Made mistake in S & F purchase; anything to suggest?

:frowning: Hello everyone. First-time poster. Found your helpful site AFTER my (unfortunate, to date) mattress purchase.
I had been sleeping on an old–15 years–air bed (by leading advertised maker). Yep, it’s OLD. A couple of months ago, the various broken parts and the lack of support got to me. I had been traveling by car for a few weeks and conventional hotel beds had felt better. Easier to turn over, for example, not feeling you are in a coffin. I brought an eggcrate pad along with me traveling and used when needed as I have fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and a HUGE problem with sensitivity to pressure. Even memory foam hurts me.
Two months ago I bought a Stearns and Foster Blisswood (goes by other names too such as S & F Elderberry at Macy’s) plush tight top, 825 coils, pocketed, because it felt best to me in a store. Firm model would have been too hard and I didn’t want a pillow top that would compress before long. I ordered this set from a vendor on the Internet (yeah, I know, lesson learned) that seemed knowledgeable.
This set is WAY TOO HARD to me. It actually hurts and it causes pins and needles. I’m a side sleeper. I have tried to “break it in” over a month and it’s no better. I later purchased a 2" latex (nonreturnable) topper from the same distributor. It has not helped. The whole setup still feels too hard even with a quilted pad on top of these.
The company will not take the mattress back because it is over the “comfort exchange” (which costs hundreds of dollars) period. I may have some leverage to go for it, though, as the same Internet salesperson was extremely nasty to me after the sale, and their big boss is upset about this.
What do you think I should do?

  1. Write it off as an expensive lesson. Try to get something back by reselling it. Then go down another road (which one?).
  2. Go for a “comfort exchange.” The company has not only S & F but Sealy and Simmons. The Simmons Beautyrest World Class Fontaine or Raleigh for example are at the price point, use 15.75" wire instead of 13.75 wire… do you think the 15.75 would “give” more to a degree that’s noticeable?
  3. Bite the bullet and get another airbed? I’m tired of their issues, but at least they don’t seem to hurt me as much.
  4. Other?
    Again, I can’t take a firm feel, but I know I need support. This has been a baffling, disappointing, horrible chapter. I’m back on the old “number,” and sleep deprived.
    I am in the Washington, DC, area, but will travel up to a couple of hours, e.g., to Richmond or PA… I don’t have a partner but, if that changes someday, minimal motion transfer if that changes someday would be a plus.
    Hope you can help. Thanks.

Hi Tuneful,

Unfortunately you aren’t alone.

In taking a look at the stats of your mattress here … you can see that there is 5" of polyfoam and some soft fiber in the upper layers of your mattress which means that it’s unlikely that what you are feeling is as much about the springs as it is about the ILD (firmness level) of the foam … probably the HD (mid grade) polyfoam on top. The irony here is that not only is the foam too firm for you … it’s also polyfoam and not even the best quality which means that the odds are that a polyfoam layer that thick also wouldn’t last as long as it should. Part of the difficulty as well is that even though the foam is too firm for your pressure needs … it would probably also be too soft as part of your support layer which it would become if you add more foam on top and put yourself further away from where the support is meant to come from which is the innersprings.

I would be curious what type of latex your topper was and what the ILD was as well because this would help give an indication of the type of foam that felt comfortable to you. I suspect that your needs would be much softer than the norm.

You are also trapped in the comfort exchange cycle meaning that you are limited to what they offer (probably all “S” brands which would be among my last choices in any model).

I think your biggest need seems to be in the comfort layers which means that the foam on top of the innersprings will be much more important for you. I think too that the Fontaine (Raleigh) will also be too firm for you because it has relatively firmer foams … including a layer of what is likely firmer latex … in the comfort layer. They don’t release the ILD of their foams however so it’s hard to know for sure. The innersprings are more about support and keeping you in alignment than they are about pressure relief. They may “help” with the pressure relief depending on the layers above them and on your height, weight, body shape, and sleeping position but the top few inches are where most of your pressure relief will come from.

