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Goldilocks goes mattress shopping

When I moved into my condo I decided to treat myself to a new mattress. There was nothing really wrong with my old mattress but it was 10 years old and I had it topped off with a memory foam pad. I disliked having the foam topper separate from the mattress so off I went mattress shopping.

I visited a few locations of a major mattress chain, did some web research and followed the advice of salespeople. I was torn between the semi-firm and the plush model. I was told that as a side and occasional stomach sleeper, I'd be better off with a firm mattress. I specifically said I didn't want a mattress that retains body heat.

Each mattress comes with a warranty, but if there is any stain or tear it voids the warranty even if defective. The only way to have the warranty upheld is to buy a protection plan. I opted out.

Many stores guarantee the best price and will undersell any competitor on an identical bed. But manufacturers rename the mattresses for different stores so comparison shopping is almost impossible.

After a few nights of poor sleep, the verdict was in on my new mattress. I hated it. It was way too firm. I needed a mattress that relieves pressure points. This one didn't. On returning to the store, the softer model felt good, but how can one know after just minutes of lying on it? You're only allowed one comfort exchange, What would happen if I hated the second mattress too?

There were no marks on my first mattress and I was able to exchange it for $35. I talked myself into loving the softer mattress the first few nights. But who was I kidding? It was way too soft. I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks. It was impossible to turn around in the bed without being fully awake since it required sitting up to do so. No matter how I slept I ended up down in the sagging middle which felt like a steam bath. After sha­ring my problem with customer service, I was sent an inspector, who after one glance at the mattress declared it to be defective.

Back to the mattress store. Not wanting to take chances this time, I opted for the newest mattress – full latex, no springs – and took the middle model, semi-firm. My full-body pain disappeared within a couple of nights. But the upgrade cost close to $600.

After a few weeks of sleeping on a latex mattress I can say that it's as cool as promised. However, I began to notice a sag in the middle and began experien­cing lower back pain. Thinking I was going mattress crazy, I took a long, straight wooden stick and performed my own inspection. Sure enough, the stick did not lie flat across the middle of the bed. At this point I would do anything to have my old mattress back.

I phoned customer service and was told the inspector would contact me in a week. A week later I left a voice message. After finally speaking with customer service I was told that there was no record of my request. I sent off a cranky e-mail to customer service and with the aid of a store manager I was offered an immediate exchange. Now it's a matter of deciding whether to just switch it for the same brand or go with a different make and model. The online reviews are very mixed for all brands, and difficult to read when sleepy and in pain.

I've never felt so confused about a purchase, worried about making a choice with such impact on my quality of life. My helpful store manager told me she'd try to work something out to my satisfaction and get back to me early next week. So the story ends in suspense. If it doesn't all work out I may end up sleeping on the floor.

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