ADAM MCKAY: Yeah!
ADAM DAVIDSON: Should we get in the same bed? Adam, we’ve never done this, but should we cuddle a little or is that weird?
VERONICA: We call it spooning here.
DAVIDSON: Wow, they just lowered the light. Did you notice that?
MCKAY: Nothing for 3 minutes.
DAVIDSON: From Gimlet Media, this is Surprisingly Awesome. I’m Adam Davidson.
MCKAY: And I am Adam McKay.
DAVIDSON: And as you know, each week we pick something that seems mundane and reveal what is surprisingly awesome about it. And this week, Adam...
MCKAY: This is something you spend a third of your life on, but I’m guessing you don’t think about it at all. We’re talking about one of the sexiest, most violent, intriguing, clickbait subjects we’ve ever had—breathe through your nose, breathe out your mouth—MATTRESSES.
DAVIDSON: I am in the market for a mattress right now. I’ve actually known I’ve needed a new mattress for like two or three years, and I am stuck. Because every time I dip my toe in, it just seems like this terrifying universe. I laid in a bunch of mattresses and I found the one I liked the most and I really liked it a lot. And here are the list of features. It has a silk cashmere infused cover. It has hand tufting. It has a Primasense gel foam. But also a Primacool gel memory foam.
MCKAY: Does it have Corinthian leather? Those sound like the biggest list of fake brags ever. You could describe a paper cup like that. It’s got wax embossed exterior grip holding. It’s got a receded base, for easy placement on tables and surfaces. Yeah, that all sounds made up, I gotta be honest.
DAVIDSON: Yeah but, that’s what we’re here to find out. Is it all made up? What’s actually going on secretly inside the mattress where you can’t see anything? Is there a difference to you, in your life, if you get a foam mattress, or a spring mattress, or a hybrid mattress of the two of them? If you spend 100 bucks or 100,000 bucks?
MCKAY: Well, you know in screenwriting we would call this the first act conflict. So first act, Adam Davidson looks pensively at a mattress for sale, deciding.
DAVIDSON: I know you’ve been thinking about what’s your next project. It sounds like you have the first three pages of a script.
MCKAY: I mean, let’s see. Let’s see. Because Daniel Day-Lewis I know doesn’t have a project.
RACHEL WARD: Guys, can I interrupt here for a second?
DAVIDSON: This is, of course, our producer Rachel Ward.
RACHEL: I find this a little bit ridiculous. I do have a problem, Adam, with the fact that you’ve been trying to buy a new mattress for two years. Because my approach to this problem was so much simpler than what you seem to have subjected yourself to. A year ago, on January 1st, 2015, I woke up and I was like new year, new you, I’m gonna go get a mattress. Because I’d been sleeping on a twin bed. I think I had the idea at like 8 a.m. and by 10 a.m. I was at an Ikea. They have like five mattresses and then they just had a list on the wall, and it’s here’s the name of the mattress, it’s called the Hellaskurgensemenborgen. And it’s got like these five features. I just picked like kind of the middle one. I spent probably about $800. And I just made my bed and laid in it.
MCKAY: I’m kind of with you Rachel, I feel like Davidson being neurotic about mattresses is like my dog being afraid of the vacuum.
DAVIDSON: I am almost certainly too worried about this. But just saying I’m too worried is not going to make the worry go away. I wanted to go through it, into it. I wanted to treat this like a research project. And so, we all met, and we decided let’s see both ends of the mattress spectrum. Let’s start with the very best. If money was no object, what could we get? So McKay, you and I and our producers Robyn Wholey and Kalila Holt set out on a field trip.
MCKAY: The lighting is perfectly tasteful. It’s a beautiful showroom. It’s not jammed with beds. They have about, I’d say eight beds perfectly spread out throughout the room.
MCKAY: We’re at Savoir Beds in SoHo, in glorious lower Manhattan.
MCKAY: There’s very subtle, pleasant music playing in the background. By the way they also have in the middle of the room, they have a little table with champagne, sparkling water.
DAVIDSON: I’d like some Pellegrino.
MCKAY: The people are very friendly and the beds look magnificent. The nicest looking beds I’ve ever seen.
DAVIDSON: They explained to us that this bed was originally designed for the luxurious Savoy Hotel in London and now you can buy it yourself.
