The 25 Step Guide to Buying a Mattress Online

… and what it taught me about project management

Jackie and I badly needed a new bed so we set out to explore our options. I expected the shopping process to be a major pain (and it was), but it was also the smallest part of the project.

I was reminded once again that projects are never what they seem on the surface, and there are always more layers to be uncovered as you try and figure out what’s really involved in task at hand.

The Need for a New Mattress

Jackie and I have had the same mattress for about 8 years and I had formed the infamous “mattress groove”. You all know the one I’m talking about.

Lateral movement had become impossible. Every night I climbed into the same hole about 8 inches from the edge of my bed and there I stayed, motionless, for 6-8 hours (haha jk never 8).

It’s safe to say the integrity of the mattress had been compromised, so we knew we needed a new bed.

Shopping for a New Mattress

I added “Buy a New Mattress” to my todo list and there it stayed for several months. I started out on a more traditional route, by going to a mattress store.

The levels of awkward were off the charts.

Beyond the terrible creep factor and awful shopping experience, most of the good quality mattresses I was looking at were in the $4-5K range. Now, not to say that amount of money isn’t worth it for a great night’s sleep, but if I can get a similar experience for 1/4th the price, I’m at least gonna give that a try.

Besides, if I’m not completely satisfied after 100 nights, they come to my house, throw the mattress on the front lawn, and light it on fire so that garbage mattress can never be used again!

That may not be exactly how it works, but it’s something like that. The return policies are all a little bit muddled when you get into the fine print.

Online Mattress Sales are Bananas

They all promise the same things:

“The best sleep you’ve ever had!”

“At the absolute best price!”

“Every other online mattress company besides us is actually a front for a dog fighting rink. Beware our competitors!”

I’ve been watching this space for a few years now and the growth has been nothing short of remarkable.

It feels like the mattress industry is legitimately being disrupted. According to this USA Today article the online mattress sales market has gone from non-existent in 2015, to over 1.5 billion today.

Anyway, the number of people paying for giant vacuum-packed rolled up mattresses is growing very quickly, and if you know me, there’s nothing I love more than a good bandwagon.

Choosing The Right Mattress Company

There are dozens of options for online mattress purchasing now and I’ve spent more time than I like to admit comparing growth, longevity, return policies, cost, and other factors such as company values and their general standing as a company.

I ended up choosing a Purple mattress for a couple of reasons:

  • They’re a Utah company (support local business. woot!)
  • They haven’t taken on any VC money
  • Their company has been around since well before the mattress craze – they made seat cushions for wheelchairs for decades
  • They have quirky (if not bizarre) marketing that’s fun
  • They have a friendly return policy
  • Their pricing was on the higher end of this category, which potentially means better quality?
  • They had a cool steel platform base that I wanted to try to keep our bed from squeaking when we move

At any rate I was ok to roll the dice on a few hundred extra bucks since every mattress in this category was substantially cheaper than what I was seeing for quality beds in retail.

*This is by no means an endorsement for Purple. I’ve only slept in the bed two nights. I just wanted to share what ultimately made me decide to go this route.

I clicked “BUY” and 3 business days later the platform base and mattress arrived on my doorstep

Moving Day

This is the part of the story where I greatly underestimated the work involved when you buy a mattress online.

First of all, these giant vacuum-sealed tubes are HEAVY. The Purple King Size mattress weighs in at about 150 pounds.

Second, all of my mattress purchases in the past have been done in the store, and we’ve always paid for the “mattress haul away”. That $39 add-on is truly the best money anyone can spend on anything. I’d even say it’s a glorious way to spend money.

Purple, if you’re listening, PLEASE ADD THIS OPTION.  By Saturday evening I was ready to pay any price for this service.

What Does It Really Take to Buy a Mattress Online?

Remember how I so naively added “Buy a Mattress” to my todo list a few months back? Here’s the actual comprehensive list of what’s required to buy a mattress online:

  1. Decide to buy a mattress
  2. Visit a retail store and lay awkwardly in front of strangers
  3. Decide to buy a mattress online
  4. Begin brand research and create a Google Sheet highlighting the pros and cons of each brand
  5. Make a buying decision
  6. Move the mattress from your front porch to your entryway and leave it there for 3 days
  7. Remove bedding from existing mattress and put it in the laundry
  8. Remove all the seats from the minivan
  9. Move the old mattress from your bedroom into the back of the minivan. Protip: Be smarter than me and get a helper. I did this solo and memory foam mattresses are near impossible to move.
  10. Research potential locations where you can donate your old mattress. Sidenote: Lots of Salvation Army and similar places won’t accept mattresses. Bye Bye Mattress is a nice resource to help you find a mattress recycling location near you.
  11. Remove box springs
  12. Assemble new platform base
  13. Place bed skirt on top of new platform base
  14. Move new mattress into bedroom and rest on platform base
  15. Remove vinyl and plastic covering and what that baby expand
  16. Position mattress on top of platform base
  17. Realize the bed skirt has been completely bunched up at the top of the bed
  18. Spend 18 minutes repositioning the bed skirt underneath a 150 pound mattress
  19. Put all packaging materials in the platform base box and move the trash box to the van
  20. Drive to the donation center and donate the mattress, then proceed to the nearest dumpster for disposal of all the packaging
  21. Go to the carwash and vacuum it out since the rear of the van is completely empty
  22. Put seats back in the minivan
  23. Remake bed with fresh sheets, pillowcases, and duvet
  24. Reposition that bed skirt one more time
  25. Sleep forever in your new bed

This Is How Every Project Works

The reality is that this is how pretty much every project works. There are always tons of unknowns, or things we don’t think about in the planning process.

So how do we plan projects better?

Make allowances for unknowns – Giving yourself some padding for any project you take on will not only keep your budgets in check, but it’ll also help you feel much less frustrated along the way. If you’re constantly telling yourself that a project was “only supposed to take 4 hours” or “this should have been easy”, you’re setting yourself up for constant frustration. It’s a self-defeating pattern you don’t need in your life.

Eliminate unknowns or limit scope – Say what? How can we eliminate unknowns if they’re truly unknown. The answer, spend more time in the discovery phase and simplify if need be. Break every project down into it’s smallest parts and the risk for unknowns becomes much lower.

We all have this tendency to want to jump head first into every big project, but asking more questions at the beginning and uncovering the things that matter most, and how to best execute them will improve efficiency in a huge way.

When I went to The Way We Work workshop at Basecamp (highly recommended if you’ve never been) last year they talked through this concept of uncovering the unknowns and eliminating cruft for a good hour or so. They call it “Scope Hammering”.

In their own words:

It’s a rare case when our initial aspirations for a feature don’t meet the boundaries of our cycle budgets. When that happens, our go-to tool for shipping is scope hammering. This basically just means shrinking the scope, removing features or configuration or fidelity, until the work is doable within the time left. It’s the opposite tactic to working longer days or weekends or to postpone the project into another cycle. Almost every project can be scope hammered, especially if you invite someone in to assist with the analysis who isn’t afraid to kill other people’s darlings. You’ll get better at doing that yourself after a few rounds too.

I’m Ready to Order My Next Bed!

Now that I’ve gone through this process I’m more prepared than ever before to purchase my next bed… in eight years…

Or maybe… maybe I’ll apply some of this to my daily life.

Ha! Like I need a new bed every day. Nice try, Ryan.

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