The Truth About No-Flip Mattresses

About one year ago, I was on the way to get my kids off of the school bus, and I heard an interview by Terry Gross on NPR.  It has stuck with me ever since I heard it, and I wanted to share some of it with you today.

I find the mattress world to be…elusive.  That would be the perfect word.  And if you are shopping for a new mattress, it can be pretty overwhelming.  The first time I ever went to world market, I was going around everywhere to find out everything I could about new companies.  We happened to go by a mattress store, (one of the big ones, but I really can’t remember which one) and decided to go look, even though I probably wouldn’t need to use mattresses specifically in my line of work.  A lady greeted us at the door, we told her who we were, (interior designer) and she told me she needed to get approval from someone else to be able to let us in.  She came back a few minutes later, and said politely that we were not allowed in their store.

That was fine…I didn’t know if that was standard practice for them. Maybe you have to be a direct dealer with them to see their wholesale prices (which I wasn’t), so on we went.  I didn’t think much of it, until recently.  And I started reading comments and articles about peoples’ mattress shopping experiences.  Consumer Reports says they get more inquiries about mattresses than any other product, except cars.  And one of the comments by a customer said something to the effect, “A salesman mentioned once that mattresses in furniture stores are the big money makers.”  That being said, I would like to share with you what the NPR interview said about the mattress industry.

Terry Gross was interviewing a man named Joshua Kosman, author of the “Buyout of America: How Private Equity Will Cause the Next Great Credit Crisis.” In this interview on November 16, 2009, he was explaining his predictions of another credit crisis coming to America, via private equity firms.  What is a private equity firm? They are groups of people who raise money to buy other companies, similar to the way you or I get a mortgage. They put 20% down, and borrow 80%.  But there is a major difference.  The private equity firms put 20% down, then the company which they are buying borrows the other 80%. So the company that is being bought takes on the risk, not the private equity firm.  Sound crazy? It does! So why do companies do this?  To make a long story short, the company can deduct the interest they pay from their taxes, and when that frees up money, they hope to pay off the debt quickly.  It’s a theory that works on paper, but doesn’t always work out in the real world.

Well, the interview talks about that more in depth, but I wanted to focus on what happened in the mattrass industry.  I just needed to explain who they were, because I had never heard of them. Anyway, these firms bought Sealy and Simmons about 20 years ago.  Sealy and Simmons were number one by a huge margin, and the buyout made them stop competing against each other.  They were bought and sold a few times, and the sellers made a lot of money (kind of like flipping houses).  The buyers felt that there was no competition, and raised the prices, making mattresses that the middle-income  level people could no longer afford.  They made short term profits, but then inflation set in, and it got to where they couldn’t raise their prices anymore. So what was the next step? Cutting the beds in half to cut manufacturing costs.

For years, the mattress companies have been marketing the no-flip mattress.  You won’t actually hear them say, ever, that it is a better product, but they have spun it to where we think “Oh! I don’t have to flip it! It must be a better product.”  That just isn’t the case.

I’m not against people trying to make money…we all have to.  But I am against tricking consumers into a product just to get a sale.  The truth about no-flip mattresses is that they won’t last as long.  Period.  You need to be able to turn and flip a mattress to redistribute where your weight compresses the filling and springs.  I haven’t had to actually shop for a mattress.  We have had people give us hand-me-downs, and we gratefully accepted them.  But from what I’ve read, it is getting harder and harder to find double sided mattresses. So if you are in the market for a new mattress, just go in with your head up. Consumer Reports gives these tips when you are out shopping:

Make sure you know what size you need before you go.

Consider an innerspring first: they are the least expensive.  If you want a memory foam mattress, make sure you go and try it out.  It can take time to get use to.

Decide where to shop.  Companies make the same mattress in a dizzying array of options and put them under different names. Comparison shopping is almost impossible, so get information from websites first, then go to the stores prepared with what interests you. Department stores may have more brands; but smaller, less crowded stores might offer more knowing salespeople.

Never shop online-you need to be able to actually lay down on a mattress and feel it.

Look for a comfort guarantee, where you can return it if you don’t like it within a couple of weeks.

Don’t count on warranties…they only cover manufacturer defects, not normal wear-and-tear.  It will be highly unlikely to get a warranty claim.  You won’t be able to get it if the sag is less than 1 1/2 inches, you have removed the “do not remove tag”,  if it is soiled, or your box springs give uneven support, which causes sagging.

Be willing to shop elsewhere…if you say you will buy it from the website vs. the store, a salesman might be willing to knock a little more off the price, so he can sell it.  And wait for the sales.  They will always come around.

And make sure you leave that tag on!

There is one instance where you might want a no-flip mattress.  If you are alone, or have back problems, flipping a mattress can be very hard to do.  So, still knowing it won’t last as long, go ahead and get that no-flip mattress.

This is a really fast way of explaining a very complicated and confusing industry, but I hope it helps a little the next time you are shopping for a mattress!




  1. cally says

    There is a lot of good info on here. Thanks! I can’t wait to try the soup! We need to get the word out more. I am trying to think of how!

  2. Bill says

    To say “the truth about no flip mattress is that they won’t last as long. Period.” is hardly an argument with any substance to it. And the fact that you can regurgitate some recommendations from a pro-consumer company lends no merit to your unreasoned article. The truth is, as with most topics, there are pros and cons in the flip/no flip controversy. I happen to be looking for a flippable latex (hard to find), but there are reasons why flippable is not so great. One of them is that both sides need to have a comfort layer and when the comfort layer is being pressed on a hard surface like box springs or a bunky board, it compresses more easily and flattens the comfort layer. That’s just one reason that, depending on the mattress construction, a no flip could be a better choice.

