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Considering a bed-in-a-box? What you need to know about the new mattress trend

January 25, 2018, 4:05 AM

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WASHINGTON — Sales of beds-in-a-box have doubled in the last four years, and a leading consumer group has explored the online mattress experience for you in case it’s something you want to try.

“There are many more options available on the market now,” said Sara Morrow, a deputy editor with Consumer Reports. “Many of these companies are competing to make a mattress that’s hitting a good price point and is also offering good performance.”

Consumer Reports finds that online mattress retailers try to make the experience as pain free as possible for consumers. They typically offer generous return policies, long trial periods and free shipping.

Prices are competitive and it’s easier to comparison shop.

With brick and mortar mattress retailers, product names for identical or near-identical models can vary among stores. Consumer Reports finds that online bed-in-a-box companies tend to offer just one model, but that lack of choice isn’t necessarily bad.

“Our tests have confirmed that many of the mattresses do perform well whether you’re a petite person, an average person, a tall person — and, no matter how you sleep,” Morrow said.

Most are made of foam. But bed-in-a-box offerings include innerspring and adjustable air mattresses.

The question is: Are they any good?

Consumer Reports’ independent laboratory testing and ratings show beds-in-a-box get good marks for durability, stability and firmness. Some of these mattresses perform at consistently “good” and “excellent” levels.

The Essentia Strami, for example, tops Consumer Reports’ ratings for all foam mattresses.

“Twelve foam mattresses that are beds-in-a-box have made our ‘recommended’ list,” Morrow said.

And it’s not impossible to try before you buy.

Some brick and mortar stores display products from the online mattress retailers. Target shows twin-size Casper mattresses and Leesa has a relationship with West Elm stores, which has locations in D.C., Baltimore and Tysons Corner.

Consumers can also check the websites of individual companies to see if and how they might offer an in-person, pre-purchase experience.

Rejects don’t have to go back in the box.

Beds-in-a-box are compressed, folded or rolled into what might seem like minuscule containers relative to their unleashed size. But Consumer Reports finds most rejected purchases do result in refunds and the mattresses don’t necessarily have to be returned.

“More than likely, they’re going to give you a refund. But also more than likely, it’s going to be your responsibility to remove that mattress from your house,” Morrow said.

Some companies will work with consumers to arrange for the mattress to be given to a charitable donation or to pick it up themselves.

“Always make sure that you’re familiar with the return policy,” Morrow said.

Should you also buy a box spring?

Consumer Reports advises mattress owners to follow the manufacturer recommendations. Ignore the manufacturer’s advice and you might void the product warranty.

Sticking with a traditional mattress? Take your time.

If you choose to buy a bed from a mattress store, Consumer Reports finds from its most recent survey of subscribers that the longer you try out a mattress at the store before buying it, the more likely you will be satisfied with your purchase.

The recommended tryout time: 10 to 15 minutes.

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About the Emma Mattress in a Box

Packed for Perfection

How the Mattress in a Box Works

Since the mattress in a box can be shipped like a normal package and you don’t have to hire a whole moving team for your bed, your Emma Mattress will arrive in just 5-7 days! We also expected the excitement for sleeping on your brand new mattress so that’s why it is made easy to set up within minutes! Get your pajamas ready because once the plastic wrapping is opened, your Emma Mattress will inflate by itself and still have it’s dreamy comfort.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Your Mattress in a Box Delivery

The Stress-Free Delivery

Emma Mattress in a Box

Since the mattress in a box can be shipped like a normal package and you don’t have to hire a whole moving team for your bed, your Emma Mattress will arrive in just 5-7 days! We also expected the excitement for sleeping on your brand new mattress so that’s why it is made easy to set up within minutes! Get your pajamas ready because once the plastic wrapping is opened, your Emma Mattress will inflate by itself and still have it’s dreamy comfort.

Setup the Emma Mattress in Minutes!

The mattress is so easy to set up, you could do it in your sleep! First, bring the mattress in a box close to the bed or location where it will be set up and then simply take the memory foam mattress out and unroll it on the bed or a flat surface. Once the plastic package is safely cut open, the memory foam mattress takes in air and gets back to its normal form on its own. Next, carefully cut the rest of the plastic, making sure not to cut the washable mattress cover. Then get your pajamas ready and remove the plastic because, voila, your bed in a box is set up and ready for a great night’s sleep!

The Emma Promise

What else can make you sleep even better after this easy process?