I personally would never buy a mattress from a major brand unless I absolutely had to and even then it would be very reluctantly because the value and usually the material quality just isn’t there. This article will give you some ideas of some guidelines that can help you avoid most of the pitfalls of mattress shopping.

I would also never buy an air bed for any reason. Air is a poor support layer because it has no progressive resistance (it’s either fully compressed or not compressed at all) and can’t adjust itself to changes in sleeping position. It is among the worst choices for a support core IMO and it doesn’t help that the prices they charge for an air bladder are hard to believe. This article talks in quite some detail about airbeds.

You’re in quite a difficult position unfortunately but if you let me know the online outlet and if they have their mattresses online, I’ll take a look at what they offer to see if they have anything which may be suitable … even though it wouldn’t likely have real value. If they have a firm mattress with very little foam on top then this may be an option with a soft topper (the thickness and type would depend on your stats and sleeping position)

Whether or not it would be worthwhile to walk away would depend on what they had but because your sleep and overall wellbeing is clearly important to you … I would rather walk away, start over, and recover what I could than settle for something that will make your challenges worse if I was in your shoes.

You clearly need a thick and soft enough comfort layer to relieve pressure. This would likely mean memory foam of some type (they aren’t all the same) or latex (softer than you had). Other options that could work include buckling column gel or microcoils. The level of support you need would depend on the firmness that will keep your spine in alignment and keep your heavier parts (usually hips and pelvis) from sinking down too far. I would make sure that in your case you test a mattress specifically for PPP … Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Preferences and feel rather than buy online or at the very least lie on the specific mattress or something very close in terms of material, layer thickness, and construction before you made a purchase online.

Washington is somewhat of a wasteland when it comes to mattresses … I joked in another thread that maybe nobody sleeps there … but there are some better local options listed in post #2 here. There are 2 factory direct outlets listed there in Richmond which may also be worth a visit.

Hope this helps … and if you let me know your general height/weight and sleeping positions and the online outlet I may be able to make spme better suggestions.


Hi Phoenix,
Thanks so much. What you say makes sense including about the firmness level of the foam in the set I purchased. Sounds like it will work neither for support (too soft) nor comfort (too hard) :frowning: Is it worth thinking about “breaking it in more”? Walking on it, bouncing on it?
I think what also completely puzzles me is that no matter what toppers I put on top (including latex plus a synthetic “featherbed”), the mattress still hurts.
The latex topper I purchased is made by Jeffco. I don’t know if I should post the seller’s name on here (that sold me both the set and the topper). I will send it to you by email and on request to anyone else. One of their salespeople has a blog, and a lot of people with special needs write in. The set I bought, plus their latex topper, is almost the most recommended there.
All they told me about the topper was that it is soft with an ILD from 15 to 19.
I think you have saved me their $250 exchange fee with your comments the Fontaine/Raleigh. I want to feel I did everything I could, but why keep walking down the wrong road? Getting back to sleeping is the most important thing. Yes, that distributor carries only the “S” beds.
Can you shed any light on why a lot of hotel beds (during monthlong trip in my original post) did not hurt? I remember especially a White Dove Rhapsody and an older Beautyrest. Is it that the consumer versions of innersprings are a lot worse, or - ?
I am 5’6", 135", and a side sleeper. I agree with you about the ridiculous airbed prices but it also seems the airbeds aren’t the only ones doing that, unfortunately.
Strangely enough, the chronic low-back problem I had improved right awya 16 years ago when I got the air set. I guess I will have to stay on my old one longer while I shop. After being on it so long I’m sure other beds will take an adjustment.
I’m happy to travel wherever needed within reason to solve this confounding problem. Richmond for example is very doable.

