Mattress Warranty Basics: A Mattress Industry CEO Insider Guide- Tips Your Mattress Retailer Won’t Tell You!
Buying a mattress has a lot to do with whether you new mattress will deliver on comfort and support. We click the buy button because the mattress has great curb appeal too, along with a great return policy and trial period, but as a mattress manufacturer with 25 years of industry experience, understanding exactly how a mattress warranty works and how well you are protected against failure and defects is just as important.
Generally, most new mattress purchasers don’t spend a lot of time combing through a warranty until the day a problem arises. Typically with a bed in a box purchase, the issues are fairly similar, usually premature indentations, sinking, and obvious impressions in the foam, a defect with the outer covering such as a sewing problem or unraveling of the quilt and other physically obvious defects.
An example of a common defect which is virtually undetectable by the end user is shifting of contents, where there might be a defect in the way the layers are glued together, called adhesion defects.
I advise all customers to look for the warranty description on the retailers site and look for a few key statements to best understand exactly what it covered.
You need to know the conditions of the warranty, especially the timespan the warranty covers, whether the warranty is limited or not, and most importantly, the pro-rated schedule for defects, who is going to pay when, and whether or not you have to pay for shipping to and from the factory if a replacement mattress is in order.
It’s often the shipping cost of a mattress that a manufacturer will take advantage of to prevent you from using your warranty protection. Remember, the mattress you received likely came rolled up in a box, which makes the cost of shipping far less than if you tried to fold it in half and wrap it in plastic (an impossible physical task for most people) or had to ship it back “flat packed”, which means that mattress is shipped unrolled, making it infinitely more expensive to return. In fact, shipping a queen size mattress flat packed back to a supplier often costs more than you paid for the mattress.
We’ll cover the sometimes nebulous terminology that is used for mattress warranties as well so you will know exactly what to look for, but let’s get to the trial period first and cover the warranty after that.
What Is A Trial Period And What Is Considered A Fair And Reasonable Trial Period?
The first you need to understand is that a trial period has nothing to do with a warranty. The trial period is simply the period of time the store or manufacturer allows you to “test drive” the mattress to decide if you like it or want to return it. There are some tricks of the trade with this one (remember, I built and shipped tens of thousands of my own mattresses and had to design my own trial periods and warranties) you need to keep an eye out for.
Generally the trial period lasts from the day you receive the product, not the day you order it, and lasts until the day the period ends. Many companies require that you contact them well before you have the mattress picked up, and a few others will require that you simply let them know you intend to return the mattress by the last day of the trial period.
The best way to make sure you know the details is to call, find a page on the site that you can print or save, or get a rep on a chat and have them explain the details. Very often, customers who fail to understand the duration and policies surrounding the trial period get stuck with a mattress they never intended to keep.
You want to make sure that you do not have to pay for any shipping to return the mattress during the trial period. Generally, almost all online stores are quite liberal about their trial periods, especially since competition for business is now fierce with bed in a box mattress stores. “No questions asked trial periods” are something that is an essential element to be able to sell mattresses online.
An ideal trial period will allow you at least 90 days, if not more. Many companies allow up to 180 days, and a few allow a full year. Generally, you’re going to know if the mattress works for you within 30 days. Even if you travel on business frequently, or only use the mattress infrequently, one month will generally give you that window of opportunity to evaluate it. I honestly feel that a 90 day trial period is generous and comfortable enough to give you time to manage the whole transaction.
Here’s a little secret: The cost of returning a mattress back to the factory is too cost prohibitive for the typical retailer to absorb. In almost all cases, they will ask you to simply donate the mattress to a charitable organization or dispense of the bed. Generally, you will not know this unless you call to find out your options when returning.
Since legally mattresses can not be resold, once you have tried it out, it’s pretty much bound for the landfill which is another problem, and if you donate it, you may have to provide proof of donation, but even that is unlikely because of the hassle factor.
When we sold mattresses online, from 2003-2017, our policy was to tell the customer to dispose of or donate the mattress to whatever charity they chose, and if a customer had no way to dispose to it, we used a nationwide delivery service to come and remove it, and they would haul the mattress to a recycling center.
Once confirmation of the disposal/donation was received, we issue a refund to the customer usually by crediting the card or sometimes by sending a rebate check, which allowed us to have your money a few days longer.
