Wendy and I have a bad habit of living with things even though they’re well beyond their useful life. This fact is extremely apparent when looking at our old kitchen appliances. Though they probably should have been replaced within the first few years after we bought our house, we decided “they’d do” until we eventually renovated our kitchen for real.

Call it maturity, foolishness, impatience, or just stupidity, but we’ve started to feel there has been an error in our ways. Items we’ve long lived with, and have done so without major issue, have begun to wear on us. Lately, we feel like it’s high time to start replacing many of the things we’ve just been talking about replacing for some time now. One of those items is our old and tired mattress.

You may have seen photos of the bed in our master bedroom before. The bed itself is a beautiful carved Louis XVI antique bed from the turn of the 19th century, but the mattress…oh the mattress.

The queen size mattress is actually the same mattress that Wendy bought back in August 2000 on the weekend we moved to Washington DC. It lived in our apartment, then in two rooms of our home, but it was never particularly comfortable. Always too hard for us, we’ve slept with at least one and usually two down feather beds laid on top of it for years.

We’ve actually been talking about replacing our mattress for several years, but for whatever reason, just never pursued it earnestly. Well, over Labor Day (yes, the same day Wendy was lured into our appliance purchase by looking at the deals in the Sunday paper) Wendy saw a “great deal” on mattresses at Sleepy’s, the local non budget mattress store.

I really don’t know what it is, but budget mattress stores are right up there with rug stores. They always seem to be having “blowout bargains,” or are “slashing prices to cut inventory.” Half of them seem to constantly use the “going out of business, everything must go” ploy, and many have the “we’ll beat anyone’s prices, guaranteed” as long as you read the fine print that includes the fact that “anyone” is actually one or two particular stores that never have lower prices. I guess mattress places just sort of skeeve me out. When we decided to go into Sleepy’s, since it was a higher end mattress store, not a bargain basement store, I was hoping to have a slightly different opinion.

We went into the store on Labor Day to “test drive” a few mattresses. They were offering sale prices on many mattresses as well as gift cards to other stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and other retailers for “up to” $400.

When we walked in we were surprised at the wonderful lack of sales pressure. There were several people in the store, but only one person working the floor. He was polite, courteous, didn’t pressure us in any way, and was available to answer our questions when we asked. He actually invited us to lay on a mattress "machine" towards the back of the store that would be able to gage our ideal mattress type based on our sleep style. It was actually a mattress that I’d have to assume has several small scales placed inside of it. The mattress probably senses where the most pressure and heaviest weight sits, then suggests a firmness based on compensation to achieve an ideal weight. In other words, I think it’s mostly sleep fairies and pixie dust that do the calculations.

Based on our preferred sleeping position and a quick lay on the mattress, the machine printed out the ideal mattress scenario for Wendy and me, “Green,” it said.

What does “Green” mean? Sleepy’s offers a specific brand of mattress called “My Side” that allows you to custom fit your side of the mattress with the firmness that works best for you. This allows you and your partner to have a single mattress that accommodates both of your sleeping habits. If you’re familiar with the Sleep Number mattresses, it’s kind of like that, but without the ability to adjust firmness once it’s set.

Lucky for us, we’re easy, we’re both quite close to each other from a sleep rating standpoint and need a mattress that is the same on both sides. Wendy and I went around the store and tried out every mattress that fit the category that our chart fell into.

Yes, I was the creepy weirdo taking pictures of people trying out mattresses in the store...well, mostly Wendy.

Let me just tell you, this was one of the most relaxing shopping experiences of my life. I mean, we just laid around. Curious what it looks like to shop for a mattress? Well, if you’re testing it out on your back, it looks sort of like this.

After testing several of the My Side branded mattresses, we moved over to several of the Stearns & Foster mattresses. As I said, the fact that we were matching ratings meant that we could purchase a standard matched side mattress without the need for the additional expense. This is another item I really need to give the sales guy credit for. He could have gone for the upsell and talked us into one of the much more expensive mattresses. We probably would have bought it, especially the whole “what’s a good mattress really cost when you consider how much time you spend in it every night, versus what you paid for your care?” Instead, he leveled with us and told us about less expensive mattresses and just told us to go with the ones that felt most comfortable.

After about an hour in the store, with lots of laying around, Wendy and I decided on a particular Sterns & Foster that seemed nice and comfortable and would suit our needs. Before we went to the sales desk we took a peek at the pricing and noticed something odd. The pamphlet listed “Sale” prices that masked the MSRP card under it. After we slid the “Sale” prices out of the way we saw that the MSRP was essentially the same as the “Sale” price. Curious, don’t you think? Perhaps old habits die hard in mattress shops.

