The Great Mattress Wealth Redistribution Plan
It’s time for a new experiment!
Sleep for free on a fancy mattress for three months, then get 100% of your money back. Your donated mattress will go to a shelter or non-profit, or to an individual who can resell it.
Everyone wins!* And you can keep doing it forever, or at least for a very long time, by trying out different mattresses from competing brands.
*Maybe the mattress companies don’t win. But I actually think they still will, since not everyone will return their comfy mattresses. More on this at the end.
All the details, origin story, FAQ, etc. are below.
If you’ve ever listened to podcasts—pretty much any podcasts that have ads—you’ve probably heard an ad for a mattress company. You might imagine that there are an unlimited number of mattress brands out there, all spending unlimited money on podcast ads.
But it turns out there are just a few manufacturers. Most of the mattress brands don’t make mattresses at all! 😳 They’re just marketing companies that private label their brand on the same mattresses that someone else is selling under a different name.
Their job is to convince you that their mattress is better, even if it’s coming off the exact same assembly line as the other fancy brands.
Competition is fierce, so one of the things all the companies do to acquire customers is offer a free trial of their mattress. The free trial is long, typically clocking in at “100 nights” (3+ months), but in some cases it can be a full year.
Okay, you might think, that’s fine and well—but who returns a mattress? It’s got to be difficult to box it up and get it shipped somehow.
But no! You don’t have to do that at all. The mattress brands will send someone to your house to pick it up, and it costs you nothing. No pickup fee, no shipping cost, no restocking charge—100% of your purchase will be refunded.
All of which got me thinking.
In one of the more random experiments during the two years I spent writing Gonzo Capitalism, I decided to see if I could essentially get a premium mattress for free, indefinitely.
Among other sources, I learned more about the
polyester industrial complex mattress industry from this New Yorker article, which is filled with all sorts of fun facts. For example, did you know that memory foam was invented by NASA? File under: now you know. Also, it’s still illegal to buy a mattress in Washington State on Sundays, though thankfully this law isn’t enforced.
Anyway, back to the point: I’ve been getting free mattresses every 100 days, and it’s working out just fine. If you’d like to do the same, or even just do it once, here’s what you need to know.
How It Works
- Purchase your first spiffy new mattress from your choice of fancy mattress brands. Pay close attention to the free trial length (100 nights is the most common) and set a reminder to request a return before the trial ends.
- Sleep peacefully for 99 nights, or at least a couple of months, and then request a return. Around the same time, order a new mattress from another company.
- On mattress swap day, someone will come and get the old one, and you place the new one on the bed. Done! Now you can sleep on another premium mattress for another 99 nights or longer.
- 100% of your original purchase will be refunded, and your very-gently-used mattress will go to a good cause. More on that … right now.
What Happens to Returned Mattresses?
Well, this is the best part! The returned mattresses don’t go back into inventory—and in fact, the companies don’t even take them back at all! Instead, they send a freelancer to your house to pick up the mattress. After that, one of two things happens:
- The freelancer takes it to a warehouse, where it’s eventually donated to a shelter or non-profit in need of beds. The freelancer is paid for this service.
- The freelancer is able to resell it to a third-party, thus earning a profit for themselves and getting someone else a gently-used fancy mattress. (That’s right, this is a side hustle all of its own.)
In both scenarios, you get all of your money back. And you can keep doing it for as long as you like, or at least until you run out of mattress startup brands to try.
That’s why I call it the Mattress Wealth Redistribution Plan™️. Take mattresses from startups, enjoy them for several months, then give them to shelters or resellers and get all your money back.
I live in the U.S., the land of ridiculous startup money, so most of the brands I’m familiar with are based here.
Obviously, if you live elsewhere, this may not work the same way! But in doing some quick searching, it does appear that there are companies offering similar extended free trials in countries such as Canada, the U.K., Australia, and beyond. As they say, do your own research…
What to Be Aware of
- Uh, be sure to keep your on-loan mattress clean.
Probably a good idea to do this anyway, but just FYI, the companies will sometimes ask you to take a photo of it that includes a piece of paper with today’s date written on it. Think of it like proof of life, just for a clean mattress instead of a living hostage.
- You need return approval before someone collects the mattress.
The company for the first mattress I returned tried to make me call to receive an authorization code. Since I hate making phone calls, I pushed back and pointed out in the online chat that the website was perfectly good at taking people’s money without requiring them to use the phone, so surely they could also verify whatever info they needed by email or chat. They backed down.
Fortunately, the other two companies for mattresses I’ve returned so far were happy to sort it out by email (and there was no hassle about it). I think they figure “might as well get it over with and not fight about returns.”
- Order your next mattress to arrive a day or two before the current one gets picked up.
Most of the mattresses arrive in a surprisingly small box. They need to be unpacked, and typically include a note that says something about how the mattress needs to breathe a little before you sleep on it.
I’m not sure how true that is, but if for no other reason, it’s good to know for sure that you have a new mattress before sending off your old one.
- You can’t actually return the mattress too early.
To give the mattress empire some credit, this is a smart play: you get at least 100 nights (sometimes longer) to try out the mattress before the return window ends, but there’s also a minimum number of nights, typically 20, that you have to keep it.
The companies claim that this is because it takes time for you and your mattress to get comfy together. You know, it’s a new relationship and all. 💑
I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that it takes approximately the same amount of time for a habit to kick in—thus making it less likely that you’ll want to request a return.
- Read the fine print, of course!
It’s not out of the question that at some point the mattress brands will start cracking down. Maybe they’ll charge a restocking fee or force you to figure out what to do with the mattress on your own.
So far this isn’t happening, and I’ve had an easy time with my first four mattresses—but naturally you’ll want to read the return policy carefully when ordering. Better yet, take screenshots just in case.
So far I’ve returned three mattresses and will be returning my fourth soon. It works! And each time I’ve had a good conversation with the person who comes to pick it up. It really does seem to work in everyone’s favor.
There’s probably some way to profit even further by signing up one of the platforms that facilitates mattress returns (and then returning your own mattress—whoa) but I haven’t got that far.
As for the mattress companies themselves, well, presumably you can only do it once for each brand—though I suppose if you really liked a particular mattress, you could always have another person order the next one on your behalf and repeat the whole thing.
We’ll see if the companies get mad at me for this post, but unless it blows up and goes viral, I doubt they’ll care. Besides, I’m only endorsing what they advertise. They know very well that some people buy a mattress intending to return it, but never get around to it—so in those cases, they win.
By the way, in case you’re interested in a recommendation for buying and keeping a mattress, my favorite one so far has been from Thuma. In a way, I wish I’d kept it!
But it was only mattress #2, and for the sake of the story, I had to keep going. Ironically, not only was it the most comfortable, it also had the simplest return process. Maybe at the end of another year of mattress churning, I’ll decide to keep one and will reorder from Thuma.
For now, though, I need to try out mattress #5! I’m looking forward to having it around for another 99 nights.