Hi Tuneful,

This is certainly a possibility. Polyfoam and memory foam go through an initial period (first few weeks or say 90 days) of more rapid softening (to different degrees depending on the actual manufacturing process), followed by a more gradual softening, followed by the breakdown of the polymer material itself. If you decide to give this a try (to accelerate the transition between the 1st and second stage) then it would be important to walk on the entire surface so it softens more evenly rather than develops soft spots beside areas that remain firmer. This is a common suggestion with memory foam (which often will soften more initially than polyfoam) but can also help polyfoam. It can also however, depending on the type of foam and how it was made, speed up the third stage which is responsible for the actual impressions or dips that develop in a mattress. It would be worth a try to see if it will soften to a place that is within the range of your pressure relief needs. Walking in an even pattern would be better than bouncing.

The Jeffco topper is (to my knowledge) a Dunlop process latex which means that while it may be firmer with initial compression (where the rating is assigned), it may also become firmer with deeper compression. This is why sometimes ILD ratings alone can be misleading. For a Dunlop topper to be rated at 15 to 19 … it would need to use a continuous pour process that is poured in thinner layers than other types of molded Dunlop. This process can result in softer ILD Dunlop but if this ILD is measured on a thinner layer then the ILD rating is not directly comparable to latex measured on a 6" core. The feedback that I have had from this from various sources is that the 15 - 19 ILD rating is firmer than a layer of either molded Dunlop or Talalay that has the same rating. How the rating is assigned (the testing method used) isn’t always consistent between different materials.

Layer thickness is also important to how a material performs. Thinner layers will “take on” the feel and characteristics of the layers below them more than thicker layers. In addition to this … each person has a specific “comfort zone” which is the thickness of the materials on top which primarily provide pressure relief. What is below this thickness (what I have called in other places the “critical zone”) is primarily responsible for support. If your “critical zone” is say 3" (and this would depend on your weight, height, body shape, and sleeping positions), anything below this would be more in your “support zone”. If you take a mattress with say 4" of foam on top … this foam would be mainly responsible for your pressure relief. If you then add say 2" of foam on top of this … only the top two inches of the mattress would be part of your “critical zone” which provided pressure relief and the lower 2" would now become part of your support zone. This is why adding a topper can increase pressure relief (if the material is soft and pressure relieving enough to make the average ILD of the comfort zone soft enough) but decrease support (because part of what was your comfort zone but was too firm for comfort now is part of your support zone and is too soft for that purpose).

This is why it’s so important to know exactly what is the cause of what you are experiencing on any particular mattress (by knowing the materials and specs of the comfort zone layers) and also to know the material and specs of any changes or additions to the mattress.

The person you are referring to is very loyal to certain brands and tends to “translate” the information he provides into branded information. He normally calls anything he doesn’t know about an “off brand” which is a way of saying that the brand is more important than the material which of course it isn’t. He also tends to believe that the materials in the brands he sells are the “best” even when they aren’t. While he certainly has a great knowledge of the brands he sells and even shares some of the opinions I have about certain materials … his opinions tend to be more biased towards the brands he sells and he makes some statements that are quite frankly misleading (such as SBR latex is “better” than natural latex). He certainly provides a very helpful service for those who are more focused on buying a major brand. My own belief which is backed up by a great deal of research into materials and alternative sources are that the entire genre of major brands should be avoided for those who are looking for the best quality and value in a mattress.

Hotel mattresses are not a single “type” of mattress and have a wide variety of different feels to them. They do however tend to be in the general category of what many would call “medium firm” which means that they have a fairly plush layer over a firmer support core. This “feel” tends towards the average preference of a wide cross section of the population and that in combination with the fact that a majority of people are sleeping on a “bad” mattress means that any “change” in combination with good support (firmer support layers) and good pressure relief (better quality comfort layers) means that the “hotel experience” is generally perceived as being an improvement. In the same way a large percentage of people see improvement in the short term with any new mattress purchase because almost anything is an improvement over what they have in the short term. These feelings of “improvement” along with the change in subjective perceptions that come with sleeping in a different environment and the reasons behind the hotel visit in the first place lead to sometimes subjective perceptions being interpreted as objective perceptions. It is also common that people sleep better on friend’s mattresses as well. The other side of this same coin is that some people hate hotel mattresses just as much as some love them … even though hotel mattresses as a group are not a single type.