This was common practice, totally above board, but I advise to ask the company-before you buy- for the timeline and details regarding the disposition of a refund should you decide not to keep the mattress.
If you find that the mattress is defective during the trial period, you simply can take advantage of the trial period, and the warranty becomes irrelevant. If you like the mattress but have the option of returning the one you have because you believe the mattress is defective, most online companies will gladly replace the mattress if you can provide some documentation, usually a photograph of the defect.
You won’t get a lot of pushback since you are willing to try the same mattress again and companies don’t want you dinging them negative reviews about a defective mattress, much less an intimidating or cumbersome return experience.
Understanding Mattress Warranties And How They Work
Federal law requires that a company provides a warranty on most consumer purchases like cars, homes, appliances, electronics, and even clothing. After all, it’s the one layer of insurance or protection that you have that keeps you from being stuck with a defective product.
A warranty is essentially an agreement or a promise between a manufacturer and a buyer to back up the product, and guarantees that the product will arrive free of any defects, structural flaws, damage, or other perils that render the product not usable as advertised. The warranty must be clearly presented to the consumer ahead of the purchase.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the warranty watchdog, and you can complain to the agency if there are issues with a product you have purchased, in particular any failure on the part of the manufacturer to perform on the warranty.
For most mattresses, there are essentially two parts to the warranty that you should be aware of:
The manufacturer AND the retailer of any mattress has to convey a written warranty, usually combined into one document, which agrees to repair or replace a defective product under the parameters declared in the warranty. Many online bed in a box stores are using the warranty provided to them by their third party fabricator who is building the mattress for them. Tip: Find a mattress retailer like Puffy who builds their mattresses in their own facilities.
Written warranties provide coverage for a certain length of time, just like an insurance policy listing all of the perils of the policy (the things that are covered). Generally, most mattress manufacturers offer 10-20 year warranty coverage, but a bold few do offer lifetime warranty coverage and will replace a defective mattress for as long as you own it-but the warranty typically does not transfer if you give it to a relative of friend.
Kinds Of Warranties And How They Apply To Mattress Purchases
To protect consumers, products and services come with an implied warranty, regardless of whether or not there’s a written document. This guarantee is in addition to any written document given at the time of sale and includes the implied warranty of workmanlike quality for services, implied warranty of habitability for a home, and the warranty of title that gives the seller the right to sell the goods.
Example: Fruit that looks fresh but has hidden defects would violate the implied warranty of merchantability. All the food in a grocery store has an implied warranty as consumers assume it is fresh and edible—which is why they get a refund if it is not.
Special Considerations Like “As Is”
Marking items “sold as is,” or using similar terms, does not free a retailer from implied warranties in several states. Implied contracts, including implied warranties, are enforced by U.S. law. These are governed by state laws, where implied warranties are unwritten, and thus not covered by federal law. Fortunately, you will never be in a situation where you buy a mattress sold “as is”.
The implied warranty of merchantability means the goods are merchantable and conform to a reasonable buyer’s expectations. Most consumer products have an implied warranty of merchantability. This warranty makes the assumption that a good or product works for its intended purpose. It applies not just to new items, but for used items as well.
The warranty of fitness means a product is guaranteed for a specific purpose. This type of implied warranty is below the merchantability warranty. For example, if you tell a salesman you want a saw for cutting metal and it turns out it won’t cut through metal, you may return the item under the implied warranty of fitness.
For example, a ‘warranty of merchantability’ is essentially a promise to you that if you buy a mattress from a retailer, that mattress will provide an acceptable place for sleeping and rest.
If you buy a mattress that not only provides a place of rest but also promises that the mattress has some ingredient that makes it feel cooler, ‘warrant of fitness’ guarantees the mattress will in fact sleep cooler than a conventional mattress.
It’s probably interesting to note that even products not covered by a written warranty are still protected under implied warranties unless the product is sold ‘as is’ to the consumer. ‘As is’ sales are often prohibited by law in several jurisdictions like D.C. and in many states.
What Is Covered Under A Typical Mattress Warranty?
