TIME

Why Walmart Has Big Problem on Its Hands

An employee pulls a forklift with display units for DVD movies at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2014.
Bloomberg—Getty Images An employee pulls a forklift with display units for DVD movies at a Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location ahead of Black Friday in Los Angeles, Calif. on Nov. 24, 2014.

The world's largest retailer is hurting

As gas prices hit multi-year lows a few months ago, many retailers hoped the savings consumers would enjoy would yield a bonanza.

Those hopes have been dashed.

Instead of going out to buy a new polo shirt or barbecue grill, consumers seem to be saving some of what they would have spent on gas to pay other bills.

Walmart, a unit of Wal-Mart Stores on Tuesday joined a chorus of U.S. retailers to report disappointing first quarter sales that has included Macy’s, Gap Inc and Kohl’s.

The retailer reported comparable sales, which includes digital revenue but excludes newly opened or closed stores, rose 1.1%- not bad, but below the 1.5% Wall Street was looking for. On the earnings side, Wal-Mart, which also owns Sam’s Club and Walmart stores abroad, reported a profit of $1.03 per share, down from $1.11 a year ago, and a penny lower than analysts anticipated.

So what happened? Consumers have shifted their budget to other priorities, the company said.

“We know that many of our U.S. customers are using their tax refunds and the extra money from lower gas prices to pay down debt or put it into savings,” Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon said on Tuesday.

“They’re also using these funds for everyday expenses like utilities and groceries. That’s where we can be their destination of choice.”

Indeed, some improvements on the grocery side were a silver lining for the company last quarter. Walmart gets 55% of revenue, or $155 billion last year, from grocery.

Walmart has made it a priority to improve its grocery business, both in terms of assortment, particularly fresh food, and making sure stores are amply stocked to avoid a chronic problem with empty shelves. (It is still grappling with a lot of food spoiling before it can be sold, something that was a drag on profit.) It has also raised its starting wage to increase employee motivation and improve customers service.

Encouragingly for the company, comparable sales at its Neighborhood Markets stores, smaller-sized grocery stores, comparable sales rose 7.9%. And Walmart saw more shoppers come into its stores for the second quarter in a row after nearly two years of declines.

Still, the world’s largest retailer recognized that there is a lot left for it to do to get back to its growth rates of the past. In addition to all its challenges at home, some of its foreign markets are struggling badly: Asda, its U.K. subsidiary, saw like-for-like sales excluding fuel fall 3.3% on the quarter, suggesting that it’s now taking most of the strain in a relentless battle for market share between established players and German-based discounters.

“We know, though, that we’re not where we want to be yet. It will take time to achieve our goals, but we’re fully committed to providing our customers with a shopping experience they can love, and associates who see their efforts leading to broader and better careers,” said Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., the company’s biggest division with annual sales of $288 billion last year.

MONEY kids

Here’s Your Excuse to Stop Buying More Stuff for Your Kid

Getty Images/Farouk Batiche

Worldwide, kids are pretty darn happy with what they have.

The welcome if not surprising news presented in a global survey is that kids are happier and less worried about money than grownups. And despite how often parents might hear about children needing new toys, video games, electronics, and clothes, the vast majority of kids worldwide report being plenty satisfied with what they have.

According to the new International Survey of Children’s Well-Being, which polled kids ages 8, 10, and 12 in 15 countries, fewer than 1 out of 20 kids report low satisfaction with the things they have. Meanwhile, children in some of the poorer countries in the survey—Algeria, Turkey—worry a lot less about money than one might presume. (The United States was not included in this year’s survey.)

“Children tend to be more optimistic in life,” Norway’s Elisabeth Backe-Hansen, the survey’s lead researcher, told Quartz. That’s good to hear, of course, especially in light of what seems to be the increasingly stressful, high-pressure environment that kids grow up in nowadays.

Yet optimism and the refreshing idea that kids worldwide still get to enjoy fairly worry-free childhoods don’t explain all of the study’s findings, some of which are rather contradictory. For instance, children in Spain—one of the wealthier countries in the study, based on GDP—are among those most satisfied with what they have, yet they rank #2 (behind Colombia) in likelihood of reporting they “often” or “always” worry about how much money their family has.

