Thursday, May 20, 2010

Brilliant Negotiator

I had spent about a month or so learning everything I could about mattresses. The mattress I currently sleep on is the only one I’ve owned since moving to Massachusetts back in 1997; it was time to find something new.
I had recently purchased some bedroom furniture – nothing super fancy, and certainly not expensive since I am on a super tight budget being a bachelor carrying the mortgage solo, but functional. One thing that was necessary was putting a new mattress atop the new bed and so the story begins.
I’ll try to edit…ultimately, the mattress business is pretty fishy! I would even go so far as to say it’s easier to shop for a car than for a mattress. You see, let’s say you want a Honda Fit Sport – the car and what’s in it is the same at every dealer. There is also plenty of information available about cars so that you can make an informed decision on what you are buying and how much you should pay for it. With a mattress, it is virtually impossible to find an exact match from one store to another and the worse part, it is intentionally designed that way – to confuse and worse, in a nutshell, rip-off the consumer.
Instead of citing numerous examples and getting into more detail than is necessary, I’ll use the mattress I finally purchased as an example and the rest, I’ll leave to your all too vivid and likely realistic (at least in this case) imagination.
The price label you see here is the one that was on the mattress I purchased. In fact, I shot the photo with my cell phone right there on the sales floor. I purchased the King size and needed only a mattress and the bed I purchased has a platform that takes the place of the box spring as the foundation.
First piece of important information is that the $1799.99 price is actually a considerable discount from the $3500 “list price” of the mattress and therefore, just on an initial glance, the average consumer is led to believe that they are already saving nearly 50%. Imagine that the consumer who likes to try to “talk down” the price would even dare shoot for $300, $400, or even $500 off of that – because it seems so unreasonable that if they are already marking the thing down $1700, that once could get that much more chopped off. Alas, spending quality research time about mattresses and learning about the business from as many angles as possible, I walked into that store confident and ready to make an offer and willing to walk out if they said no. This my friends is a major factor in a successful negotiation – knowing that you must walk away if your price, the one you ultimately determine is the most you are going to pay, is not met.
So, here’s the deal – believe it or not, I paid $675 for that mattress. Yes, that is a whopping $2825 off the list price and  $1125 of the “regular discount price”. the most important thing I learned about the mattress business is just how ridiculous the markups are. One important thing to keep in mind is also an awareness of the marketplace. For instance, Tempur-Pedic mattresses are very expensive and probably have at least an intrinsic markup of a similar nature. However, just try to negotiate a deal on one of these and in most cases, you’ll walk out empty handed. The reason, brilliant marketing, strong branding, and good marketing.
Lesson here folks is that when making a big ticket item purchase, take the time to learn as much as you can about what you are buying. Information is power and the almighty dollar always looks nicer in your wallet than someone else’s!

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