We sat at the sales desk to let the salesman know what our decision was and that we might like to purchase a mattress set that day. Wendy asked him what sort of deals they had going on for Labor Day, since she had seen the various items in the paper regarding major price reductions and $400 gift cards. He stated, somewhat bashfully, “unfortunately, the mattress you’re interested in doesn’t qualify for the gift cards, and the sale price is the one listed on the price card, there aren’t any additional discounts.” Wendy, using her best “hard ass” negotiating tactics, just stared back across the desk at the salesman.

Let me give you a little insight via my side of this whole exchange.

In the red corner sits Wendy “The Negotiator.” When she wants a good price, she employs tactics that makes me squirm. Wendy loves a bargain, and she’s willing to sit through uncomfortable exchanges to achieve it. She’s ready to walk away from the table at any time, and she’s ready to call any unsuspecting salesmen on this shit. She doesn’t particularly like it, but she likes that she’s good at it.

Across the desk, in the blue corner, sat a young guy, probably in his early 20s, “The Salesman.” A relatively new entrant in the working world with only a few deals under his belt, he probably won’t be doing sales his entire life because he is obviously a little bit uncomfortable with some of the tactics that “The Negotiator” likes to employ.

I hate playing hardball, I hate bluffing, I hate the awkwardness of it. My first job was as a shoe salesman where I had to up-sell cleaning supplies and other useless crap, and I couldn’t do that either. I just hate the whole sales game.

When Wendy’s cold stare and silence was met with a response of “We really can’t do anything with the price, I mean, the manufacturer price fixes.” I knew it was game on! At one point Wendy said “So it really doesn’t matter if we buy it today or later? Here I thought it was important to make sure we bought it today before the Labor Day deals were over.” As I sat watching the awkward exchange necessary to get us to walk out of the store with a mattress that day.

By the end of the conversation we had purchased a Sterns & Foster mattress and low profile box spring (necessary to work with our bed), and ended up with free in home delivery and setup, as well as a $100 gift card to The Home Depot.

Sure it’s not $500+ in savings, but I’d say the equivalent of $200 off of a price fixed mattress (it’s true, I looked up their price fixing) is not too shabby of a deal. We may have been able to get even more out of him, but I almost felt bad for him at certain points. My wife had been unleashed, and there was no stopping her.

We took delivery of our mattress on the day we were leaving for vacation, so we weren’t going to even be able to sleep in it before we left. The delivery service was great. They arrived on time and were careful taking it upstairs and placing it in our room.

I was quite nervous that the height of the mattress would be too much and would look bad on our antique bed, but the low profile box spring really does its job and lowers the height of the thick mattress.

We got the whole bed set up and ready to go with fresh sheets just waiting for our return from our trip. Actually, while we were on the trip and sleeping on mattresses of various levels of comfort, we kept saying “when we get home we’re going to be able to sleep in our new bed.”

On our final day of our trip we had a long 19 plus hour trip ahead of us, but we knew we’d have a nice new bed waiting for us. After several flight delays, we finally arrived home just after midnight and anxiously crawled into bed with our trusty companion, Lulu. The bed seemed to have a bit of a chemical smell, not too unlike that of a new car, but we thought nothing of it and went to sleep.

After quickly falling into our slumber we were awaken a few hours later by a strange noise. Lulu, who tends to breathe a little loudly from time to time, and who has also been known to saw a few logs at night, was restless, uncomfortable, and snorting loudly. The severity would come and go, sometimes worse, sometimes almost like a hiccup, but she was clearly bothered by something. We let this go on for a little while until Wendy and I felt like Lulu must have been bothered by the chemical smell from the mattress. To test our theory we moved to the back bedroom to sleep the remainder of the night on our old mattress in the guest bedroom. Within about 45 minutes, Lulu had stopped snorting and was back to sleep on the foot of our old bed.

Here’s a quick video that shows a little of Lulu’s snorting. It isn’t the loudest or worst it sounded, but it should give you an idea.

The next night we slept in the back bedroom again to see if Lulu would have any snorting fits. We ended up going through the whole night without a peep from our Lulu. Sure, we weren’t as comfortable as we could have been, but we just wanted to make sure she was as comfortable as possible.

The following night we opted to sleep on the new mattress again. We thought that the first night may have been a fluke, but within two hours of falling asleep, Lulu was back to snorting and gasping again. From this, we’re relatively certain the smell from our mattress was ultimately what was bothering Lulu.

Each day we kept our bedroom windows open, the fan going, and took the sheets and blankets off of the mattress during the day. Our hope was to let the mattress air out a little each day so Lulu (and the two of us) could sleep on the new mattress in comfort.

During our vet appointment we showed the video to the doctor for her opinion. She felt the correlation between the mattress and the snorting was likely. Rather than just let Lulu suffer through it, and rather than having us sleep on the old mattress, she suggested we should give Lulu some Benadryl before bed. That evening, we gave Lulu 25 mg of Benadryl on a little peanut butter (her favorite) and headed to bed.

