Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Buy Your New Mattress at Costco!

In February of this year I had been back in the states for about two months after living in Australia and in those two months back home I began experiencing chronic back pain. I attributed the pain to sleeping on our 10+ year old Serta mattress, after having spent months down under sleeping on much firmer beds. When we tried to flip our mattress around it was obvious that our beloved bed had become horribly saggy and was well past its prime. It also occurred to us that even at its peak, the plush pillow top was probably too soft to begin with to be good for your back. And so began our quest to find a new mattress…

Naturally we considered Costco first, after all that is where we bought our old mattress which had served us well for a decade and Costco is my go to place for well, everything. We were worried though about purchasing another mattress without being able to sit on it or lay on it first. We also had concerns that most of the mattresses on Costco.com had only a handful of reviews so we decided to turn our focus in other directions.

I began our mattress research with my trusty friend ConsumerReports.org - CR.org lays out the most common types of mattresses (innerspring, memory foam, inflatable air, and gel) and the pros & cons for each. They also have tips on when you should start to think about buying a new mattress, how to choose the right firmness and understanding that claimed firmness and plushness vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. They also recommended waiting for sales to buy a new mattress, leaving those sewn in “do-not-remove-under-penalty-of-law” tags attached, and keeping your receipts. That information and more is available to anyone who visits CR.org, but the full ratings from their mattress tests are only available to CR.org subscribers. (Incidentally, since we purchased our mattress ConsumerReports.org has since published an updated Mattress Buying Guide that includes highlights from their most recent mattress tests and several informational videos.) After CR.org I then spread my net wider across the entire internet and I came across an informative, albeit a bit cheeky, website called SleepLikeTheDead.com. Created by chronic insomniac Nick Robinson, SLTD.com provides unbiased reviews on hundreds of mattresses (and other sleep products too) through thousands of unsolicited consumer experiences and testimonials. SLTD.com rates mattresses on 16 different categories including one on how good a mattress is for sex! 

With the information from CR.org and SLTD.com I learned there are two main categories of mattress types: traditional innerspring and memory foam. There is also a third, slightly smaller category of hybrid mattresses that combine memory foam over top of traditional innersprings to presumably get the best of both worlds. There is also a category of adjustable air mattresses (like Sleep Number beds) but due to their high price I decided to focus my research only on the two main categories. Anyway, back to innerspring & memory foam - I noticed the price discrepancies between the two categories were vast, with the traditional innerspring mattresses being by and large the least expensive, and the memory foam and hybrid mattresses being generally the most expensive. But even within the same category you could find mattresses ranging from several hundred dollars to several thousands dollars. I had heard great things from friends about memory foam mattresses so I was open to the idea of them, but aside from their cost, I was also worried about memory foam being too hot and smelling chemically because the top two complaints about memory foam mattresses are that they are too warm and that they smell. 

Memory foam is quite dense, which makes it more supportive and heavier than traditional innerspring beds, but that density means air tends not to circulate through it very well leaving memory foam mattresses unable to “breathe.” That means the heat from your body gets trapped in the memory foam and can make you feel warmer or even sweat while you sleep. Traditional innerspring mattresses generally don’t have this problem because of how they are made and sitting on top of box springs allows air to circulate through them freely. Memory foam mattresses on the other hand require solid bases, like platform beds or solid foundations made especially for memory foam mattresses. Memory foam mattresses cannot be placed on traditional box springs because the foam would sink through the slats resulting in damage to the mattress and less than optimal performance overall. From my research however, I learned that the problem of "hot memory foam" is less of a concern today with current memory foam mattresses as the technology has greatly improved since they first came on the market and newer materials used in manufacturing help keep your body cooler. That is all good news for me because I am, as my grandmother called me, “hot natured,” meaning I always seem to run a few degrees warmer than most people so I tend to always want the air conditioner turned up or the heat turned down. Apparently as a child I used to always kick the sheets & blankets off of me at night as I slept, and since I can confirm that I still do that now as an adult, the thought of sleeping on a mattress that would make me feel even warmer terrified me.