So, what exactly should a decent mattress warranty cover? Almost all mattress manufacturers are selling a product that is virtually identical to the next manufacturer, except for subtle differences like the use of a coil components in an innerspring mattress, different kinds of foam layers, different fabric and quilting materials used for the outer encasement, called “ticking” in the industry.
Because this is the case, most of the warranties you will read are pretty much boilerplate and may actually be virtually identical from store to store and mattress to mattress. This is again because competition is so tight, that only the best and easiest to understand warranties are going to lock and load customers to hit the buy button.
Common complaints that customers observe that may trigger a warranty claim include indentations and sagging. Most mattress today are designed and built with specialized polyurethane foam layers that resist compression and will typically bounce back when there is not pressure applied, or after it has been rolled and shipped.
Manufacturers are constantly doing compression and rolling tests to defeat these issues, but occasionally, due to an inconsistent batch, a problem with adhesives, or the weight of a very obese person, failures can occur. Tip: if you are overweight, there are mattresses specifically designed for larger folks that resist mashing and indentations.
If your mattress is made with a pocketed coil component, the unit itself might occasionally be faulty, and it can show up as a defect by compressing, not returning to its typical height, and simply failing due to one or more coil units being defective.
Depressions and gulleys are the most common defect with a mattress warranty claim. One thing to be aware of and to ask a manufacturer is the depth of any indentation to allow for mattress replacement.
Mattress warranties will often indicate a precise depth required for an indentations to be considered a defect, and will often describe exactly how to measure the sagging depth. Generally, most mattress warranties describe 1” or more as being defective, when you remove any bed coverings, and extend a straight edge at least 3 feet long over the sagging area and measure the depth of the indentation at is deepest point.
To accurately measure the depth of the indentation, you can also stretch a length of string over the entire width of the mattress. When the line is very tightly strung, use a ruler or tape to measure the distance between the string and the deepest indentation.
Note that most manufacturers will require depths of 1” or even more, as indentations and depressions are normal in most mattresses due to product settling. You may also be required to show pictures of the base that your mattress is lying upon to confirm that the indentation is not caused by a depression or defect in the foundation, box spring, adjustable base, or platform that the mattress is sitting on.
Besides indentations and depressions, there are other less common defects that are covered under warranties.
Workmanship on the fabric coverings including sewing and stitching that have become unraveled, quilting materials that seem to bunch up on one side (called migration of contents), compression of quilted surfaces made with wool or synthetic quilting, and zipper failure, are all possible defect that can affect the performance of your mattress.
Issues That Are Not Typically Covered Under Manufacturers Warranties
Warranties are specifically designed to protect consumers against product defects, but do not include what is considered normal wear and tear, and it is important to distinguish what that means.
Prolonged use is generally synced with the lifetime of the warranty, and normal wear and tear is often specifically addressed. For example, allowing your dog to climb on, repeatedly jump on, and claw his way up the side of your mattress, which will likely produces tears and rips in the fabric, will not be covered.
Liquid stains, including spilled liquids, urine, and other materials, which may cause mold and mildew formation are definitely not covered under warranty use. Tip: Always immediately install a mattress protector on your new mattress.
We actually provided them on my sites to every customer who purchased a mattress, just to circumvent those sorrowful calls that would eventually come to us, about the pet who urinated on a brand new mattress. Liquid damage is not something that is repairable, and will generally destroy a mattress, even if the liquid volume is small.
Lumpiness and uneven materials can also not be covered. Sometimes redistributing the contents by shaking out your mattress can actually solve the problem. Look for “migration of contents” copy within the warranty to see if it is addressed. Discoloration of fabric coverings after applying cleaning solutions is also not covered. Any discoloration or stains are considered liquid damage and are typically excluded.
Abuse of the product, such as jumping up and down on a mattress and producing multiple areas of indentations are actually easy to spot on a photograph, and I can tell you from experience that damage by the owner, especially when it’s abuse, won’t be covered.
Comfort Issues Are Not Covered Under Warranty
Here’s one area where customers get confused, and there is often controversy about this topic. The feel or sensation you receive on the mattress, that is your individual perception that the mattress is too soft, too firm, has a sinking feel (unless it’s an isolated area that you can demonstrate is separate from most of the surface of the mattress) or just doesn’t feel comfortable, are not warranty issues.