MCKAY: These beds are made by hand.
DAVIDSON: By craftspeople who are trained by craftspeople who are trained by craftspeople who made the original beds in 1905.
MCKAY: A lot of the bed is made out of horsehair which apparently is like the best substance you can put in a mattress.
DAVIDSON: We were greeted at the door by I’d say one of the nicest, most knowledgeable sales people I’d ever met. Veronica…
MCKAY: No, no, no, not salesperson, lifestyle consultant, Davidson please. Use the proper terminology.
DAVIDSON: You’re right, it was Veronica Macasaet, lifestyle consultant.
VERONICA: It is all about being healthy, feeling good, and just really being comfortable. Even as you walk into the environment. Like, we’re not here to sell you beds. We’re here to talk about lifestyle and what works.
DAVIDSON: And part of Veronica’s sales pitch...
MCKAY: Consultation, consultation!
DAVIDSON: You’re right, sorry. And part of Veronica’s lifestyle consultation is that she enforces this one rule:
VERONICA: It’s a three minute rule. And that is when I get you on the bed, do not make a comment about it’s too soft, don’t jump out, et cetera. I need three minutes. We want this to be your last bed.
MCKAY: I don’t know if we’re quite at three minutes, but I'm going to say lots of positive things.
VERONICA: How does this feel for you?
MCKAY: I love this.
VERONICA: Your alignment looks spectacular.
MCKAY: I got to say, and I want to say this for our listeners. This is magnificent. This is like the perfect bed, perfect mattress. I love the softness, yet there's still a shape to it. There is a little pushback. Yet at the same time I’m sinking into it.
ROBYN WHOLEY: This is the best bed ever. It literally is like laying on a cloud.
MCKAY: Yeah. Yeah. Except you know you'd fall through a cloud. They're not solid. But I get your point.
DAVIDSON: It is kind of like a cloud. I feel unsupported and wet.
VERONICA: Should we guess now the prices?
MCKAY: Oh, do we guess the prices? Alright, I’m gonna guess, I’m gonna guess. I'm going to say without any reservations these are the nicest mattresses I've ever been on in my life. They’re magnificent, they really are. So this has to be the premium one. I’m going to say it’s $28,000.
DAVIDSON: Too high?
VERONICA: No. Can we look at the black book please and get the price? So the word luxury didn’t really click.
MCKAY: Well I don’t know, $28,000 for most people for a mattress would be very, very high. But I understand you’re absolute top of the line.
VERONICA: And I’m teasing when I say that.
MCKAY: I’ve never experienced the top of the ine. I like that my guess of $28,000 was insulting.
DAVIDSON: I know she was like, you were upset about that.
VERONICA: Yes. Okay. What is the price Paulo? I'm going to have Paulo tell you the price.
PAULO: Should be... $94,350.
MCKAY: Wow. $100,000 bed.
DAVIDSON: She told us Oprah sleeps on this kind of bed. Elton John sleeps on this kind of bed. Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill used to sleep on this kind of bed.
RACHEL: I was not able to reach Winston Churchill’s representation to confirm that.
MCKAY: I gotta admit, when I was in the store, I bought into it, I got sucked into it. It was a very peaceful, lovely place. I walked a hundred yards away and I thought oh, I was just an insane man. That is crazy to spend that much on a bed.
MCKAY: Those mattresses are magical… They're also a symbol of dangerous income inequality, that is spreading throughout the world that could foment revolution and violence. The idea of spending $100,000 on a mattress, you probably should be worth a billion dollars if you're doing that. I think it’s far crazier to spend $300,000 on like, a Maybach or a Lamborghini. That to me is way crazier.
DAVIDSON: That I agree with. But here’s what I’m wondering, economically. How much is the value the actual sleep? There's a big story they're telling. There’s a big story of luxury, of this handmade mattress in London. So you're paying for real estate in London. You’re…
MCKAY: How much of a placebo effect is this?
DAVIDSON: Or just a purely narrative ...
MCKAY: I think there’s no question that’s a large part of it. I’m going to say 50, 60 percent. 50 percent of it.
MCKAY: So we had that experience and we and we wanted, as soon as possible, to go from the top, the very top of the line, to the average of the line. And we wanted to feel it—you know, see what the difference was between a $100,000 bed and a normal bed. So we went immediately to a Sleepy’s. But...