As for the smell, from my research I learned the smell that new mattresses emit is called “off-gassing.” Off-gassing is caused by volatile organic compounds or VOCs which are both natural and man-made compounds that have low boiling points and give off aromatic properties as they naturally degrade. The chemical odor we smell is the VOCs from the mattresses' chemical composition and packaging. (Eww!) Off-gassing occurs with all mattresses (and new furniture and new cars too), but apparently memory foam mattresses have much higher odors (i.e. more off-gassing) than traditional innerspring mattresses. (Mattresses made in the USA are supposed to have much less off-gassing - hence lower VOCs - than mattresses made elsewhere because the US manufacturing process is held to a much higher standard.) I was already familiar with this concern because I have a contoured Sleep Science memory foam pillow that I bought at Costco a few years ago. That pillow smelled so horrible for the first few weeks that I had to leave it in the guest room without a cover or pillowcase on it so it could air out. The pillow did eventually lose all of its “stink” and it is now completely odorless and I sleep with it nearly every night. But what would I do if my new mattress smelled so strongly? How would I “air out” an entire mattress? What if it took longer than just a few weeks for the smell to subside? If I had a super power it would be my ridiculously acute sense of smell. I haven't been formally tested or anything like that, but my family & friends can all attest that I can smell things long before others do and I can even pick up on scents that most people don’t seem to notice. Of course having a super sensitive sense of smell means I am much less likely to tolerate strong odors like when someone decides to "bathe" in their favorite perfume or cologne, or those plug in air fresheners and room sprays, and smoke of any kind. Those all smell so strongly to me and irritate the inside of my nose to no end. Thinking back to my pillow, I wasn’t sure if I was willing to take the risk of having to deal with a potentially smelly mattress for an unknown period of time. 

I concluded my research with the rather unscientific method of polling close friends and family members on their mattresses. My parents have a fairly new traditional innerspring mattress that is very firm and they love it, however my mother informed me that it did not come cheap. My best friend has a memory foam mattresses that she and her husband love and they swear that their mattress never smelled and does not make them feel hot when they sleep.

Inundated with mattress facts and figures, but no closer to choosing one kind of mattress over the others the Husband and I embarked on several “test rests” at local mattress stores. Let me be clear that this process was not fun. From the moment we walked through the doors we were bombarded by high-pressure sales associates who were convinced they could say just the right thing to get us to buy something before we left even though we made it clear up front that we were doing research only and were not going to purchase anything. We tried Temperpedic memory foam mattresses first and I have to say I was not a fan. Even though I was determined to find a firm mattress, ALL of the Temperpedic models felt too hard to me. And the price, boy oh boy were they expensive! Even if they had been wonderfully comfortable we scratched them from consideration because of their exorbitant price. One sales associated tried to sway us with talk about the Temperpedics 10 year full replacement limited warranty and the 90 Night Tryout at Home guarantee, but picking through the fine print the Husband quickly discovered some major issues. For one thing, the entire warranty and 90 Night Tryout are void if you ever get ANY stains, smudges, rips, tears, cuts, folds or creases on the mattress - even water spots. (Oh but don’t worry, starting at $200 the mattress store just happened to sell several different kinds of cases you can buy to put your mattress in to help protect it from those kinds of damage.) As for the 90 Night Tryout, it allows you to purchase a mattress, take it home and sleep on it for up to 90 days and if you don't like it you can return it. BUT you can only return it for store credit, and that store credit can only be used towards the purchase of another mattress by the SAME BRAND as the original mattress you purchased. Which means if you buy a Temperpedic and decide you hate it you’re screwed. The fine print also said you had to pay some kind of a restocking fee for returning a mattress and finally, you have to figure out how to get the unwanted mattress back to the store yourself - without damaging it in any way lest you void the warranty which voids your ability to return it. What kind of “return” policy is that?! Anyway, we moved on to look at some traditional innerspring mattresses (avoiding any that contained the words “plush” or “pillow top” in their names or descriptions). The firmer non-plush, non-pillow top mattresses felt much better, you didn't feel like you were sinking into a hammock shape when you laid down and they were nice and bouncy. However, the ones that we liked were of course the higher end models that cost over a thousands dollars. At another store an associate pointed us towards some Beautyrest Black hybrid mattresses that had just come in - these mattresses consisted of innerspring bases surrounded by memory foam. The best part about these fancy new hybrid beds was the top foam layer is Micro Diamond Infused AirCool Memory Foam. According to Beautyrest this diamond infused memory foam utilizes the conductive properties of diamonds to help move heat away from the body for a “cool, comfortable sleep.” I can personally confirm that the mattresses with this diamond infused top layer did in fact feel cooler on my skin compared to regular memory foam. I can also report that my back and I were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable these hybrid mattresses were. There was just enough give to feel like your body was being softly cradled, yet still firm enough that you could feel the mattress gently pushing back supporting your body. (Oh, word to the wise: if you go mattress shopping in winter, dress in layers and be prepared to strip down to just your t-shirt and jeans so you can really feel the mattresses you’re laying on. Don’t worry; the stores have single use protective covers for the pillows and protective strips for the beds so you don’t have to fret about laying down where some stranger just laid 30 minutes earlier.) I really liked this mattress and I was getting excited that maybe, we had found the perfect mattress. That is until we found out that the price was over $2,000 and that didn't even include the required box spring!