We want you to get the best night’s sleep, that’s why we’re not just committed to giving you the best products. We’ve simplified the ordering process and are more than happy to offer you free delivery and returns.

100-night trial

Why not sleep on it? Try your Emma Mattress for 100 nights risk-free.

10-year guarantee

We want you to rest easy. Your Emma Mattress is guaranteed for ten years.

$0 delivery/returns

Delivery isn’t a pillow fight. Your Emma Mattress is delivered right to your door, free.

Sleep tight on the most comfortable mattress in a box

Is a Bed-in-a-Box Right for You?

CR investigates the pros and cons of ordering a new mattress from an online retailer

What’s so difficult about buying a mattress? If you have to ask, you haven’t shopped in a mattress store lately. In the quest for a perfect night’s sleep, shoppers schlep from one cavernous bedding store to another, confronted by row after row of overpriced mattresses and huckster sales folks who claim, “I have such a deal for you.”

Frustrated by this experience, a new breed of entrepreneurs is taking on the mattress industry with the promise of the perfect mattress at the perfect price—and no pesky salespeople. The catch? You have to order the mattress online, and it arrives on your doorstep compressed into a box the size of your coffee table. No store. No sales pitch. No kidding.

While Casper gets a lot of the credit for the concept, the bed-in-a-box was actually invented by a machinist from Johnson City, Tenn., in 2007, seven years before Casper launched. Bill Bradley, founder and CEO of Bed in a Box, built a machine that could compress and roll foam mattresses to a size small enough to fit in a shipping box. He trademarked the name and ran with it.

Bradley’s business (bedinabox.com) didn’t make that big a dent in an industry still dominated by long-established players like 1-800-Mattress and Mattress Firm. It wasn’t until Casper and early competitors like Tuft & Needle came on to the scene—sometimes backed by venture capital—that shoppers began to wonder: Should I really buy a mattress online?

“The idea of ordering a mattress online, the same way you make much smaller purchases, is still a novelty, even though it has been an option for several years,” says Claudette Ennis, the analyst who follows the mattress market for Consumer Reports. “Beds-in-a-box represent just a small part of the market today, but we’ve seen some pretty remarkable growth in this category.”

Most beds-in-a-box are foam, but some manufacturers have found inventive ways to cram innerspring and adjustable air mattresses into cartons, too.

To make the process as pain-free as possible, many bed-in-a-box firms offer free shipping, and generous trial periods—usually 100 days, sometimes longer—and return policies. (Policies may differ if the mattress is purchased from a third-party retailer, such as Amazon.) Compare that with Macy’s, where returns must be made within 60 days of purchase.

The success of major bed-in-a-box purveyors such as Casper, Leesa, and Tuft & Needle has inspired dozens of copycats. Industry sources report that the number of online mattress retailers is now approaching 200, and many are puffing up their marketing messages in an attempt to be heard above the din. “Goldilocks found the bed that’s just right, and now you can too,” Purple touts. “The internet’s most comfortable mattress,” Tuft & Needle declares. “Tirelessly engineered sleep products for your best rest,” Casper claims.

In short, they’re promising to make your sleep dreams come true. Our rigorous, scientific mattress testing and ratings will help you separate hype from reality and guide you to the choice that’s best for you.

Here, the best way to purchase and set up a bed-in-a-box:

A Workaround for Comparison Shopping

One of the most frustrating things about buying a mattress has long been how difficult manufacturers make it to comparison shop. Unlike products that have the same name or model number no matter where they’re sold (a Samsung Family Hub refrigerator, for example, or a Vitamix blender), mattress makers ­often give the same model different names depending on where it’s sold, making it almost impossible for a consumer to compare prices. (They might also make slight changes in construction or materials from one retailer to another.) So don’t expect a salesperson to be able to guide you to a comparable model.

Bed-in-a-box sellers have eliminated this frustration from the buying process by paring down the choices. Many of these companies sell just one mattress, betting that it will suit most sleepers. Our testing shows that in theory, at least, this approach can work.

“We’ve seen several bed-in-a-box mattresses come through the lab that perform consistently, at a level of Good to Excellent, for sleepers of every body size and sleeping style,” says Chris Regan, a test engineer who oversees CR’s mattress tests. In fact, the top-rated foam beds-in-a-box score Very Good or Excellent in our support tests for petite, average, and large and/or tall sleepers.

Say Goodbye to ‘Try Before You Buy’

CR has long advised readers to lie on a mattress in a store for at least 10 to 15 minutes before buying. We still consider this critical. Our most recent mattress survey showed that the longer people try out a mattress before buying it, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their purchase. Ordering online prevents this opportunity.