White Dove for example is an independent manufacturer which may use different materials than Simmons in their consumer mattresses … but when they bid on supplying a hotel mattress they will be targeting a certain type of construction that the hotels know works well for the majority of the population in short term use. This again is typically a firm support layer with a comfort zone which is both soft and thick enough for most people “on average”. So the answer is that in comparison to what they are used to … most people that sleep on a “good innerspring” with a comfort layer that is both thick and soft enough for the average person will feel like their sleep experience is an improvement over what they have even though hotel mattresses as a group have a variety of different materials and types of construction inside of this main “average” type of construction.

An airbed may be an improvement over what people have but the unfortunate fact is that someone who finds relief on say an airbed with a “firm” setting will often find that a mattress with a similar firmness using a better and more appropriate material than an air bladder would do just as well or better. The choice of layers used above an air bladder are the same as any other mattress and this is a big part of what people “feel” on any mattress. The only thing different about them is that they use air as the support layer. The problem with air is that it is either completely compressed as far as the setting will allow or not compressed at all. There is no variability between nothing and fully compressed at each setting so air doesn’t adjust as well as other materials to the changing needs of different positions and weight distributions while people sleep. To fully take advantage of air a person would need to readjust the setting for the best alignment for each change in position while other materials which have progressive firmness do that automatically. Even then a particular “firmness” setting may be chosen because of comfort needs but the air is more about the supportive qualities of a mattress. Air is “best” used at the highest possible setting and with better quality comfort layers above it that lead to a suitable “differential” construction because it is not progressive enough to be or even really help with comfort/pressure relief.

In the same way that people believe that an innerspring has more effect on what they feel than they really do … most people also believe that the choice of an air bladder as a support core has a bigger effect on their comfort than it really does. They attribute what they are feeling to the air bladder when it really is more about the materials over the air bladder. This lack of in between compression with air bladders is why they are more an expensive gimmick that most people purchase because they are told misleading stories about what air really is and how it really performs. Most of them are bought because of how the comfort layers feel or through sales techniques that “manage” perception. An example of this would be to set the air bladder too soft for most people and then when they are lying on it to “firm it up” so people will go “wow” and believe that this combination of comfort and support isn’t available on any other type of mattress because their perception has been “managed”. This would be similar to a person who sells a mattress on an adjustable bed and once people are lying on it to raise the legs slightly and improve the tension in the lower back which they would then translate into a benefit of the mattress rather than a benefit of a different position. There are many ways to manage a customer’s perceptions when they are mattress shopping and these managed perceptions then become self re-inforcing and even self justifying beliefs long after the mattress is purchased.

The surest way to “solve” the provlem is to work with an outlet and a person who really knows the qualities of the different types of materials, why they are put together the way they are, and how each type of material can be used to “fit” your own unique needs and preferences. Outlets and people like this can replace the need for a consumer to learn this knowledge themselves because someone who already has it and is working in your best interests will likely know and share a lot more than most people can learn in a short time. With a focus on materials it also becomes much easier to compare value between different mattresses.

Your height and lower weight in conjunction with your sensitivities and side sleeping would indicate a need for softer than “normal” and higher quality comfort layers that were also thick enough (say in the range of 3") for side sleeping in combination with firm support layers underneath them that will keep you in alignment and won’t “break down” or soften as quickly.

While you have some “better” outlets in your area that will do this and in conjunction with your testing help you understand the general types of materials and layering that is best for both your needs and preferences … I believe that the best values using these materials would likely be found in Richmond (although I don’t know of course the types and prices of every mattress in every outlet so there may be local value i don’t know about). So local testing in combination with Richmond purchasing may be the “best” way to go.