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: Hi, how can I help you?
KALILA HOLT: I was talking to someone on the phone about possibly coming to record in here today.
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: It wasn’t me. We can't have that unfortunately.
KALILA: She said she was going to check with legal.
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: Yeah, and they're not allowing that. I’m legal.
KALILA: Oh really?
DAVIDSON: You’re legal?
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: I’m waiting for my manager to come right now. So yeah, we’re not having that.
MCKAY: Oh really? Why not?
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: Well because this is a private company that went public and we’re not trying to have a whole bunch of different people like yourself coming in and trying to figure out what's going on. But you can turn your mic off. That’s all I have to say to you right now.
AM: It felt hostile immediately. It was the exact opposite of the high-end bed store. There was a rickety, like metal, scraped-up elevator and it’s just like two giant rooms—it didn’t even look like they’d painted the walls—with just mattresses everywhere.
AD: It could not have been more different. It was as crammed... But then like we just decided to stop recording and just start lying on mattresses. So in this giant room...
AM: It was under the most stressful circumstances. This woman is yelling at us to leave, she’s taking our photos for some reason.
MCKAY: No, that was strange man. That was really hostile and then the mattresses were actually decent, that’s what crazy. Like, we would have been positive about it. Because my immediate reaction as when I laid down on a couple of those, I was like oh, no question you don’t spend $35,000 on a mattress when there's one that are this good...
DAVIDSON: For $1,000.
MCKAY: Some of em were like $700 or $600. It actually completely blew up my experience before.
DAVIDSON: So why is it SO HARD to tell the difference? I mean if you went to a car lot and they had a $1,000 car, and then you got into a $100,000 car, you would instantly know the difference. It would be very clear. But this does not feel that way. The mattresses definitely felt different, no question, and you could tell which one was nicer, but they didn’t feel that different. What is going on inside the mattress, and inside the mattress industry more generally? What did that lady from Sleepy’s say again?
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: We’re not trying to have a whole bunch of different type of people like yourself coming in and trying to figure out what’s going on but…
MCKAY: And after the break, we’re gonna TELL you what exactly is going on here.
DAVIDSON: Welcome back to Surprisingly Awesome, I’m Adam Davidson.
MCKAY: And I’m Adam McKay, and we are talking about mattresses. Davidson, people that know me, know that I can sleep in a lot of different places…
DAVIDSON: Yeah, I have seen you fall asleep in big rooms filled with people, I’ve seen you fall asleep in a restaurant. What are you thinking about?
MCKAY: So I was in seventh grade and I had a paper route my dad made me get, and Sunday mornings I had to get up at like 4:30 in the morning and had like 150 papers and I would be so tired and I would do this game on my bike where I would close my eyes for a second just to occupy time and see where the bike ended up like two seconds later, like can I keep it straight. And so one morning it’s 4:30, 5:00 in the morning, I’m riding my bike and I do the game of like I’ll close my eyes for three seconds and I close my eyes and I wake up and I’m twisted in my bike on the side of the road and from my point of view, upside down, I see a guy come running out of his house. And he’s like what just happened, I saw you just ride your bike into the curb. And I’d fallen asleep while riding a bike.
DAVIDSON: You fell asleep on a bike?
MCKAY: On a bike, while riding it, with a big sack of newspapers. So when we talk about mattresses, I keep joking about the fact of, they’re just mattresses and I think you can see why, because I fell asleep sitting upright while moving my legs. So my standards of mattresses are pretty low.
RACHEL: Hey, guys, it’s Rachel again. This seems like a good time to tell you guys about the stuff that I did some research on that you asked for, about the history of mattresses. Mckay, falling asleep on a bicycle feels pretty similar to one of the first references I could find to a pillow, which is in the bible in Genesis, where Jacob uses a rock as a pillow, and then he pours oil on it... I don’t know why…
DAVIDSON: That sounds awful, although McKay, you’re like, I could definitely sleep on an oil-covered rock.
MCKAY: It sounds fine to me. In fact, I’ve done it several times.