Certain companies have worked around this limitation by teaming up with walk-in retailers. For example, you can now try a Leesa mattress at West Elm and buy it there for the same price offered at leesa.com. Casper has twin-sized mattresses on display at Target that you can curl up on to see how comfortable they are.

A handful of the large bed-in-a-box companies have showrooms in large metropolitan areas, so if you’re interested in a different brand but you’re not ready to buy a mattress sight unseen, check the company’s website to see whether it has a showroom nearby. If it doesn’t, you can refer to our mattress ratings. Find your size and favorite sleep position, and note the models that provide adequate support for you—and for your sleeping partner.

Unlike mattresses sold at retail, which are usually marked up significantly and offer more price flexibility, bed-in-a-box mattresses are generally sold at a fixed price, making it difficult to haggle.

But there are other ways to save. Check the sellers’ websites for special offers such as a free pillow, and go to goodbed.com, which lists mattress discounts and coupons with savings of $50 and up. Plenty of bed-in-a-box firms offer discounts around the same holidays that traditional retailers do—Presidents Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday. Use a website’s customer-service chat feature to ask about coming promotions or discounts.

Making Your Mattress Feel at Home

Mattresses usually arrive a few days to a week after an order is placed. Although the cartons are compact (the queen-size Lull, for example, comes in a 19x19x43-inch box), they can be heavy, ranging from 60 to 150 pounds, and difficult for someone to wrangle alone.

Shipping is often free, but for an additional fee almost all of these companies offer white-glove delivery, similar to the services offered by a traditional retailer. Casper charges $75 to $100 to move a mattress into a bedroom and set it up, and an additional $50 to remove the old one.

A bed-in-a-box, which is usually foam, is compressed and rolled or folded (or both) before shipping. Most manufacturers recommend unboxing a new mattress within a month or two after it’s delivered. If you’re setting it up yourself, follow the steps outlined by the manufacturer. If you bought a bed frame or platform, put that together first.

Because it can be heavy and unwieldy when fully open, always take the mattress to the bedroom while it’s still in the box, Regan says. “Once you take it out of the box, put it on your box spring or platform before removing the plastic.” (See “Do You Need a Box Spring?” below.)

“Some will be wrapped in multiple layers of plastic; others have only one,” Regan says. “You can use scissors or a knife to open them, but take care not to puncture the mattress.”

Once the wrapping is removed, the mattress regains the volume that was lost when compressed for shipment. It can take a few minutes to a few hours for the mattress to regain its full shape.

The materials in new mattresses can give off an odor, some of which is caused by the breakdown of volatile organic compounds in the foam. “More research is needed to determine whether or not there are any chronic health risks from long-term exposure to VOCs in mattresses,” says Don Huber, CR’s director of product safety. “The odor should dissipate in a few hours or, at most, a few days. You may want to wait until the odor goes away to sleep on your new mattress.” Opening a window could help the odor dissipate more rapidly.

Best Beds-in-a-Box From CR’s Ratings

Our top-rated beds-in-a-box range from $795 to $1,500. In terms of performance, Overall Scores range from 77 to 85. Here, CR members can see ratings for three key performance tests: how well the mattress supports an average-sized person who sleeps either on her back or on her side, and stabilization (how much vibration is transmitted across the mattress.) Click on each mattress to see full ratings and reviews.

Buying a Mattress in a Box Vs. Going to a Bed Store

What are the advantages to buying a mattress in a box versus buying a mattress in a bed store? If you don’t know already, prepare to find out. We take a look at the innovative way mattress companies are changing and what that means to a shopper.

You might think that mattress showrooms in retail stores are the best place to pick a bed, but there is much evidence to the contrary. There are some advantages to buying a mattress online. Take a look at what we found in this mattress buying guide and try to get the best bed for the money.

Mattress in a Box Brand Reviews

Data from SleepLikeTheDead.com and retail sites.

Amerisleep94.7%– plant-based memory foam covered in Celliant-infused fabric.

Bed In A Box 86%– gel memory foam, one latex model available.

Casper 84%– latex comfort layer, memory foam support layer and foam core.

Leesa 84%– traditional memory foam on a foam core.

Tuft & Needle 77%– traditional memory foam over a foam core.

Bed Store Brand Reviews

Data from SleepLikeTheDead.com and retail sites.

Temper-Pedic 81%– memory foam and hybrid.

Sealy Posturepedic 65%– innerspring and hybrid.

