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I've purchased three mattresses in the past five years. The first stayed out West when I moved across the country. The second I sold with my condo. The third arrived on Tuesday.

I like mattress shopping. I admittedly don't do much research online before I buy, because the only way to decide if a bed is right is to test it out in the store. Toss and turn for 10 or 15 minutes on each and narrow it down to the top two or three. Then price comes into play. If they feel similar, I'm going for the less expensive price tag. According to Consumer Reports, the suggested retail price of a mattress is pure fiction and discounts of up to half off the original ticket price are common. Fancy phrases and brand names don't usually justify higher price tags. They recently compared 11 mattresses, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, by cutting each one open and comparing coil count and padding. The difference? Not much. Thicker foam, more padding, and fancier stitching in the higher priced mattresses, but overall they were constructed pretty much the same.

Even if you're paying a sale price, don't feel guilty about haggling for additional discounts. In a furniture store, the margins are usually higher for mattresses than any other product, according to Consumer Reports, and mattress sets from major labels carry profit margins of 30 to 40 percent for wholesalers and retailers. Knowing this, and that stores want your business and are willing to discuss options, helps with negotiations.

The one aspect that won't help much in negotiation is price matching. When we asked our sales associate if he would match a lower price from another store (if we found one), he told us we wouldn't find the exact same mattress in another store so he couldn't honour a price match. Apparently, many manufacturers offer stores modifications of mattresses, so each seller can call the mattress a different name and avoid the lowest-price game.

If you do purchase a mattress, though, and aren't happy with it, for any reason, then there's always the comfort guarantee. Be sure to check the length of time and costs associated with a return. Also, ensure no additional purchases need to be made for the guarantee to be valid. Some stores will try and sell you a cover for your mattress. If it's not necessary, don't buy it. We didn't need a cover to ensure our exchange. One thing we didn't realize though, until the delivery man dropped off our bed, was that our old box spring could void the warranty because the frame might not provide adequate support. If you're only picking up the mattress, be sure your box spring is adequate for return purposes.

For a purchase like a mattress, you'll want to extend the life as long as possible. Major manufacturers suggest a quick vacuum of the mattress every time you change the sheets, and if it's a new mattress then flip your mattress every two weeks and rotate it 180 degrees two weeks after that. It's also suggested you do this for the first three months, and every three months after that. What isn't advised, according to our salesman, is jumping on the bed. Even though it's not ideal, I'm willing to skim some time off the longevity for the occasional running jump into bed.



Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group.