RACHEL: But then in the archeological record, I think the oldest reference that people have found to date is from about 77,000 years ago in South Africa, there are these mats, basically mattresses, that people made by like pressing down layers of leaves and rushes. And what’s cool about these is you can see some intention in their construction, because the top layer of leaves on these mats are leaves that are known to have an insect repelling quality.
RACHEL: After that, much later, in about 3,600 years before the Common Era, Persians have invented the waterbed.
RACHEL: They’re filling goat skins with water and then they leave them out in the sun, they get warm during the day. And then you have like, a very cozy waterbed to sleep on at night.
MCKAY: That, that is awesome. That’s really good.
RACHEL: So, aside from the Persians coming up with a waterbed, sleep technology’s pretty much the same for a long time, like we’ve got some variation on like wood on the floor, that was a common Egyptian technique, or we have straw on the floor, or we have bags stuffed with straw. So straw was the technology for a very long time. But eventually around the industrial revolution in the middle of the 19th century, people start patenting coils or springs for use in upholstery, so like, in the seats of a carriage, or in the seats of a couch. And those technologies eventually are transferred over to mattresses. By the 1930s, less than a century later, springs are widely used in mattresses. And those mattresses basically look like the mattresses that we sleep on now. There are a couple more advances in mattress technology. The waterbed...
MCKAY: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
RACHEL: We revisit that Persian idea in 1968.
MCKAY: By the way, it should be pointed out I was born in 1968. So once again: Oh yeah.
RACHEL: And then just a few years later in the 1970s, NASA is developing memory foam, or temperfoam, is what they called it initially, for use in seating in vehicles, in aircraft. And as with lots of NASA technology, eventually they release it to the public for commercial development. A company picks it up, makes the first Tempurpedic mattress, that’s in 1991.
MCKAY: I should also point out, Davidson’s third daughter is named Tempurpedic.
DAVIDSON: Yeah, but it’s Tem-PUR-pe-dic. It’s an old Hebrew name.
RACHEL: So basically, I think the sort of top line of this is that all beds were terrible until pretty recently. And so every night, you were fighting off insects, you were getting poked by straw, you were maybe literally laying your head down on a rock. So the larger point is, 2016, what a time to be alive. We’re actually doing great, if you look at the sort of entire arc of history. Having the mattresses that we have now is a blessing, and we should all just be thankful and this episode is over. Surprisingly Awesome is a product of Gimlet Media. The end.
MCKAY: No, no, no, no, no, you can’t just do that, Rachel. You can’t just wrap it up like that.
RACHEL: I declare by fiat this podcast is over.
MCKAY: Ah! She’s right, legally she can do that.
DAVIDSON: She can do that, that is in the contract. I feel like your whole history was basically, you were looking at me the whole time and saying, Adam and his silly what’s in a mattress shenanigans is ridiculous, because it’s a great time to be alive in 2016, it’s a great time to be ASLEEP in 2016. Like we’ve solved the problem.
RACHEL: We’ve solved the problem! We’ve solved the problem, and then you created a problem anew. By getting all in your head about this choice.
DAVIDSON: There’s so much to sort through. And what we’re looking for, the end result of all of this mattress consideration, is we want a good night’s sleep. We want to feel rested when we wake up. So we were like, let’s get SCIENCE to tell us what mattress is going to give us the best night’s sleep.
JEREMY WEINGARTEN: Hello.
MCKAY: Nice to meet you. Adam McKay
DR. WEINGARTEN: Jeremy Weingarten. Nice to meet you. So we’re going to go back into one of the rooms…
MCKAY: So we are in the sleep lab at New York Methodist Hospital. It has a waiting room, that looks exactly like a waiting room if you were gonna go get an ACL fixed, if you were gonna get checked out, get a CAT scan. And in the back is not a bunch of cold, sterile, doctors’ offices, but there’s actually wonderful, dimly lit rooms with beds in them. And you’re about to hear from Dr. Jeremy Weingarten, and the technical director of this sleep lab, John Cunningham.
JOHN: Alright. So first thing I want to do is just size you up. And you are going to probably fall into the medium category.
MCKAY: I love that. I love being medium.
JOHN: It’s interesting. People often worry that because they’re large, you said that you’re over six feet, that they're going to need something huge but that’s really not how it works. Your face is sized very different.
MCKAY: Did he just say I have an oddly shaped head?