Serta 65%– innerspring and hybrid.

Simmons BeautyRest 63%– innerspring and hybrid.

Stearns and Foster 59%– innerspring and hybrid.

What to Consider When Buying a Mattress

The average person doesn’t buy very many mattresses in their lifetime, so there aren’t a lot of expert bed shoppers walking around. That doesn’t mean you should walk blindly into your quest for the best bed. Here are some things to keep with you when you are shopping.

Knowing the Mattress Types

Memory foam, latex, innerspring….what does it all mean? You need to know what you are shopping for before you can find it. There are essentially three different types of mattresses.

Memory foam– these beds are made from viscoelastic polyurethane foam what was developed by NASA. There are traditional, gel and plant-based memory foam beds. Traditional and gel foams are derived from petroleum while plant-based foams are made from soybean oil.

Petroleum-based foams have higher than average complaints of heat retention and offgassing. Gels were introduced to help keep the mattress feeling cooler to the touch, but they have about the same rates of complaints. Plant-based memory foams have a more open-cell structure, allowing air to flow through more easily. This helps to keep the mattress cool. Plant-based foams are also eco-friendly and emit far fewer volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Latex– Latex can be either synthetic or natural as well. Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree. The sap is collected, purified, baked and cured to become latex rubber. Organic latex is latex from all -natural sources that is certified organic. Don’t trust an organic label if all the components of the bed are not organic.

Synthetic latex is derived from petroleum. Owner satisfaction rates are lower for synthetic latex mattresses compared to natural ones. Odor is a major complaint from owners of synthetic latex beds. Be careful. Retailers will label latex that is blended with natural and synthetic latex as “natural.” There are few regulations governing such practices. If a retailer makes a claim, be sure they can back it up. Ask for certifications and proof of their marketing claims.

Innerspring– These are the most commonly purchased and widely available mattresses currently. They have had the same basic design for over 100 years. Innerspring mattresses are metal frames supported with springs, topped with soft filling and covered with a fabric. There are a few types of spring mattresses that are being used by manufacturers today: Bonnell, continuous and pocketed.

Bonnell coil systems have many individual, hour-glass-shaped coils for support. They come in many gauges and coil counts. Typically, higher-quality beds have higher coil counts and a lower gauge is a more firm spring. These systems are much less expensive than alternatives.

Continuous coil systems are made with a single long wire that is shaped into a single piece. The springs are S-shaped and interconnected, drawing support from the adjacent springs. These are typically a less expensive option than pocketed sysytems.

Pocketed coil mattress systems have many individual coils that are encased in a fabric pocket. These provide the best motion isolation of any innerspring system. They have a broad range of durability, dependent on the coil counts and gauges.

Buying a Mattress in a Box

As you can see from the charts above, mattress-in-a-box brands have better owner satisfaction rates than bed store brands. There are a number of reasons for this, but . You can’t stuff an innerspring into a space the size of a mattress-in-a-box package with doing serious harm to the mattress and potentially anyone near it. Foam and latex beds are ideal for the compression, however.

Owners Satisfaction

Owner Satisfaction by Mattress Type

Data provided by SleepLikeTheDead.com.

As the chart above illustrates, memory foam and latex beds tend to rate better than innerspring and hybrid beds in general. Owner satisfaction is a solid indicator for mattresses. A high owner satisfaction rate tells us a lot. People won’t claim to be satisfied if a mattress doesn’t last long enough or a number of reasons. A bed with a high rate has few weak characteristics and will probably keep you satisfied as well. Memory foam mattresses are available from brick-and-mortar businesses, but you will have a hard time finding latex beds in a store.

Reviews

Since mattress-in-a-box retailers don’t have showrooms, you will have to find your bed another way. Read the specifications from the manufacturer or retailer, but make sure to find some reviews from actual customers or independent reviewers. Customer reviews are invaluable, but make sure they are from verified as customers from a third party. Independent mattress review sites can be helpful, too.

Buying from a Bed Store

Trying beds in a mattress showroom is not a good way to get to know a bed. A study from RTI International showed people who selected a bed in a showroom-like setting were less likely to choose the most comfortable mattress for their bodies. You should have a more natural setting to try a bed in.

Comparison Shopping

Some models will have different names depending on the store they are at. The same bed could be called by many different names. This is an intentional endeavor done by companies to make it difficult to comparison shop and find reviews on certain beds. Ask retailers or do some research to see which beds are being called by what names and pay close attention to avoid being fooled.