I know this reply was rather long but you brought up some interesting points :slight_smile:


Hi again Phoenix, wow, thanks for your fantastic reply! I learn new stuff every time I visit here.
Excuse this relatively brief post as I’m at a noisy public library. I didn’t follow up sooner because I have just been through a home move Jan. 16 and 17 while I had the flu and was on antibiotics.
So, I could’ve really used a good mattress set!
I have been getting by, sort of, by using the old air bladder, with selections from the “library” of foam pads I own:

  1. Layer 1: Boxspring (mattress sits on the other side of the room unused)
  2. A relatively new 1" foam pad with a weird geometric design (an “ergonomic gimmick” probably, around $20 at linen chain)
  3. Air bladder, full size
  4. 2" eggcrate that the Airbed Company sent me last year when I complained about their famous mold problem
  5. 1/2" soft eggcrate from Target
  6. Fluffy conventional mattress pad from JC Penney.
    Whew, out of breath just recounting it! It appears to be acceptable in the short term.
    To update you, I wrote in to the parent company of the blogger last week and enclosed all my emails with him including some with irrational, abusive comments toward me. Executive in charge of their customer service called me back, very appalled, apologized on behalf of the company, and begged to help me again. “I’ve been in the business 14 years and that S & F is 180 degrees from what I would recommend to you with your issues” and told me the unacceptable personal comments made toward me are being dealt with.
    Says he will give me a credit to pick something else out and will advise me, and not charge me any exchange or delivery fees, even though the exchange period was up weeks ago. The two emails I had sent him from the salesman were REALLY bad. I requested that they take that latex pad back, and he agreed to and to credit me.
    I will share with you here what he recommends. What I’d really like is to go back and say, on reflection, is that this experience with their comapny was so terrible that I want my money back so that I don’t have to go to consumer-protection authorities and consumer web sites and share the awful truth of what happened (including more than one delivery of a defective S & F boxspring). Have you had any members who have succeeded with that approach?
    If not, I will share with you what he recommends.
    Many many thanks to you, Phoenix, and the community.

Hi Tuneful,

That’s some mattress you’re sleeping on. It will be nice to have a replacement that’s a little better than “a bunch of stuff on a boxspring”.

You are in a somewhat difficult position as I see it because there is some strength on both sides of the argument.

I think your strongest argument would be to tell the executive you are dealing with that you have a very bad taste in your mouth due to the personal comments that were made and the poor advice that was given initially by a public face of their company and that while you appreciate his efforts, you are not at all comfortable doing business with their company after your experience. I would go on to say that for the sake of good customer relations they should consider giving you a refund so you can purchase a mattress elsewhere and that you are looking for a way to completely start all over again without having to deal with them any further or having to share your experiences in consumer sites, public forums, and review sites. In other words … I would let him know that even a perfect mattress from his company would not make you happy based on principle alone.

On the other side, I don’t think that the consumer protection authorities (or the threat of this) will really have much effect because if they have committed to make things right within their policies (no refunds) and are even willing to make exceptions to their policy because of your bad experience and the poor advice that was given to you, its unlikely that consumer protection will see this as being unfair or that they in any way misrepresented anything or didn’t go “above and beyond” in their efforts to correct their mistakes.

In essence they are offering to make things the way they should have been if things had gone right in the first place at no cost to you and there would be little weight to an argument that they had in any way misrepresented anything, engaged in deceptive business practices, or made any mistakes or done anything that they weren’t willing to completely correct. The harm they caused in other words was not from their mistakes or from selling you the “wrong” or a defective product or even from any financial loss in correcting their mistakes but in the comments made and how you were treated by their representative and your unwillingness to deal with them any further based on principle alone.

Forums such as this and other consumer sites would certainly not do their reputation any good if you were to publish the transcript of the emails and the circumstances behind the reasons why you were not willing to do any business with the company regardless of their willingness to correct any mistakes. I would hope that they would realize this and decide to give you a refund as an exception and also based on principle alone so you wouldn’t have to publish the reasons why even an exchange for a more suitable mattress would not satisfy you. The issue is not the mattress any longer but having to do business with them at all.