Algeria also presents a confusing picture. “Despite Algeria’s very low GDP, children reported comparatively low levels of worry about how much money their family had,” the report states. At the same time, however, Algerian children were near the bottom in terms of being satisfied with their material goods and possessions. Only Ethiopian kids were more dissatisfied with what they have.

The researchers theorize that Algeria’s “socialist-egalitarian political regime” may have something to do with the surprisingly low level of children worrying about money. “Many effects of this–such as free education and educational resources, financial aid for poor parents at the start of the school year, free school meals for many children in primary education–remain, which may result in poor children judging their own situation to be similar to that of their peers, and therefore not feeling that their family is worse off,” the report states.

In other words, kids in Algeria may be less likely to be aware of who is poor and who is more well-off. With less obvious means of everyday comparison among children and families, there could be less of a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.

The researchers admit that there were some “diverging patterns of findings,” and that “it may be important to include a wider range of such questions in future surveys in order to fully capture children’s evaluations.” Based on the data we have, though, it seems like there is no clear correlation between material goods and happiness: Richer countries aren’t necessarily home to happier, more worry-free kids either.

MONEY Shopping

Why Stores Can’t Sell You Cheaper Contact Lenses

Contact lenses
Getty Images

Can you say: price fixing?

Costco and online sellers like 1-800 CONTACTS would love to sell you cheaper contact lenses. But in recent years, the country’s biggest contact manufacturers have instituted minimum prices for their products that make it impossible for retailers to offer them at lower price points.

In testimony before Congress last summer, the Consumers Union declared such policies “uncompetitive” and tantamount to price fixing: “Consumers are denied more affordable alternatives. They pay more than they need to, and sellers who would like to make those affordable alternatives available are denied the opportunity to do so.”

The manufacturers are taking advantage of a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established that it was legal for price floors to be set in certain situations. The one stipulation is that the manufacturers must not be “actively coordinating prices among themselves or with retailers,” as Marketplace put it. It’s impossible to prove that Johnson & Johnson, Alcon, Bausch & Lomb, and other big sellers are conspiring to set prices, yet all have instituted unilateral pricing, which means that retailers aren’t allowed to sell their products below a certain price. The net result is that stores and online sellers can’t discount the vast majority of name-brand contact lenses on the market, so there’s no point in consumers shopping around.

Earlier this year, the Utah legislature passed a bill that would prohibit the setting of price floors on contact lenses. It’s worth noting that online discounter 1800CONTACTS.com backed the bill and just so happens to be headquartered in Utah.

The big contact lens companies followed by suing Utah in federal court, and the latest news is that an appeals court declared the law unconstitutional, blocking it from being enforced. Essentially, the court has said that the contact lens manufacturers are within their legal rights to mandate a price floor.

Novartis, owner of the Alcon brand, has argued that price minimums are necessary to combat “showrooming,” the nickname for the practice in which consumers scope out prices from one seller—often, the optometrist’s office where they receive prescriptions—before shopping around and getting the product at a cheaper price elsewhere, typically online. “Eye-care professionals incur the cost of studying and appraising the new technology, but online and big-box retailers do not,” the company wrote in defense of price floors.

Costco, which says the price minimums have forced it to charge prices that are 20% higher than they would have for some contacts, warned that if eye care professionals don’t have to compete on price, they will “leverage their control over prescriptions and brand selection to also control and monopolize contact lens sales.” The result wouldn’t be bad just for Costco; it would negatively affect consumers too.

For the time being at least, the discount retailers—and by extension, consumers seeking contacts at lower prices—are on the losing side of the battle.

TIME Retail

There’s a Wild New Way to Buy Stuff on Amazon

Amazon Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo now lets you buy stuff with your voice

Who needs a computer or even a phone to buy stuff online when you’ve got your voice? Amazon has just updated its new digital assistant product Echo with the ability to reorder products from the online retailer using voice commands.

Amazon users who have a Prime membership can tell Echo, “Alexa, reorder laundry detergent,” for example, and the device will automatically check to see if the user has previously ordered the item. Echo’s name defaults to Alexa but can easily be changed.

If an item hasn’t previously been ordered, Echo will search for similar items among a list of high-rated products called Amazon’s Choice and offer users the chance to order that instead. If there are no similar products available in the Amazon’s Choice selection, the item will be placed in a user’s shopping list.

