网络版：Patricia Marx, How to Buy a New Mattress Without a Ph.D. in Chemistry
印刷版：Tossed and Turned. The New Yorker, June 27, 2022, pp. 16-21.
《纽约客》专栏作家 Patricia Marx 女士的幽默写作火候恰到好处。她的文章远非插科打诨，通常是正经地讲述或讨论一个话题，大体属于 journalism（“新闻写作”不是合适的翻译，因为中文的“新闻”一词含义过狭，远不能涵盖 journalism 的范围，“非虚构作品”差不多），因而完全经得起以严格著称的《纽约客》编辑部的事实核查；同时呢，文章常在这里或哪里经意或不经意地抖个包袱，令会意的读者莞尔。
Before we can talk about buying a new mattress, you’ll need a Ph.D. in chemistry and another in mechanical engineering. How else to make sense of the latest concepts in mattress technology—for instance, hyperelastic polymer, buckling column gel, phase-change molecule fabrics, ballistocardiograph sensors, ice fabric, and 3-D-matrix layers? A master’s degree in marketing and bullshit will also come in handy.
You will have plenty of time to pursue your degree in mattress studies because you no longer have to get out of bed to buy a new bed. ……
[T]he basic types: innerspring coil, foam, hybrid (foam and innerspring), and adjustable air. Within each category are subcategories. There seem to be more kinds of foam mattresses than there are craft beers from Brooklyn, but don’t be fooled by proprietary terms like “Ambien-injected kosher crypto-foam.” There are actually only two types of foam: polyurethane, of which memory foam is a subset, and latex.
The innerspring mattress is the most old-fashioned type (it was invented in 1871, in Berlin) and the most popular. According to one bed blog, thirty-two per cent of Americans own one, and it has the highest satisfaction rate (sixty-three per cent, as opposed to eight per cent for foam types).
The mattress best suited to you is the one that keeps your spine in its natural S curve and relieves pressure points (shoulder and hips) by allowing you to sink into the surface just the right amount. In general, firmer mattresses are better for back and stomach sleepers and for people weighing more than two hundred and thirty pounds; softer mattresses are recommended for side sleepers and hummingbirds.
Latex is denser and heavier than urethane foam, in addition to being more durable, and often cooler. It has more air flow because of small perforations, which resemble the peg holes of a cribbage board. Latex foam is more expensive. It is also bouncier, which puts it on many Best Mattresses for Sex lists.
Did I mention that it’s almost impossible to buy a mattress that is not on sale? March through May is the best time to buy, according to Bob Vila’s Web site, because new product usually arrives in June. But everything is negotiable. Chris Regan, who manages the mattress-testing program at Consumer Reports, estimated that mattresses have a markup of forty to fifty per cent. Haggling usually works, unless you are dealing with a company with fixed prices, such as a warehouse club.
Regan recommends shopping in an area where there are lots of mattress stores. “When you head out of a place and say, ‘I kind of like this one, but I’m going down the street,’ the salesperson will likely offer you a better deal,” he said. If a price reduction is a no-go, try for free sheets or pillows. There are online tricks, too: leave your item in the shopping cart—there’s a good chance you’ll receive an e-mail with a discount code within a day or two.
At Hästens, if you have to ask, you can’t afford it. The company’s most preposterously priced mattress, a king-size Grand Vividus, costs $539,000 (bed frame included). When Drake bought one, in 2020, it was merely $400,000. For non-Grammy winners, there’s a waiting list. Handcrafted by a team of artisans in Sweden, each mattress takes up to six hundred hours to assemble and stitch and is wrapped in checked cotton ticking. If you buy one, even the company’s humblest ($19,575), a pair of “sleep doctors” will come to your house twice a year for twenty-five years to flip, rotate, and massage your mattress.
I wish I could tell you that Hästens mattresses are uncomfortable, because then you wouldn’t even think of spending the equivalent of a year’s college tuition on a bed. But they are extremely comfortable, somehow simultaneously dense and pliant. Oh, well, sleep is as good as college for your brain.
While I waited for the couple chilling out on the Eco Organic model to move on, I asked a sales associate named Desi (long hair, leggings) if customers ever fall asleep. “All the time,” she said. “The longest was four and a half hours. He was so embarrassed that he bought the mattress.”
In truth, the more mattresses I slept on, the more I couldn’t tell them apart.
Jerry Epperson, an investment banker who specializes in the furniture and mattress fields, told me, “We’re an industry where five companies do sixty to seventy per cent of the manufacturing.” He named them: Tempur-Pedic, Sealy, Serta, Simmons, and Sleep Number. A manufacturer often sells the same product to various retailers, each of which may differentiate it in a trivial way—changing the color or the quilting pattern, making it a smidgen thicker or thinner. The retailer then slaps on a proprietary name, deeming the mattress an exclusive. Mattress people call this practice “the name game.” This makes it difficult to ask Mattress Firm to honor its guarantee to “beat any competitor’s price by 10% or your purchase is free.”
Whether you buy online or in person, sample enough mattresses to figure out whether you prefer memory foam, latex, innerspring, adjustable air-filled, or some combination. Don’t buy any mattress that doesn’t come with a trial period. Keep the mattress pristine during this time. (Many people spring for a waterproof mattress protector.) Read the fine print on the return policy to avoid surprises. Some policies allow only exchanges. That’s not for you. In my experience, Costco and Amazon make it so easy to return that you’ll hope you don’t like what you ordered. A warning about warranties: many of them are prorated; many offer repairs, not refunds or replacements; and the criteria for determining what is covered can be stringent. (Technically, sagging means a dip of at least an inch and a half. I’m not sure even an elephant house guest would cause that.) You know that mattress tag? Removing it can void the warranty.
Dobrin Mitev, a former senior manager of affiliate and strategic partnerships for Casper, advised me to beware of ratings. He left his job last year because, he said, “I could no longer get behind the mattress industry.” Third-party review sites, he said, generally earn commissions based on how many consumer purchases are made through their links. At Casper, he said, “I was in charge of giving out a pretty penny to affiliates.” This might be why every mattress seems to have received an award for something, even if it’s Canadian Mattress That Tries Hardest or Best Mattress to Have Insomnia On.
Brent Larson, a rep from the testing organization Element Materials Technology, suggests consulting Consumer Reports, which, as a nonprofit, purchases its own samples from the companies it evaluates and restricts which findings can be used in advertising.
What mattress does Chris Regan, who oversees mattress testing at Consumer Reports, sleep on? “A ten-year-old Sealy,” he said. “Is it time for me to get a new mattress? Yes. Am I going to? Probably not.” He added that the car he drives, an old Jeep, “is one of our lowest rated.” It gets him where he wants to go.