In essence I think that your best odds would be in making clear that you are grateful for his efforts and for his willingness to both “deal with” and make amends for the actions of his employee but that your strong preference is to go back to the way things were before you made your purchase so that at least you could be left with the knowledge that there was someone there that had the ethics and good business sense to make exceptions to policy when the circumstances and the actions of their employees warranted it.


Hi again folks,
Phoenix, sensible thoughts – and I think we are thinking along the same lines. I won’t say much more here until the situation is resolved.
I’m giving myself a pat on the back for having written to this company, reported what happened (in the face of a bunch of initial “no’s” and “sorry, buts”), and asking for the problem to be dealt with, rather than just accepting the treatment and walking away (i.e., concluding “it’s not worth it to pursue it”).
But, I came to feel that over $1000 was a lot to throw away and if I could save one person and probably more from going through this kind of thing again, that’d be good.
I will read the executive’s letter when it comes about the product recommendations, and will let you all know, but I think this train has probably left the station on my end. I’ll rest up this weekend (as I am still not well) and hopefully will be able to return to it early next week.
Thank you again. Have a good weekend, everyone.


I’m new here and unfortunately I am in the same predicament as Tuneful. :frowning: I also purchased a Sterns and Foster Blisswood Plush mattress online. It is very uncomfortable and creates pressures points on my lower back (specifically my sacrum). I wake up in agony! Even with my 3" latex topper (ild 28 from Rocky Mountain) I still feel pain. Unfortunately it’s too late for a comfort exchange so I am stuck with this mattress.

I’m 5’7 weigh 145 lbs and am a back/side sleeper. Is there anything I can do to this mattress to get a better nights sleep (besides burn it)? Please help…I am open for any suggestions.

Thank you!

Hi Boston,

Part of the problem is that the latex topper may be a bit on the firm side for someone of your height and weight that is a side/back sleeper … particularly for side sleeping. It would likely be better as a transition layer.

There also may be several things going on here which are interacting.

The S&F Blisswood plush has over 4" of very soft materials (hypersoft and supersoft polyfoam) and some fiber over an inch of better and probably firmer foam which is on top of conforming pocket coils. This is a very soft mattress and while it may be OK for side sleeping for some people … it would certainly be risky for back sleeping and risk back pain.

On the other hand … the latex topper is firmer than usual for someone of your weight and height and may also be causing some pressure issues. The topper would also follow the contours of the soft foam under it so it wouldn’t solve the issue of the comfort layers perhaps being too thick and soft for best alignment. It seems to me that the pain could be coming both from some pressure issues but more from alignment issues in the lower back.

While I hesitate to suggest it … your best bet may be to salvage the better parts of the mattress and go into what is called “mattress surgery”.

This would involve carefully cutting open the ticking along the seam, removing the unwanted material and replacing it with materials that may be more suitable, and then closing it up again (or not in some cases). I would think a much better layering would be the innersprings with the inch of better quality firmer foam over it and the latex on top of this and then some softer foam (perhaps a couple of inches or so of the softer polyfoam) over that. While this will take a little ingenuity … it would probably be much preferable to sleeping in pain the way you are and you already have some good components to use as a building block.

Adding more softer foam on top would likely cause even more alignment and back issues.

There are a couple of good guidelines that you can use as a model from people who have done it here.

Unfortunately … it is very difficult to “fix” a mattress that has too much soft foam without removing some of it. You can make a firm mattress softer much more easily than making a soft mattress firmer or more supportive.

On the plus side … it could be a great learning experience about the insides of a mattress and you would get a chance to see first hand the type of lower quality materials that S&F uses inside their mattresses. If you are the adventurous type … it can be an interesting project and you already have most if not all of the materials to be able to do it.