‘Mystery shopping’ for bedding
Bedding salespeople generally enhance the overall experience of shopping for a futon mattress, according to mystery shoppers. In a survey of department stores, furniture stores and bedding specialty stores, salespeople seemed to be well informed about brands and the construction and benefits of particular mattresses, especially sizes of the mattress such as full size futon mattress, queen size futon mattress, etc. However, mystery shoppers noted that some stores did not have enough sales representatives on hand to answer customers' questions.
While bedding manufacturers and retailers debate product benefits, prices, promotions and warranties, there's virtual unanimity on one point: the interaction between the customer and the salesperson will make or break the sale.
With that in mind, HFN decided to get a first-hand look at the shopping experience by hitting the stores ourselves. Several "mystery shoppers" visited department stores, furniture stores and bedding specialty stores, and were asked to evaluate their overall experience and the knowledge and effectiveness of the salesperson.
While "mystery shopping" does not provide a complete picture of the retail scene, the experiences of our shoppers indicated that bedding salespeople are generally helpful and knowledgeable about the products they sell. However, this knowledge did not necessarily simplify the buying process for comparison shoppers.
Salespeople answered questions in detail, using point-of-purchase and other materials to explain mattress construction and benefits.
In addition, many salespeople seemed well informed about brands their stores did not carry.
The most frequent comment about the salespeople was that usually there were not enough of them. Most shoppers had to wait several minutes for a salesperson to ask if they needed assistance. Some were asked, "May I help you?" or "Let me know if you have any questions," and then were left to themselves for five or 10 minutes longer.
One shopper received no assistance at all in a major national department store. There were no salespeople in either the mattress or furniture sections for more than 20 minutes. Other shoppers noted that their salesperson was called away to answer the phone or to help other customers.
Shopper also noted that some department stores and furniture stores had the futon mattress department in a back corner or tucked among lots of other furniture.
All salespeople helped shoppers to narrow their choices by asking about budget limits or level of firmness preferred. With a $400 starting budget for queen size futon mattress, shoppers approached the process by asking, "What is the best I can get for that amount of money?" Most were told they could get a good mattress set for $400, but were also told that a purchase at $100 to $300 more would be worth the extra money. All but one salesperson showed shoppers mattresses that were $200 or more over the stated price of $400.
One salesman compared buying a mattress to buying a pizza. "You can get a cheap frozen pizza that will serve its purpose, but you know it is not the greatest," he said. "Or you can get a fresh-made pizza. You pay more to get the quality, then, if you want, you can keep adding more toppings. You'll spend more money, but you get exactly what you like, which may be different from what other people like." Find more interesting information about queen size futon mattress at https://futonadvisors.com/queen-size-futon-mattress/
Only one salesperson emphasized the health benefits of selecting the right mattress.
"It is one of the most important purchases you can make for your home. A good mattress will help you to sleep well and support your back," the salesperson explained. "And getting a good night's sleep affects how you feel every day, how you work, how you deal with your family."
When it came to discussing brand, shoppers got a lot of mixed messages.
Two of the stores carried only one brand -- either Sealy or Simmons. At the Sealy-only dealer, the brand name was strongly pushed. "It's the top-selling brand, and there's a reason for that -- it's the best you can buy," pitched the salesperson. "I wouldn't sell anything else."
The Simmons dealer talked about the Beautyrest Do-Not-Disturb advertising campaign and showed the construction difference between inner-spring and the Simmons pocketed coil construction.
Stores that carried several brands usually focused on just one or two. Some touted the brand name of Sealy, Simmons or Serta; others emphasized the value of less-familiar brands.
One specialty bedding store saleswoman did not direct a shopper to her large Sealy and Simmons display, but went to several lesser-known brands. "You'll get the same-quality mattress as a brand name," she remarked. "You just pay more for their advertising. You will pay a couple hundred dollars more for a brand name."
One salesperson, in a store that carried Sealy, Simmons, Stearns & Foster and a private label, said: "There are a lot of brands out there, so it is hard to say what the best is. Sealy and Simmons are both great products, but so are some others we don't carry. I would say spend the most money you can afford and then pick whatever feels good to you."
Another salesman was very frank about the difficulty in making a decision about which brands to buy and how much to pay for a quality product.
"The manufacturers make it hard for you," the salesman said. "It's hard enough to tell the difference between futon mattresses, but you can't even shop around for the best deal for the same model. The same bed will be sold under a different name five miles down the road."