Back home I started scouring the internet for cheaper prices on this Beautyrest Black hybrid mattress that I had convinced myself I had to have, but what I found was discouraging. Similar to how consumers cannot purchase cars directly from the manufacturers (you have to buy through dealerships), apparently you also cannot purchase most mattresses directly from their manufacturers - you have to buy them from those mattress specialty stores or from authorized retailers like department stores. I was beyond miffed, there was no way we were going to purchase anything from one of those mattress specialty stores where you just know their markups are astronomical (otherwise how could they possibly stay in business?) and as I already pointed out above their “warranties" and "return” policies are a joke.

I had all but given up on finding the perfect mattress that wouldn’t break the bank when wandering through one of my local Costcos with a friend (as I often find myself doing), I stumbled across a Novaform 14” Gel Memory Foam Mattress (item #705718 currently available in select Costco warehouses, and item #727407, currently available online). I did a double take because these were not lined up against a sidewall of the warehouse along with the innerspring mattresses; these mattresses were inside gigantic boxes!

According to the box the 14 inch Novaform memory foam mattress is made up of 8 inches of dense base layer on the bottom (for long lasting support), 3 inches of air channel foam (for enhanced air flow) in the middle, and 3 inches of gel infused memory foam on the top (for cradling comfort and to keep you cool as you sleep)

It is also has a 20 year limited warranty, and its made in the USA. Priced at only $699 for a king size, I was elated. And I noticed there was a coupon for $100 off! Even without the coupon the price of this mattress was not even half the cost of that fancy Beautyrest Black hybrid mattress. There was only one day left for the coupon and there were only three king size boxes left so I made the split decision right there to buy it. I figured that if it didn’t work out for whatever reason we could just return it because its Costco (hopefully it wouldn’t have to be returned IN the original box…), and I knew that the Husband (who was out of town at the time) would be shocked but very pleased that for once I went with the LEAST expensive option instead of the most expensive option.

However, I didn’t recall Novaform from my initial research so before I went to check out I did a quick online search of Novaform on my phone. I learned that Novaform (by Sleep Innovations) is a line of memory foam mattresses, mattress toppers and pillows that are available exclusively through Costco warehouses and Costco.com and they come in sizes twin through cal king. I also learned that memory foam is hypoallergenic and memory foam mattresses are much less likely to harbor mold & dust mites than traditional innerspring mattresses, which is great news for allergy & asthma sufferers! I also did a quick check of CR.org and found out that Novaform mattresses are CR.org's highest rated memory foam mattress AND they are even rated a CR Best Buy! (How had I missed that during my initial research!?) Because their memory foam mattresses are compressed and vacuumed sealed to fit inside the big boxes they are easy to get home. There is no need to tie anything to the roof of your car if you buy a Novaform mattress in the warehouse - you can just toss it in the trunk or backseat of your car. (Okay, maybe you can't really “toss” it - the king size box weighs nearly 104 lbs.) But I got the box (which has built in wheels!) loaded into my car with the help of my friend and when I arrived home I was able to unload it and get it inside all by myself. The Novaform website even has a video on how to properly unpack your new mattress!  I immediately opened the box in our living room where I had plenty of open space and I was amazed how it puffed right up to 14” deep in only a matter of minutes! (Yes I actually grabbed a yard stick and measured all four sides to be sure they all came up to 14” high!) The mattress comes already encased in a non-removable protective cover and best yet, it did not smell, not even a little bit! I was ecstatic.

For three days I just left the mattress laying in the living room, partially to let it ‘settle’ and ‘breathe’ but mainly because since my purchase was so spontaneous, I hadn’t quite figured out what to do with our old mattress and box spring. The day that the Husband was scheduled to come home I decided I would move the mattress myself and have it all setup to surprise him. There was plenty of space in the garage where I could temporarily stash the old bed and since our master bedroom is on the ground floor I figured I could handle moving everything by myself so I grabbed our Forearm Forklift straps and went to work. (Forearm Forklifts, by the way, are an absolute must-have item for anyone who is moving, helping a friend move or who wants to rearrange existing furniture. We bought ours on Amazon.com. Trust me, they will change the way you think about moving furniture.)