DAVIDSON: I think he did.
JOHN: Little bit, little bit.
MCKAY: I’m not going to cry because I’m a grown man, but there’s like some tears in my eyes.
MCKAY: So what they’re doing is they’re fitting me with a C-PAP mask…
DAVIDSON: So the C-PAP is specifically for treating people with sleep apnea.
MCKAY: It feels almost like a little plastic pig nose. And what they do is, they put it over your face and it’s one of the interventions that the lab can prescribe to help people get more sleep.
DAVIDSON: The sleep lab was really awesome. It felt like a temple to sleep, like they were trying to create these perfect conditions. They’re very serious about sleep. Although I will say, they did put up with a lot of really annoying questions from us.
MCKAY: Once or twice I've had the thing where you're in a dream and you feel like you have to yell in the dream and then you wake up and yell. Like two times I’ve had that happen.
DR. WEINGARTEN: Yeah, that’s… it’s probably not a major disorder. It’s not...
MCKAY: Don’t downplay it, though, it’s really tough for me.
DR. WEINGARTEN: I don’t know that it’s part of the REM behavior disorder. It just sounds like it’s a response to your dream.
DAVIDSON: Like you screamed a couple times. That’s what it sounds like to me, like you screamed a few times.
MCKAY: Of all the sleep disorders, what is the strangest one you’ve ever encountered?
DR. WEINGARTEN: There's something called exploding head syndrome. Which is pretty cool.
MCKAY: Excuse me?
DR. WEINGARTEN: Exploding head syndrome. It’s sort of like when you’re falling asleep and you have a jerk? You feel like you’re falling and your body jerks? It’s sort of the same thing but with a sensation so it’s perceived as this explosion.
DAVIDSON: These guys have a ton of different methods to help people with various sleep disorders, but according to Dr. Weingarten, the biggest thing most people can do for their health, around sleep, doesn’t involve any particular technology. It’s simple. Just choose to get more sleep.
DR. WEINGARTEN: The direction that everybody’s going into is less and less sleep. We go to sleep late, we wake up early, we’re so busy during the daytime. But sleep, you need to protect your sleep. That’s the bottom line.
MCKAY: But if we were just going to do kind of the middle of the bell curve sleep, what would you describe as the perfect conditions for sleep, the perfect sleep, the perfect result?
DR. WEINGARTEN: We want people to be in a comfortable environment with good temperature and quiet. A comfortable bed, and that’s very personal specific. So some people might want a really soft bed, some people might want a very firm mattress. Ideally, you would be going to sleep at the same time every night, but you would only be going to sleep when you’re tired.
DAVIDSON: So it just kept happening, every time we wanted to talk about mattresses, they ended up wanting to talk about sleep. And okay, so they’re scientists, they don’t want to just give us an off-the-cuff, anecdotal answer, and we were like okay, but just give us a hint—what kind of mattress is better? How do mattresses impact sleep? And they did not want to talk mattresses at all.
DAVIDSON: Let’s talk about the mattress, the bed. You just said you should be comfortable. So from what you see here, that really is just a personal preference? I like broccoli, you like green beans?
DR. WEINGARTEN: I think so. Yeah. I really do. I think whatever is going to allow you to get the best quality sleep for yourself, that’s what you need to go with.
MCKAY: Basically, your entire focus and job is about the science of sleep, sleep disorders, quality of sleep, monitoring sleep, and in no way do you acknowledge that some mattresses are better than others, other than personal preference.
DR. WEINGARTEN: Correct. It really is, whatever is going to make you have the best sleep, it’s all dependent on you.
DAVIDSON: I do not feel rested ever… And…
DAVIDSON: So you can hear me pausing here because I kept getting distracted, because McKay, while I’m talking to Dr. Weingarten, you were wearing this weird C-PAP mask which made you sound like Darth Vader.
MCKAY: It was interesting, because it occurred to me that maybe Darth Vader just has sleep apnea. Which makes him much less intimidating.
DAVIDSON: And then he just got a good night’s sleep. That’s why he won against Emperor Palpatine.
MCKAY: That was it.