With the Benadryl to keep any reaction or swelling that could cause her breathing difficulties, Lulu was able to sleep soundly through the night, no middle of the night snorting fits to wake us up. Since that first night we’ve continued the Benadryl for both the sleep benefit and to help her in her continued surgery recovery. She’s been sleeping through the night without issue, and we feel like the mattress is smelling far less than it used to.

The mattress, in general, is very comfortable. It suits our bed, sleeping styles, and room quite nicely. I’m pulling for a small feather topper to add a little comfort, but otherwise, it’s a great mattress that we’re happy with. We just wish it didn’t smell so strongly when it first arrived.

We have a 30 day trial that we’re within right now, and we’d have the option to exchange it for another mattress that Sleepy’s offers if we’d like, but so far, we like the mattress we purchased. But I have to admit, we're both unnerved by the smell. If it's causing Lulu to have such a strong response, what harm might it be causing us? Maybe we should have gone with an organic mattress.

Do you have a mattress you love? If so, tell us about it. Or maybe you’ve had a similar situation with offgassing from a new mattress purchase? We’d also love to hear stories about that aspect of new mattress ownership.

Comments 23


9/25/2012 at 11:25 AM
Lana from Making a House a Home recently purchased an organic Bed in a Box and I want to say that she also claimed her bed had a chemical smell but that it went away after a few nights.

My guess is its from the plastic wrap. You can try vacuuming it, maybe even sprinkling some baking powder on it and then vacuum it (it won't harm it in any way, will just absorb the smell.) I think keeping the windows open will definitely help.

We had our mattress for about 6 years old now. It wasn't the most expensive brand nor the cheapest, but after 6 years I'm starting to feel it go a little bit. I'd LOVE to move ours into the guest room (currently sans bed) and then buy a new set for the master, but I just have to convince the husband. Wendy, any advice? :D

But you guys win the prize. 12 years holy crap!
Now that we've been sleeping on it for a week the smell has started to go away. You may be right on the plastic wrap.

I think Wendy's advice would be to complain often and loudly that your shoulder/back/knees/ankles hurt from the bed, and that you sleep so much better away from home. :-)
Jeannie Jones
7/21/2016 at 8:25 AM

I am returning my Sterns and Foster Rarity to Havertys today. I had the worst sleep of my life on day one with the new mattress.

I am sick about the toxins used in mattresses. I review Spas for my work but now I feel like I should review mattresses to help the worlds health issues.

It is scary to think that poisonous chemicals are put in our mattresses and the cancer rates are so high in the United States.

My tumblr blog is hautemissspagirl.tumblr.com Maybe I should review mattresses and be the SleepComfort girl instead.

9/25/2012 at 11:30 AM
I have a Bella Sera organic mattress and I LOVE it. You can choose the firmness and have it be the same on both sides or different with no change in cost. I got it from www.thenaturalsleepstore.com and they were super helpful! I was having a lot of trouble sleeping beforehand AND I have a lot of allergies and asthma. When I got this mattress, I slept through the night for the first time in years - i didn't even know adults slept through the night!
Perhaps we should have checked out these organic mattresses more. Our bed is very comfortable, and I'm sleeping well on it, but the initial smell was just a bit off-putting.
9/25/2012 at 12:27 PM
I feel your pain. We just went through the mattress-buying trauma after previously purchasing a horrible one that we suffered with for years, and went with an organic mattress from Savvy Rest. They have a store in Vienna, VA and like Nicole (above), you can customize your side of the bed and change it as you change your preferences. They will be at the Green Festival in DC this weekend, although I'd suggest visiting the store rather than having thousands gawk at you stretched out. (Unless you like that...haha). If you visit the store, ask for Vey, or Maddie, if Vey is not in. They have all the different configuration there for you to try. A great mattress, and it's from a local company near Charlottesville.
Apparently I felt Wendy wouldn't mind people gawking at her while resting, hence the photos above. :-)

Might have to go look into the store in Vienna. Thanks.
9/25/2012 at 12:30 PM
When we do our master bedroom reno, a new mattress is on the "must have" list! We are using Mike's mattress that he's had since highschool, haha.
I really don't know why it took us so long after we even did our master. We're just lame/lazy that way I guess.
9/25/2012 at 1:35 PM
Aw. Sweet Lulu. Hopefully you can wean her off the benadryl soon enough. I'm glad you have a workaround for her though. And way to go Wendy! I am more like Alex ..

