lists of something like “Best Mattresses of 2019”.  

Clue 2: The site has lists of something like “Best Mattresses for Side/Back/Heavy/Whatever Sleepers”.

Clue 3: The site is owned by a mattress company.

Magnuson brought up that there is no way anyone could objectively and accurately come up with a “best” list, as individuals are totally different, and you’d never be able to know what is best for every person. Generalizations like this are pure click bait and SEO marketing ploys. As for finding if a mattress company owns the site, some mention it in a disclaimer buried in their site, and others don’t even bother.

Overall, the topics brought up in this podcast point to the difficulty consumers have wading through the fetid landscape that is online mattress reviews, and how the average consumer is unduly influenced by meaningless ratings and web sites they have no way of validating.