  3. onion girl says

    Amen! Decades ago I sold good, old fashioned flipable mattress in a department store. I assure people that the current products available in the omni-present highway mattress stores are garbage. Why else would we need this many mattress stores? Because what they sell is garbage and needs to be replaced so often! I have been trying to tell folks for years that the ‘no flip’ was a gimmick. You’ve now shed valuable data that points to some of the roots of the mis-information. I’ve had a “flip” mattress made by a local ‘mattress factory’ in central NJ for 20 + years with a real box spring which has REAL springs. Many of the higway mattress stores are selling what is literally just a box! You can still find the real thing and you will have a better nights sleep for many, many years to come! Sure you’ll have to flip it. Maybe you’ll need to get junior to help. But isn’t your night’s sleep worth it?

  4. John Winter says

    I know the non-flip was a gimmick and BS and I don’t even sale beds in the industry. I’m a consumer but humour’d my wife as most men do. Now she’s complaining because of the roller coaster and rolling into the sag’s even with rotating the bed as required. So this Article is bang on. Consumer testing proves it out, and I’ve noted a large number of people posting the same things over and over, The sag, the out the companies are taking for warranty, the BS that if you don’t buy the box spring that comes with the mattress the warranty is void. I’m going back even if I have to drive there and pick it up myself. I’ll be sharing this link to help the many others who are in the market for a bed. Any feedback contrary to this article would likely come from a salesperson in the industry or the owner of a store selling these BS beds. The only reason I see to put up with a non-flip, would be if you have a bad back, but there’s always kids, grandkids or Summer students to help with this easy task.

  5. Doug says

    Bill, you totally missed the point. The no-flip mattress is a SHAM! A gimmick! Flipping a mattress might seem like a hassle but there wasn’t some sort of “development” in mattress manufacturing that led to the no-flip mattress. The “development” was a sham and it allows the manufacturer to put less money into the product while duping the customer into thinking, “Wow! I don’t have to flip my mattress now!” It’s not that you don’t HAVE to flip it–it’s that you CAN’T flip it. What you have with a no-flip mattress is the same thing–the same issues as a flippable mattress except you are stuck with it eventually sagging like it otherwise would and you end up paying top dollar for a mattress that you CAN’T flip. There is nothing different or special about the no-flip mattress that makes so it doesn’t “have” to be flipped–which means it is true that it doesn’t last as long.

  6. Jeff says

    You can’t get any sleep on todays mattresses and it has nothing to do with sagging. they have changed the construction for the worse. Go buy an old-school flipper from an estate sale for 50 bucks. The last of the good ole flippers–that everyone slept like a baby on, remember?– was made in 1998. If you buy ANY of todays mattresses u are wasting your money.

    It is utterly shocking how this can happen, wasting everyones thousands, ruining their sleep, and effectively ruining their lives. That apparently is fine, thats allowed. But if I go downtown, pocket a 90 cent candy bar, they will call the cops and I will be arrested and fingerprinted. Something is seriously wrong with this country.

    And while I’m at it, also buy your furniture at an estate sale…the stuff at Raymour and Flanagan, Rooms to Go, Restoration Hardware, etc is garbage. Cheap, nasty hard foam.

  7. ken says

    This article is absolutely correct.

    Flipping a mattress is essential. What happens is that the bottom side is compressed, which evens out the indentations caused by the weight of the sleeper(s). While this does gradually compress the mattress padding, it does so evenly.

    A no-flip mattress never has its top compressed evenly in this way.

    Instead, most of the surface is uncompressed, and only the material under the sleeper(s) is compressed. This creates the indentations that never go away on “no-flips”.

    And, the mattresses are now made more cheaply, and with a lot of foam on top in many cases. This causes even more indentation.

    A flippable mattress is essential, but the companies have gone cheap….half the material, less cost, and less warranty.

    Hold on to your old mattress, or buy a hotel-quality flippable. Never a no-flip.

  8. April Richardson says

    It’s just old school preference to flip!!! I work in the mattress, I am prefer the one side. With all the new technology they are the better choice for me, a person that actually sells mattresses!!! After 8 it’s time to terminate even the flippable mattress makers go by this theory.

  9. Jim says

    This article is misleading and truly written by someone unknowable. The simple fact is, tempurpedic began to dominate the market, and other companies needed to change the design of their mattresses. They had to add components like gel infused memory foam, latex, and comfort layers to the design. You would not only destroy a mattress if you flipped them, but the inner springs would have nothing solid to press against if both sides of a mattress were designed the same, so it could be flipped.
    Mattresses are built like houses now; they start with a foundation and then have layers of material added on top, and between them, or in the case of memory foam, all later of material, with the firmest on the bottom (again as a foundation), leading to comfort on the top.
    The dig is this: a good mattress is going to run over a thousand dollars. An excellent mattress will cost significantly more. If a small company is selling at a price that sounds too good to be true, it is. They’d have to have a tremendous volume to pay overhead. If a large company give you the same deal, the salesman just needs a sale to reach bonus, or some other deal.
    Additionally, warranties are your best friend. If you do have sagging, and I would say 100% of the issues I have seen are this, you will get a credit for the entire amount you have paid.
    In any case, that’s the real story. Up to you how to process the information.

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