Am in the same mattress boat here - living with a 12 year old mattress that is too big for me to rotate. It was top-of-the-line at the time and really shouldn't need to be replaced yet given the amount of use it has had through the years (storage for several years), but I just had to switch sides because the dip got too dippy. What I really need to do is scale back from king to queen. Will have to bite the bullet one of these days. Wendy want to come shopping with me? lol.
Luckily we have her on the Benadryl to also help with her surgery recovery, and she should stay on it until Thursday. We plan to get her off of it and hopefully the mattress has aired out enough to not bother her.
9/25/2012 at 1:36 PM
I'm totally uncomfortable with negotiations, but sometimes it's necessary. We actually walked out of Sleepy's unwilling to settle with their Presidents' Day sale offer, only to have the guy call us later and offer us a better discount if we bought that day. I hated the bed the first few nights - after I got used to it, I still sort of hate it because I don't sleep as well anywhere else!
Man, maybe we should have used the "We're walking" technique.
Laura McClung Adams
9/25/2012 at 1:59 PM
I second the Savvy Rest organic latex mattress suggestion! We needed a new mattress two years ago and I was concerned about the VOC off-gassing. We've had ours for two years now and LOVE it! Anytime I travel, I can't wait to sleep in my own bed again! We drove out to the Charlottesville store from DC and tested them all out. We each customized our own side. Couldn't be happier!
We'll have to check it out. Our mattress is very nice and comfortable, it's just the initial smell that bothered us.
Teri Lynn
9/25/2012 at 2:11 PM
I wish my husband and I had heeded the advice of others and really shopped around for a mattress. We bought ours from Ikea since we were buying a bed there already and after a week we realized it was a huge mistake. It's so uncomfortable and it bunches. Fast forward 6 years and we still have it just because I can't bring myself to spend the money on a new one.
You're not the first person that's said something negative about IKEA mattresses, I can assure you of that.
9/25/2012 at 8:17 PM
We are sleeping on a Sterns & Foster we have had more than ten years. It was top of the line and hard as an ironing board. We have had to have toppers since we bought it because, really it was just too hard. We recently invested in a three inch natural latex topper. There was never any problem with gasses with the natural latex. I think I would contact the store about the smell, it can't be healthy for you or Lulu. Don't let the time pass where it can be returned. Take a ride to Charlottesville or Vienna to check out the recommendations in previous comments.
I think we will take a trip out and check out the other options before the "trial run" is up through this mattress. We're really liking it, and it's very comfortable, it's only the smell we're worried about. Lulu is not having any problems now (knock on wood), so hopefully we're all okay now.
9/26/2012 at 12:09 AM
First, I had no idea Sleepy's was a better store than the usual sketchy mattress stores, so thanks for the info.
Second, poor Lulu!!
Third, I love doing the hardball negotiations. It's amazing what a little awkward silences can do to a salesman.
Finally, wanted to share our mattress bit. We ended up going with an IKEA foam mattress of some sort because they are more eco friendly and don't off-gas like regular mattresses, but are more affordably priced than organic foam like Savvy Rest. It's been 4 years and the mattress is still great. Also, the sales people at IKEA don't try to sell you like a regular mattress store does :). I'd stay away from their coil spring mattresses, but am a huge fan of the poly and foam ones.
I hope Lulu gets better with the mattress soon!
Lulu's seems to be doing much better, and we also notice the odor going away a little more each night.

I'm glad you're having a good IKEA mattress experience, I've heard the opposite from so many people, though I think they were talking about the coil ones.

Do you feel like the poly or foam mattress from them makes you "sleep hotter"?
9/26/2012 at 12:04 PM
Yeah, the coil spring matteresse at Ikea just feel flimsy and cheap. I would never buy one of them. We don't feel like our mattress has us feeling hotter than any other - in fact we used the Ikea online tool that asks you questions and then recommends a few mattresses. One of the questions deals with sleeping temps, and since Ryan verges on being too hot even when it's feezing cold, that was an important consideration. I was wrong to use the word "poly" - apparently it's latex and foam.

Forgot to mention also that we love the flip-ability of it. I hate that new traditional matteresses can't be flipped over like the old ones.

I guess I have a lot to say about them!

I'm glad Lulu is adjusting and the odor is dissipating!
7/11/2017 at 5:05 AM

Stearns was bought by Sealy a couple yrs ago. I learned from a mattress salesperson that Sealy sprays their mattresses with a fire retardant chemical. I'm sure this is the reason that the newer Stearns mattresses have this odor. In the past, Stearns used a natural fire retardant threading/fabric like Kevlar that is naturally fire retardant. Since being bought by Sealy they must have succumbed to the practices of Sealy. I know this to be true. I had a Stearns about 5 yrs ago and there was no odor when I received it. I just bought a new one 2 weeks ago and it had the awful chemical odor. I returned it becaus it bothered me so bad. I also had a friend who bought a Sealy last year with that same odor and it took months to air out! If u want no odor then purchase a Simmons Beautyrest or Serta. Or get a floor model.

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