Issues of comfort apply when you are first trying out the mattress and it is assumed that once you have gone beyond the trial period and cannot return the mattress, that you were satisfied with the feel of the product. Mattress warranties do not cover these issues. If you have any doubts that the mattress is not going to be comfortable and supportive, send it back during the trial period when you are presented with the opportunity.
A defect must be a measurable quality, a measurable issue with the product that is described in the accompanying warranty, to be covered. “Reduced Comfort” is not a viable warranty claim.
Foundations, Box Springs, Adjustable Bases, And Platform Beds
Foundational support is another common consideration. Most mattress warranties will specify which types of bases or foundations are permitted, including materials, number of legs, and slat gap measurements. Make sure that whatever you are placing your new mattress upon is a recommended base or support element that won’t infringe upon your warranty. Generally, a solid, continuously smooth surface that is supported underneath so that it remains rigid and perfectly flat, must be used.
Factors That Typically Void A Warranty
The most common issues that lead to a mattress warranty being voided by the seller or manufacturer include the following:
Removal Of Fire Label Or Tag: All mattresses will be sold with a small tag attached, usually somewhere on the back surface. This tag, referred to as the law tag, will read ‘Do not remove this tag under penalty of law’. The ‘penalty of law’ in this case only applies to the seller or manufacturer, but the buyer certainly can remove the tag at will without facing any legal repercussions. Since the law tag is considered a proof of purchase, in most cases taking it off will void your warranty. Leave it alone.
Unacceptable Support Surfaces: Warranties assume the buyer will employ an appropriate foundation for the mattress. Typically, a standard mattress warranty will include specific support guidelines that the buyer must follow.
Not Opening Your Mattress Immediately: Although compressing mattresses for shipping don’t damage the mattress, it is the responsibility of the end user to remove their mattress from its shipping bags and boxes as quickly as possible. Some brands stipulate that the mattress must be removed from its boxes within a certain period of time, and I always recommended 2 weeks as the outside time limit for any rollicked or compressed mattress.
Transfer Of Ownership: Warranties typically don’t convey to anyone who buys or receives a mattress from the original owner whose name is on record as the purchaser.
Warranty Length And Mattress Lifespan
What is the expected lifespan of a typical mattress and how does it relate to the coverage provided in a typical warranty? We’ll consider the lifespan of a mattress it’s useful life, where the mattress delivers comfort and support as it was intended to do.
Essentially, the average foam mattress that you can purchase on most e-commerce sites, which may or may not include coils, but incorporates a variety of high density polyurethane foams and a fabric covering, last around 7-8 years. We built mattresses with the finest materials we could use, and all of our products were rated for 20 year performance profiles.
The reality is over the last few years, mattresses have become so affordable, many consumers are expected to purchase a new mattress every eight years. And, mattresses should be replaced pretty frequently. A mattress collects dust mite egg casings, slowly absorbs perspiration and atmospheric contaminants, and slowly becomes a health risk over time.
Further, because mattresses have suddenly become fun and interesting, consumers want to experience the latest technology with smart beds, memory foam that chills and cools, and even warming technology built into mattresses. In fact, many mattress consultants and experts like myself, recommend replacing your mattress every 8 years-at the outside.
So, if you are buying a mattress with a 20 year warranty, the odds are pretty high that you won’t keep it anywhere near that long. With that in mind, most mattress warranties are not designed to last the full 20 years of its life. The way mattress companies control this fact with their warrantees is by slowly reducing the coverage from 100% to 0%, over the lifespan of the mattress.
Warranty coverage is not always easy to figure out when it comes to who kicks in what when a warranty issue arises. Most warranties include both non-prorated and prorated coverage.
Non-prorated coverage means that the owner will not have to kick in to repair or replace a mattress that has been confirmed to be defective. The thing you need to be aware of, once again, is that the consumer is often totally responsible for shipping costs even for a replacement.
Most mattress companies that offer warranties of 20 years, let’s say, typically have a 10 years non-prorated coverage component meaning the consumer gets 100% coverage, and the last 10 years have a step down pro-rated system as we discussed earlier.
Replacement mattress shipping fees can range from free to almost prohibitive rates if you cause, say, a liquid spill, but occasionally manufacturers will discount the shipping fee if they are replacing a defective mattress.