Several months ago, I could tell my mattress was giving out. It had an inch-long dent in it… at least.
Being a savvy consumer, I remembered that I had a ten-year warranty. This should be easy, right?
Um, no. Welcome to the world of mattress warranty claims.
What Makes (And Sells) A Good Mattress?
Please don’t answer The Heavy.
Of course, mattresses are not a laptop (or in the case above, a YouTube video). They’re big, they’re logistically difficult to transport. And they’re in one of the biggest retail-driven operations in history.
Mattress manufacturers typically sell mattresses with different names, at each retailer. This is to ensure that retailers can tout price guarantees, with the assurance that they only rarely have to actually price match one retailer to another.
Technology does this too, just not as much. This is why one maker will sell a Performix AQ15BB laptop, versus a AQ15WM laptop. I’ll leave it to you to decipher what the BB and WM stand for in the electronics retail universe… but that small change typically lets each retailer rebuff price matching.
Mattress makers however, take that into hyperdrive. Every store has mattresses that are slightly varied, but with wildly different names. I later learned that my Sealy Posturepedic Oak Crest (a Sleep Train exclusive!), suffered from a “low coil count” – I should have researched that first… but even reputable test labs like Consumer Reports struggle to review mattresses; the difficulty in rating mattresses with constantly-changing model names is extreme, even for them. They typically score about 50 mattresses annually, but have an excellent buyer’s guide too.
Two reasons why I buy Sealy… one, every pillow top I’ve owned with them has been comfortable. Two, the ten year warranty isn’t prorated. Sealy is not alone in that, but it is important – so if your bed breaks in year five, you aren’t out half your money (plus more, as I’ll explain later).
Sealy, like just about everyone, doesn’t want you to process a warranty claim with them. They want you to go back to the mattress retailer. This is good and bad. It’s good because the retailer is the customer for Sealy – just like how a carrier orders millions of phones from Apple or Motorola. Only recently have direct-sale phones like Nexus started to change that dichotomy.
For mattresses, you are not Sealy’s customer… Sleep Train and other retailers typically are.
By processing the warranty claim through the retailer, you have someone on your side, to keep the manufacturer honest. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is, you have to deal with the retailer… who is not liable for delays, problems, or logistical issues. It’s a man-in-the-middle that can cause frustration, and resignation.
So, I contacted Sleep Train. First, they wanted my receipts and the law tag. I thankfully had both. Never, ever remove the law tag from your mattress. In fact, you should photograph it with a high-resolution camera for safe record keeping. Don’t lose it!
They sent me an email, with a two page form. I had to take photographs of the mattress, with significant legwork. I had to lay poles across the mattress to establish a level, then tape measure the dimples in the center.
The photos were in. Now at this point, they sometimes just auto-approve the claim. In my case, they wanted an inspector to verify and confirm the information in the photographs.
That was the first retailer-related setback. Sleep Train’s inspector was booked a full month out in my area. They only sent an inspector to each area once a month, so they stack appointments. In fairness, the inspectors are not retail workers… they seem to just do inspections, and did it quite thoroughly in my case.
So now I’ve had to spend two months coordinating this replacement in my spare time… one month, collecting all the documentation to get approval for an inspection, and then a second month waiting for the inspector. Not to mention having to clear an entire day in my schedule, because Sleep Train’s inspector wouldn’t confirm a three-hour window until 4 PM the prior day.
The inspector came out, took several measurements, and signed off that I had a 1.875-inch sag in the center of the mattress, and that it was clean, on the correct box springs.
I say all that so you know what you need. Make sure you are using the correct box springs, and make sure your frame has a crossbar if it’s required. Make sure you check for your specific mattress, too. Different mattresses have different requirements, even at the same manufacturer!
The following week, I called Sleep Train yet again, and this time they finished processing my warranty claim.
That Was The Easy Part!
With all that out of the way, I finally had my new mattress… right? Wrong.
See, all you now have is approval from Sleep Train to swap your mattress out. At Sleep Train. I received an invoice number, good for either a comparable Sealy mattress, or a store credit for a different manufacturer.
I was told I had to select a new mattress within 30 days, now that my claim was approved.
I already knew that I would also have to pay for delivery and disposal of my old mattress, to the tune of $50. And unlike a new customer, I don’t have a 100 day guarantee. The mattress I take home, is it… so I had better like it first.
If you haven’t figured it all out yet, this is a problem. I paid $599 for my Posturepedic. Sealy’s warranty requires that they replace my mattress, not simply give me a store credit at one retailer. What if they don’t have a comparable mattress?
This now begins a litany of qualitative issues. First, Sleep Train does not have a Posturepedic mattress that is $599 anymore. They now start at $649 for my full-size and firmness criteria.
Sleep Train only had one Posturepedic mattress that matched my old one in terms of cost. Worse, and much more objectively… it’s not a pillow top!
That’s right, Sleep Train and Sealy decided that pillow top was a luxury combination for their brand, at their stores. Sealy does sell a pillow top mattress in the $700 to $800 range… just not at Sleep Train.
In its place, they offer a euro top. Haven’t heard of it? It differs from a pillow top in that the softer top layer is stitched into the mattress. That tends to make it a bit firmer… a lot firmer in the case of the mattress I was offered.
Third-party reviews of the mattress offered to me are that it’s rock-hard compared to pillow top’s offered by Sealy. And I would agree.
Sleep Train offered me a different brand, but I would have to pay the full retail price difference (between the Sealy that I bought in 2011, and today’s retail price), over $250! Uh, no. The warranty entitles me to a comparable mattress.
At this point, you probably have discerned what I have been screaming inside my car, and to anyone that will listen to me: I just want my Sealy Posturepedic full-size pillow top mattress to be swapped out with… a Sealy Posturepedic full-size pillow top mattress! No more, no less.
Sealy has marched me back to talk to a manager at the store, before they seem interested in getting involved. As a result, I’m now going back to Sleep Train to bark up the chain. That’s what Sealy appears to have legally promised me in its warranty contract. I intend to get them to honor it, even if many would have just given up in my place.
Stay tuned for Part 2!