Anyway, getting the old mattress and box spring out to the garage was a piece of cake and took no time at all. Moving the new memory foam mattress on the other hand proved to be much more difficult and hilarious than I had anticipated or prepared for. I was ready for it to be a lot heavier than the old innerspring mattress, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be so flimsy. No matter what I did to try to balance it upright the darn thing just would not stand up straight for me to be able to pull it or push it down the hallway more than an inch at a time. It kept folding over on top of me and more than once I was afraid it would completely fall on me and pin me to the ground. The thought of being smooshed on the ground under a gigantic foam mattress made me laugh out loud, which did not help my grip on the mattress, or my grip on the ridiculous situation I had put myself in. Determined as I was, (or stupidly stubborn) I persevered but first I grabbed my cell phone and shoved it in my back pocket foolishly thinking I would actually be able to get to my phone to call for help from underneath a 100+ pounds of mattress when it would inevitably fall on top of me. After lots of tugging and pushing and bracing I finally got it down the main hallway and proceeded to make the turn down the small hallway that led to the master bedroom. However, while trying to bend the mattress around the corner I got pinned to the wall and after a few moments of struggling unsuccessfully to free myself I broke into hysterical (and possibly fearful) laughter because there was absolutely no way I could move either of my hands to reach the phone in my pocket. I started to get a little concerned that I might hyperventilate from laughing so hard with a heavy mattress pressing down on my chest so I had to calm myself down. After a few minutes and several slow, deep breaths I was able to calm down enough and squirm out from behind/underneath the mattress. After a short break to collect myself I decided the rest of the way to the bedroom I would only be shoving the mattress from behind, not pulling it to avoid being pinned again. Drenched in sweat and my hair sticking out every which way fully charged with static electricity, at long last I FINALLY got the mattress into the bedroom and flopped it onto the bed. If it had not been for the Forearm Forklifts I would not have stood a chance moving it by myself. (Lesson learned: when dealing with memory foam mattresses use the buddy system!) When the Husband arrived home later he was stunned; he could not believe I had moved it all on my own. That night we both slept like rocks. I don't know if it was just the new mattress or the fact that I got a two hour full body workout moving the thing, but either way we woke up blissfully rested the next morning, just like we have every morning since then :)

It should be noted that there are a few things that may take some getting used to if you decide to switch from a conventional innerspring mattress to a memory foam mattress - namely that you can barely feel any movement when someone or something else sits down on the bed. This was a little disconcerting for the first few weeks when we would fall asleep in one position, then roll over assuming the other had not changed positions because we didn't feel them move, only to be startled awake when you fling your arm on top of theirs where you weren't expecting it to be. And if you have pets that come up onto your bed, be prepared for them to scare the living day lights out of you. Atticus routinely sleeps with us but we can no longer feel it when he jumps up onto the bed; it's only when he steps on us or breathes in our faces do we realize he has jumped up onto the bed. We are pretty used to this now, but in the beginning it was quite startling.

Needless to say after six months of sleeping on this mattress we are EXTREMELY satisfied with our purchase of the 14" Novaform Gel Memory Foam mattress! The mattress is much firmer than our older mattress but it is no where near hard. It may be a cliche but it's true: our new mattress is not too hard and it's not too soft - it really is just right. I am also pleased to report that I have not noticed any increased warmth compared to our old mattress, even on the hottest summer nights I have not felt warmer while sleeping.

Because the mattress is 14" deep you will need deep or extra deep sheets if you don't already have some. Luckily we already had Kirkland Signature, Charisma and Jennifer Adams sheets (all from Costco) and they all fit perfectly. We also have the Restful Nights king size mattress pad (item #590465, available online and in warehouses), from Costco which fits the new mattress well. Since we bought our mattress I have even convinced two coworkers who were looking for new mattresses to buy Novaform memory foam mattresses from Costco! 

Occasionally you can find Novaform memory foam mattresses in the warehouses (particularly when they are on coupon) but they can always be found online at Costco.com. You may notice the prices online are slightly higher than warehouse prices and that is because the online prices include shipping & handling. Currently you can find the king size Novaform 14” Gel Memory Foam Mattress that we bought (item #705718) for $699 in select Costco warehouses or online under item #727407. The warehouses also carry the queen size as well (item# 705717) for $499. On Costco.com there is currently a coupon for $150 off (expires 1 Sep 2014) the Novaform 14" Serafina Gel King Memory Foam Mattress (item #739075) which brings its price down from $949 to $799.

All in all my entire experience has taught me not to second guess Costco and to trust their buyers, who clearly know how to choose quality & affordable products for their customers. I also learned when in doubt it's a safe bet to go with Costco first (especially when purchasing a big ticket item) because if the purchase doesn't work out for some reason, I can rest easy knowing that I can return the item because of Costco's amazing return policy. 

For more information about Novaform by Sleep Innovations be sure to check out the links embedded above. Also, here is a YouTube video by user CostcoTV that describes the features of the Novaform 14” Gel Memory Foam mattress.


P.S. I did check with member services and they assured me that if I needed to return the mattress for any reason that I did NOT have to have it stuffed back in the box. However, they did recommend that I hang on to the box it came in as they prefer you to return items with all of the originally packaging ;)



Until next time,
the Costco Connoisseur

#GoingToAllTheCostcos

P.S.
Follow me on Twitter! @CostcoConoiseur
Follow me on Instagram! @theCostcoConnoisseur

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