DAVIDSON: I’m pretty sure I just, I need to exercise more. I need to lose weight. There’s a decent chance I have sleep apnea. I need to figure out how to be a little less stressed which probably means doing less. It feels like there’s some major lifestyle changes. And in a consumer marketplace, if someone’s saying to me forget all that noise, give us four grand, we'll give you a mattress and we’ll solve this problem for you today and it’ll be really comfy, that’s a very attractive offer.
DR. WEINGARTEN: Sure. But if you buy the $4,000 mattress and you spend 5 hours in it every night, those 5 hours might be great but you’re still going to have all the other problem that you just described. I would much rather just go buy a mattress. I agree. That’s easy, but not everything is easy.
MCKAY: Do you know what country you’re in? How dare you say that. This is America.
DAVIDSON: So okay, we know that comfort is what makes for a good night’s sleep. And we know that comfort is not objective. But you know what is objective? MONEY. Cash. And I wanted the answer: Why should we spend more for mattresses? Should we spend more for mattresses? So, we are Americans. We are American consumers. And where do we go when we wanna answer this question? Consumer Reports.
MCKAY: And it turns out that all the mattresses—the super-cheap ones, the expensive ones—have about the same ratings. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie Three Days of the Condor when Robert Redford comes back and sees that everyone’s dead in his office, this pokey little office he worked in. This is that moment.
RACHEL: That’s maybe a little much drama for this moment in the script.
DAVIDSON: This is the moment of the piece! This is where we answer the question! This is big! Here’s the answer: they’re all the same.
DAN: You’re right, this is a product with less variation.
DAVIDSON: That’s Dan DiClerico—he’s one of the guys at Consumer Reports who obsesses day in, day out, a man after my own heart, over the hidden qualities of different kinds of products. He focuses on home and remodeling products. And he knows a lot about mattresses.
DAN: It’s interesting that there’s not an EXCELLENT mattress out there based on our tests. You typically see at least a handful of excellent products. For the most part, mattresses are pretty similar and it really behooves you the consumer to get out there and, you know, try ‘em out yourself.
DAVIDSON: What is a product where there really is big differences?
DAN: Honestly, most of them do. Appliances, any of the major appliances.
DAVIDSON: So this is the official Consumer Reports advice. Pretty much all kinds of mattresses are pretty much fine. Some have inner-springs, if that’s what you like, that’s great. Others are made out of foam, if you prefer that, that’s fine too. If you want a hybrid that mixes spring and foam—go for it.
MCKAY: Dan explained that Consumer Reports, they buy dozens of mattresses. They cut some of them open to see what’s inside. They test them in a million ways.
DAVIDSON: Yeah, they have this giant machine, this huge 300 pound dowel that they pound onto the mattress thousands of times to simulate a decade of sleep by a heavy person to see which mattresses hold up.
RACHEL: And so all of that testing sort of cumulates in this simple piece of advice, I mean Dan kind of handed us the golden ticket, he told us what it was that we really wanted to know. He told us how much we should spend.
DAVIDSON: And here it is: You probably want to spend more than $800—below that there are some good mattresses, but there are also a lot of bad ones. And anything you spend over around $1,500, is probably not gonna get you that much better of a mattress.
DAN: And ask them if they’ll knock a few hundred bucks off the price. They usually will.
DAVIDSON: If you’re lying on a mattress in the store for at least fifteen or twenty minutes, and it feels fine, you’ll be fine.
RACHEL: This is something actually some companies are trying to put to use—they call it the hotel model. So they only offer like three options of mattress, or one option of mattress, to just make it easier on consumers. This is a particular strategy for online companies—in fact, you may have heard of one of them, they advertise on this show. Please be assured, that they had nothing to do with this episode.
DAVIDSON: So Rachel? This is the part of the episode where we reach our grand conclusion, where we come to the end of our journey. And here’s what it is: You were right. I was wrong. When you went into Ikea and you laid on a bunch of mattresses, you eliminated the ones that were too cheap, and you didn’t pay a lot of attention to the most expensive, you found one that was comfortable and you took it home. My obsessive years of thinking and worrying were wasted.
RACHEL: While I am truly delighted that the outcome of this episode is “Rachel is Surprisingly Awesome,” I do feel like, we did learn something else, I mean we have learned...
MCKAY: Mattresses basically are like being a parent. If you’re really bad, you can screw things up. But an unbelievably rich one doesn’t actually improve what really matters.
