5 On Your Side

Man takes mattress woes to 5 on Your Side

Posted June 11, 2008 5:00 p.m. EDT
Updated June 11, 2008 6:24 p.m. EDT

— The mattress is one of most important pieces of furniture in your home. An uncomfortable one can ruin your night’s sleep.

When a Chapel Hill man wasn't happy with his mattress and couldn't get the store or manufacturer to replace it, he called 5 on Your Side.

At first glace, Peter Shortell’s mattress looked fine. But a closer look showed some problems.

“These are the various and sundry unravellings,” he said.

Shortell bought the $750 Serta mattress and a bed frame from Mattress Warehouse in Durham.

Buying a mattress can be frustrating, because consumers can't always comparison shop. Model names for the same mattresses differ from store to store, and prices vary extensively from one day to the next.

As Shortell found, returning a mattress you're unhappy with can bring yet another round of frustration.

“I had a back operation last year at the VA, and I felt like I needed something a little stronger than my beautiful standby,” he said.

His new mattress was delivered in late October. About two and a half months later, he noticed lots of stitches unraveling.

He called Mattress Warehouse. The company sent a representative from "Mattress Marshals" to investigate. The rep noted "stitching coming out" and another problem: a 1-inch “sag right down the middle.”

Shortell said he thought he'd get a replacement mattress. But then, he received a form letter from Mattress Warehouse saying "no warrantable defects were found."

He then called Mattress Warehouse District Manager Kenny Ahern, who basically said the sag wasn't sagging enough, Shortell said.

“The 1-inch sag that is there, OK, is not enough. It's supposed to be an inch and a half … but I've only had it two months,” he said.

Ahern sent 5 on Your Side an e-mail calling the unstitched threads an "aesthetic issue only" and that the "body impressions" do not exceed "manufacturer's standards."

He also noted that he hired Mattress Marshals, an "independent third party" at "no cost” to Shortell, and says the representative determined "no defects were apparent."

However, 5 on Your Side found that Mattress Marshals advertises it works for retailers and manufacturers with a mission to "reduce the operating expenses of needless returns and exchanges."

Ahern has since agreed to replace the mattress, which is what Shortell wanted from the start.

Even though no one from Serta checked the mattress in person, the company told 5 On Your Side the sag is "normal wear" and added the warranty "does not cover mattress fabric, which includes stitching."

Still, Ahern followed through and delivered a new mattress to Shortell on Monday. So far, it’s fine, Shortell said.

Part of the problem with mattress purchases is that many of the warranties offered are very tightly written. When you read the fine print, they often have lots of exclusions.

What you need to know before you buy a mattress, according to Consumer Reports:

  • Despite the claims, there is no best bed for everyone. You'll need to spend time finding the mattress that's most comfortable and supportive for you.
  • Trying a mattress for 15 minutes in a store can predict long-term satisfaction.
  • Although Duxiana, Select Comfort and Tempur-Pedic beds cost $1,500-plus and promise great comfort, real-world tests showed they aren't to everyone's liking.
  • The cheap mattresses featured in flyers are apt to be less durable than others; their padding may be so thin that you feel the springs.
  • Sales are frequent, discounts are steep, and no one should pay list price for a conventional innerspring mattress. If you wait for a sale, you can save hundreds or more.