Online vs. local purchase pros/cons

Hey Phoenix and all,

I think it would be a good idea to list some of the major pros and cons of purchasing online vs local. There are so many good reasons for each type I think it would deserve a section of it’s own. There are a few considerations that should be addressed that many people might not think about when hunting for a mattress. I can list a few off the top of my head but this might be a good list to expand on and add to the site as well.

Online Pros

Ease of access to research materials, construction
You can look without being bothered by salespeople
You can easily compare prices
Faster to make the purchase if it’s not customizable
No driving around to various stores
No sales pressure
No sales pitch
No haggling on price
Easier access to customer reviews
Low barrier for entry (an online store might feel ‘better’ for some people who don’t like the ‘feel’ of a physical storefront. I’ve seen several people who are intimidated from entering some stores because the way they look.)
Many more comparison options
Possibly better options than are available locally

Online Cons

Possible shipping costs
Possible return costs
No option to haul away old mattress
Some people may not feel comfortable with credit card security over the internet
Limited testing options
Time issues with online communication
Delivery and set up issues
Difficult to imagine exact measurements from pictures online

Local Pros

You get to try out any mattress that the store has
Assistance with visual alignment while on the mattress
Possibly a more ‘personal’ experience
Local delivery
Possible set up
Possible haul away
Access to possible customization options that are not normally available
Supporting your local community and jobs
You can see, touch and feel all products
If there is an issue, you can discuss it in the store

Local Cons

Possible sales pressure
Possible price haggling
Possible high barrier for entry (storefront is too messy, too fussy, too intimidating, located badly)
Harder to find reviews unless provided them by the store (possibly biased)
Possibly limited number of floor models in your preferred materials or softness/firmness
Driving to and from the store for testing

That’s just about all I’ve got. Please feel free to add more or expand on those I listed.

Well the good part of what you wrote it my store was founded based upon my bad experiances with bad salepeople to prevent such so I pretty much got rid of all the cons you posted up.

Not all store have the stereotypical bad sales people mostly just the big box ones. I really think when considering brick and morter it should be broken out by local and national. The same online as MF, OMF, Sleepy’s all have big web presence also.

I think the good part of stating this was my intention of a point in a previous post. The local or smaller companies be it online or brick and morter are on the same team here, we do care about our customer and provide excellent “value” our enemies are the large companies. Brick and Morter should not be all grouped togethor nor should the small online retailler with Amazon, Buy overstock…

Oh, that’s a good idea breaking it down to local and national. My own experiences have been with the bigger nation chain stores like Mattress Land and Sleep Country. I think that this site does a fantastic job in delineating the reasons to buy from the smaller stores.

I agree it’s going to be the smaller companies that provide the best value, either online or brick n mortar. There are still pros and cons for each type of purchase though. I was nervous when I made my online purchase initially, but I’m was happy with my decision once my mattress arrived.

I wanted to visit Parklane in Portland when we were looking but that wasn’t a viable solution for me so I had to make due with my own research and the options that were around me and other online solutions. Anyways, the point of this list is to assist others to think about the pros and cons of each type. For example I just had to stick my old king mattress in the guest room since I couldn’t get it hauled away.

Edited to add:
On a side note, smaller retailers can sell through Amazon. I got my mattress from Brooklyn Bedding that way.

Hi Coventry,

This is a great idea for a thread and can serve as a reference because I think everyone may not always realize at the outset what the pros and cons of each may be.

I thought I’d add pieces to it one at a time instead of making up a whole list … and the list you’ve already come up with is already pretty extensive.

I think that the size of a company will have an effect on the level and consistency of service regardless of whether they are online or bricks and mortar (or both) and in my experience larger companies of course have more outlets and employees which don’t all have the same consistent level of knowledge and service throughout the organization as smaller companies. When I originally put the site together I tended to categorize companies by local, regional, or national to somewhat reflect their size, reach, and the number of outlets and employees. As a rule … local businesses with one or a few outlets tend to have the most consistent and highest level of service followed by regional with national at the end.

Smaller online manufacturers or businesses that are in the “better” group and have some history behind them tend to rank with the “local” group in their service levels in my experience. Larger online outlets service many more customers but they also tend to work together in a common work area or service center and in my experience they tend to be more consistently good or bad among the group because they tend to share a common attitude. The down side of a larger online outlet is that they seem to have more time constraints so they sometimes tend not to be as willing to spend the same amount of time or go into the same level of detail with each customer knowing that there is another customer waiting to be served. The smaller ones will take more time and go into more detail … and will often be more knowledgeable and willing to share their knowledge. If they have to go to another customer or task that is more urgent … they will usually be happy to call back and pick up where you left off … sometimes after hours when there is less pressure. Of course there is a wide variance in every category so this is all just based on the “norms” and my experience.

The type of ownership also seems to make a difference and private or family ownership where the owners are more responsive and “hands on” seem to be consistently more responsive in my experience than companies that are public or responsible to shareholders or executive boards or more “corporate” in their operations. For example I was talking to Park Place which is a fairly large manufacturer which you would think was more corporate and was surprised that if someone wanted to make an appointment at their local showroom in Greenville, which is not normally open to the public, that that they could talk to Jay Orders (part of the family that owns it) who would meet them there while they tested mattresses. Maybe I’m easily impressed but it did impress me. Other mid size companies have also been surprisingly willing to take the time to help me or other consumers even though they may not sell to consumers directly. They are what I call “mattress people” instead of "money machines and the entire company seems to love to talk about their mattresses and their company. Many of the largest companies on the other hand have horrible customer service and think nothing of hanging up the phone if the conversation doesn’t have an obvious benefit to the company or if you are just a small fish in the pond. The type of ownership and the values they hold is a big part of the company culture and this tends to show through all levels of the company regardless of size although with the bigger ones this effect can be more diluted.

Personal involvement by the owners at all levels tends to create better levels of service than ownership that is less involved as a general rule. Manufacturers or businesses that have “roots” in the industry and have stayed more true to their roots are also much easier to deal with than those whose primary interest is corporate profit, have a more rigid hierarchy, or those whose main goal is to emulate the “big guys” and put size and corporate profit ahead of everything else.

I think that’s enough for this post :).

Thanks again for a great thread.


PS: A few reference posts that may also be helpful in terms of comparing quality, value, and service and relative risk between local and online retailers or manufacturers.

Post #46 here talks about your “personal value equation” and the many tradeoffs involved in a mattress purchase that may be more or less important for each person. Some of these directly relate to whether you purchase locally or online.

Post #1 here has some great guidelines for making a “safe” online purchase.

Post #2 here has some general guidelines about choosing a suitable mattress online vs locally and the different levels of risk that may be involved.

Post #2 here includes some of the important criteria I would look for in an online purchase.

There is also more about the different ways to choose the most suitable mattress (locally and online) that can help you assess and minimize the risks involved of making a choice that isn’t as suitable for you as you hoped for in post #2 here.