Reviews

Whether you are buying a bed online or in a store, mattress reviews are great resources. Take there time to see what others have to say about the beds you are considering. Try to find if the models you are looking at are known by other names and keep track of which is which.

Getting to Know Your Bed

If you order a mattress in a box, you’ll probably have a decent trial period to get to know your bed. Many are offering 90 days or more to try their product out. You shouldn’t settle for less than a 30-day return policy for any bed you purchase, whether online or from a store, but 90 is much better. It takes some time for your body to get used to a new sleep surface. Using your bed as you normally would for at least four to six weeks is the only way to know if it will be a good fit or not.

Saving Money by Shopping Online

There is no need to spend more than you have to for a good night’s sleep. There are deals abound, especially near holidays, but you can save any time of year by shopping for a mattress online. Mattress prices at online retailers are on average about 15% less than asking prices at brick-and-mortar stores according to research from SleepLikeTheDead.com. Take a look at the potential savings from these estimations.

Typical MattressOnline RetailerBrick & Mortar
Price (queen)$1,249$1,449
Sales Tax$0$101 (7%)
Delivery$0$70
Total$1,249$1,620

Data from SleepLikeTheDead.com.

As you can see, shopping online has some very distinct cost advantages. You have probably noticed when purchasing things online from a retailer that is out of the state, you don’t pay sales tax on that purchase. With a larger purchase like a bed, you can save hundreds of dollars by avoiding sales tax.

You may find that some brick-and-mortar retailers offer delivery for free, but it is a rare thing. It is a common feature for online mattress retailers to offer free delivery with a purchase. An average of $70 can be saved when the delivery fee is waived. Use the money to buy a nice pair of sheets and pillow cases for your new bed.

Shopping Online is Less Stressful

If you’ve ever been on a car lot, you know what it is like to be pressured to buy something. When you walk into a mattress retailer, it is often very similar. Salespeople typically work on commission, so they will push more expensive beds and offer higher prices. You can negotiate, but you may not get anywhere. You can avoid high pressure situations by shopping online. People make better decisions when they are not under pressure.

The Better Business Bureau advises walking away when you recognize high-pressure-sales tactics being used on you. This includes everything from “first-time-only” offers to holiday sales at mattress stores

Buying a Mattress Should be Fun!

Don’t forget, at the end of all this, you get a brand new bed. While the first few nights might feel different from what you’re used to, after you get used to your bed you will probably sleep better. Almost any new bed will improve your sleep if your mattress is old or showing signs of wear. Whether you get a mattress in a box or from a bed store, you will probably see improvement in your sleep and health.

Bed in a Box: How Does It Work?

What is a Bed in a Box?

Thankfully, the traditional mattress buying model is being updated. A bed in a box is a revolutionary new way to buy and ship a mattress. Born out of newly pioneered manufacturing and packing processes, the bed in a box model allows you to buy a mattress online from your home and have it delivered to your door in a conveniently sized box. It removes the hassle that comes with traditional mattress shopping, and it’s much less expensive.

What are the Benefits of a Bed in a Box?

The bed in a box mattress model simplifies the mattress buying process, allowing you to find the right mattress without the hassle or cost of in-store shopping.

Risk-Free Trials

“Test-driving” a mattress is the secret to finding the perfect mattress. While sleep specialists recommend lounging on a mattress for at least 20 minutes before you buy, no one wants to spend their Saturday hopping from one mattress store to another. Rolled mattresses come with risk-free trials, typically between 100- and 200-nights long, allowing you to test the mattress out out and decide if it provides the right sleep quality for you.

Convenient Shopping

Bed in a box mattresses are shipped right to you, taking the hassle out of mattress shopping. Plus, the ability to buy online frees up your weekend, and returns are easy.

Cost Benefits

Online mattress companies also cut out the middleman, which allows them to sell mattresses without overhead. The mattress is compressed, rolled and packed in a small box for easy maneuvering, and there are no shipping charges.

Easy Returns

If you’re not satisfied, don’t worry about having to repack the expanded mattress back into the box—the mattress will be picked up from your home by the company and donated or recycled accordingly.

How Does a Bed in a Box Work?

Bed in a box mattresses are made out of top-of-the-line, advanced memory foam. Using state-of-the-art, automated compression technology, these mattresses are compressed for shipping into a size that is able to fit in a box small enough to be shipped via standard methods. Their unique foam structure then allows the compressed, rolled mattresses to bounce back and expand into their original shape once unboxed.

How are Memory Foam Mattresses Packed?

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