DAVIDSON: Right. I remember when I became a father and like is my nature, I was a little worried about be the best dad. And did a lot of reading, talking to people. And I learned basically the same lesson I learned on this show. Don’t worry so much about being the best super amazing dad to get your kid into Harvard and have them be gleefully happy their whole life. Focus on the basics. Just be a good enough dad. And I do feel like this same exact lesson is true with mattresses. Having the very best, most expensive, most deluxe mattress is not going to fundamentally change your life. But having a really lousy mattress, where you don’t get a good night’s sleep, where you do have back pain, that’s a problem. You should not have that mattress. There’s some minimum, good enough threshold that you want to be above. And speaking of the minimum good enough, minimum, adequate threshold, that makes me think of Sleepy’s. And their mattresses were definitely good enough, but their customer service was not good enough so I knew we were going to talk about them publicly. I reached out to them, explained what happened. And they put us in touch with this guy:
DAVIDSON: What is your name, and what is your job?
CRAIG MCANDREWS: So I’m Craig McAndrews, I’m the chief merchandising officer at Mattress Firm.
DAVIDSON: And Mattress Firm recently bought Sleepy’s.
CRAIG: We did.
DAVIDSON: And this is sort of awkward but, my understanding is you are calling me because you heard about our kind of weird experience and you want to apologize.
CRAIG: Yes, I did hear about it, in fact our chief executive officer and president Ken Murphy, he and I had a conversation about it, and I wanted to make sure that we apologized, just for the bad experience you had in one of our stores. It’s not the intent for us to ever deliver an experience that’s not great, but we know it happens, and so this just gives us a chance to follow up on it.
DAVIDSON: Remember that woman who freaked out when we showed up in Sleepy’s with our microphones?
SLEEPY’S EMPLOYEE: We’re not trying to have a bunch of different people like yourself...
AD: And said she didn’t want us in the store trying to figure out what’s going on? In the end, we did get what we were looking for. Sleepy’s is a business. They’ve got a model: Sell a ton of beds, at a lot of price points, especially the lower, more affordable ones. Savoir Beds is the same thing, just reversed: sell very few mattresses, but sell them for a ton of money. Even Craig agrees:
CRAIG: But in the end of it’s not comfortable, then it really doesn’t make any difference. So you have to get physically comfortable, and then it’s financial comfort.
DAVIDSON: And so, in the end, nearly everyone we talked to comes to the same consensus. Rachel Ward and Adam McKay are right. Adam Davidson is wrong. You can scratch mattresses off the list of things you need to worry a lot about.
MCKAY: Surprisingly Awesome’s theme song is by Nicholas Britell. Our ad music is by Build Buildings. We were edited this week by Annie-Rose Strasser.
DAVIDSON: Original music in this episode was composed by Trouble Books, Nicholas Deprey, and Louis Weeks.
MCKAY: We were produced by Rachel Ward, and Kalila Holt. Matthew Boll mixed the show. Isabel Angell, Jacob Cruz, Emma Jacobs and Robyn Wholey provided production assistance.
DAVIDSON: Special thanks to Karla Webb at the Bienenstock Furniture Library, Peter McCarthy at the University of South Wales, Sandy Jap at Emory University, author of Partnering with the Frenemy, Dave Perry at Furniture Today, and Kevin Purdy at the Sweethome - that’s where you can find his pick for the best ONLINE mattress.
MCKAY: Could we ask you to do us a favor? If you like Surprisingly Awesome, could you go to iTunes, rate, and review the show? It helps listeners find us.
DAVIDSON: Your reward for that is our newsletter! No actually, anyone can get the newsletter. You don’t have to actually rate us. You just have to sign up. It’s at Gimlet Media.com/awesome—it’s down on the lower right.
MCKAY: You can also tweet us @surprisingshow, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re on Facebook. And our Tumblr is TrueSharkAttackStories.tumblr.com.
DAVIDSON: Surprisingly Awesome is a production of Gimlet Media.
DAVIDSON: I felt noble, because I have a super hard mattress. I have the firmest mattress there is. And I feel so noble about it, like I’m a better human being. And now I realize, I’m just a schmuck with a hard mattress.
MCKAY: That’s the last line of your first novel.