A Heads-Up About Mattress Trial Returns and Exchanges

White mattress in a blue room

Shopping for a mattress isn't on anyone's top ten list of things to do on a Saturday morning. Many shoppers develop "large purchase anxiety" when they know they're about to drop a load of cash on something they'll use every day. But what if you end up hating the mattress you choose? Are you stuck sleeping on a bad investment? The good news is there is a way out. . . usually.

Consider this recent mattress shopping experience, shared with Best Company from contributor Tiiu Lutter, from HomeInsuranceRates.com:

"With the assistance of sleep experts (pronounced “salespeople”), we tested what seemed like 100 beds the last time we went mattress shopping. We quickly ruled out foam because our neighbor said that they were challenging for the other in-bed activity which you can’t test in the store. 

We ended up with three close contenders. With confidence inspired by the 90-day trial, we chose the most expensive, a big fluffy cloud promising 25 years of phenomenal rest.

We carefully inspected the mattress when it arrived. Other than a little crooked edging, it was great. 

Sleeping at home is quite different from laying on beds in the store. Turns out we actually spend very little time laying in our primary store testing position: on our backs. I move around a lot and end up on my tummy, my hubby, on his side.

It felt great to get into, but was hard to move around in, and it made me sore. I woke up whenever I tried to turn in this super soft bed, and every morning I had a dull ache in my lower back. After 30 days I asked to swap out. 

The store pushed back. They suggested we try to sleep differently, and that it takes more time to get used to a new mattress. We gave that a shot, but a lifetime of sleeping cannot be changed, even with 85 days of practice.

They did not want to take this bed back. They told us if there were any marks or indication of wear, we would need to pay a huge restocking fee. We had used a mattress pad, so the bed was protected. But when they came, they pushed back on the crooked sewing (like that could have been our fault) but we had pictures.

Take home lessons: fully understand the exchange rules, inspect carefully when your bed arrives, take pictures, and protect your investment by using a mattress pad. If a bed is guaranteed for years, it should be completely like new at the end of 90 days. There should be no divot, no wear, no sign that anyone actually slept in it. If there is, get a different bed. Remember, this is your body and your future. If your bed causes you discomfort, stick to your guns and swap it out! We actually ended up with a high-end foam mattress, and it’s the best ever!" 

Does anything from Lutter's experience sound familiar to you? Have you ever shopped for a mattress and picked out what you thought was going to be the perfect fit, only to find that your aching back disagreed with you after several sleepless nights once you got the mattress home? If you buy a mattress that comes with a trial period, you can rest assured that you won't be stuck with a lumpy lemon.

Trial periods

In the mattress industry, most in-home trial periods last 90 or more days. 

What is the significance of this time period?

"For starters," says Christina Heiser, content manager at Saatva, "you want to have enough time to sleep on a mattress to be able to determine whether the mattress is right for you. It can take up to three months to 'break-in' a mattress — meaning, for the materials to soften up and conform to your body — so look for home-trial policies of at least 90 or 120 days."

"It takes time for your body to adjust to a new mattress," she adds, "and for the components in a fresh mattress to soften up, so it's a good idea to sleep on your mattress for at least a couple of months before you start the return process."

But don't wait too long. 

Laura Mogen, Editor-in-Chief and professional mattress reviewer at www.mybestmattress.com cautions consumers to pay attention to your time frame: "Return the mattress at least a week before the trial is over to make sure to be in time and get your money back"

If you are ready to return or exchange your mattress, how does this process work?

Contact customer service

First, contact the customer service team from your mattress retailer. This could be a direct-to-consumer company like Nectar, a homegoods retailer like Wayfair, or a brick-and-mortar establishment like Mattress Firm. Each will have its own policy and process. 

Depending on whether your policy allows for a return or exchange, you will likely, at the least, have to explain why its not working out. 

If your policy qualifies you for an exchange only, this information is used to help find out what factors to look for in your new mattress. If you had another model in mind, let the customer service rep know about this product and ask questions about whether it will remedy the issues you mentioned earlier. 

If your policy allows a return and refund, it is used for customer feedback about the product. 

Mattress exchanges or returns

Setting up a mattress exchange means two things: getting rid of the mattress at your house and getting a new one. 

Stores that offer exchanges only will often entrust a trained customer service rep or a floor supervisor/manager to help you select the new one, because your trial will likely only cover one exchange per original mattress purchase, or one exchange per household, per year. They want you to be satisfied, so they help you to choose. 

What happens if the mattress you choose costs less or more than the original? If it costs more, you pay the difference. If it costs less, depending on the retailer, you get nothing or an in-store credit refund. 

Most brands only offer one exchange per original order, though some offer up to two exchanges per order. Be sure to read the fine print. And don't forget — you should have a plan in place for what you are going to sleep on until your new mattress arrives. 

Mattress removal

Whether you are using your sleep trial to return or exchange for a different model, there is the little problem of how do I get this thing out of my house? 

First of all, if your mattress arrived compressed and rolled up, many people wonder how they will return it because they can't get it back in the box. 

Don't worry. That's not necessary. Bed-in-a-box shipping is an awesome cost-effective way for for mattress brands to get their product shipped to your door as fast as possible. However, it doesn't have to go back into the box to be returned. 

Katie Golde is Editor and Head of Sleep Research for Mattress Clarity, as well as a certified sleep science coach through the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA). Golde explains, "Many brands will arrange a pick-up time with you to take their mattress back and, don't worry, they won't add it back to their inventory to re-sell. If this doesn't sit super well with you from an environmental standpoint, there are some brands that will donate these mattresses."

Mogen adds, "Also, some companies pick up the mattress themselves, others ask you to bring the bed to the nearest charity." If this is the case, you may be required to provide a donation receipt for your refund to be processed. 

Refund policies

Sleep trials have refund policies of all shapes and sizes. Some offer a truly risk-free trial, where you will get a full refund of every penny spent on the mattress purchase. While any trial policy will help to defray the cost of an unwise purchase decision, not all mattress trials offer a legitimate full refund.

"When reading the trial policy, you should pay attention if you’ll need to pay extra for the return," advises Mogen. 

Here are a few of the fees and deductions to look out for when you are considering exercising your trial policy: 

  • Restocking fees — This is sometimes a standard fee and sometimes a percentage of the price of the mattress
  • Shipping fees — For many mattress brands, shipping fees are non-refundable. There may even be an added shipping fee to bring out your new mattress or pick-up the old one. 
  • Return fees — "Some online mattress manufacturers charge a $99 return fee," says Jeanine Joy, Ph.D., a sleep researcher and editor at bestmattress.reviews. "This is more common when the mattress is delivered by a delivery service instead of by Fed Ex or UPS." However, it can also apply when your mattress is delivered via free ground shipping. This is sometimes also referred to as a mattress pickup or retrieval fee.  

Some sellers will issue a refund immediately. Others will have to wait until the mattress has been confirmed as retrieved or confirmed as picked-up or received by the charity. Once a refund gets issued, expect to see it on your original form of payment within a few business days. 

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