It’s no surprise that Amazon is using Echo to rope people into buying more stuff online. The company also recently unveiled a selection of tiny physical buttons that people can place around their home and press to automatically reorder staples like detergent and diapers.

TIME Food

Why Consumers Don’t Trust ‘Organic’ Labels

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, bananas, fruits
Photograph by Danny Kim for TIME; Gif by Mia Tramz for TIME

Survey finds many shoppers believe organic labels are just an excuse to charge more

Organic products are all over grocery store shelves and menus, but consumers don’t have much faith in the “o” word, according to a study from market research firm Mintel. More than half of shoppers say they believe that labeling something as organic is “an excuse to charge more,” and more than one-third say they believe “organic” is just marketing jargon “with no real value or definition.”

The word has, however, had a strict definition overseen by the federal government since 2002. Back then, fresh off the heels of public debate about the term, a report on Oregon shoppers found that just 7% had no trust in the label. “It’s about an erosion of confidence,” says Billy Roberts, an analyst with Mintel, which surveyed 2,002 U.S. adults for the new study. “It’s a question of whether the whole supply chain is delivering on an organic promise.”

Roberts says that highly visible food recalls, along with a perennial distrust of big corporations and the government, has led people to feel less certain about what they’re getting when they buy something at the local grocery store. The entrance of bigger players into the organic scene—companies such as Wal-Mart, Target and PepsiCo have all been expanding their selections in recent years—has also driven down prices, Roberts notes, “and those high prices were almost a certain reassurance to consumers that what they were buying was what had been promised to them.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture decides whether any company or farm can slap an “organic” label on their product and investigate every complaint that the word is being falsely used. “We have a robust system,” says Betsy Rakola, the USDA’s organic policy advisor. “There’s a lot of integrity behind the label. Anyone who wants to sell or market or label their product as organic has to follow the USDA regulations.”

Those regulations include rules that farmland must have been free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for at least three years, for example. Organic livestock has to eat 100% organic feed and have access to the outdoors. Facilities pursuing the label must be inspected and reviewed every year. Though Mintel found that many consumers believe organic products are healthier for them, Rakola says their oversight is about the production process. Farmers have to promote ecological balance and biodiversity; they have to enhance soil and water quality; they must conserve resources. “It’s about the process and how the food is grown,” she says. “That’s the assurance that the seal provides.”

Organic may also have lost credibility because of its close association with buzzwords that have little or no definition in the eyes of the government. Outside of meat and dairy products, the word “natural” has no concrete meaning in the marketplace—which has upset some consumers enough to sue companies like Tyson for claiming they sell “100 percent all-natural” chicken nuggets. So far as Rakola is aware, there is no standard at all for when people can use the word “artisanal,” even though it evokes an image of small-batch, hand-crafted, superior-quality products.

Clamor for uniformity—for the sake of consumers and for leveling the competitive playing field—led to “organic” getting its federal definition 13 years ago. Health concerns helped win “gluten-free” a standard that went into effect in 2014; while the presences of little gluten makes little difference for trendier dieters, the lack of assurance that new dishes or products were in fact gluten-free became a danger for those with actual allergies to gluten in recent years.

Should words like “natural” and “artisanal” have definitions too, so they can’t be bandied about? “It’s not for us to jump in and say what people need,” Rakola says, emphasizing that the USDA’s job is to respond to the public and to Congress.

The market research analyst sees a chance for businesses to get ahead in the meantime, using transparency and interactive elements to show shoppers more about how their products are made. That may also be a path to giving thousands of organic products more credence with the public. “Consumers are a little hesitant to purchase many of them because of lack of confidence,” Roberts says. “It’s an opportunity for manufacturers to reach consumers, establishing that trust that consumers are really looking for.”

MONEY Shopping

H&M Tries Luring New Workers With Fat Benefits

Low-price fashion retailer H&M is aggressively recruiting employees, offering up to five weeks paid vacation.

MONEY Shopping

The Death of the Shopping Mall Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

The Crystals shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at CityCenter in Las Vegas.
Jamie Pham—Alamy The Crystals shopping, dining, and entertainment complex at CityCenter in Las Vegas.

High-end malls are hot with investors

Even as the rise of online retailers such as Amazon.com leads analysts to predict the eventual death of the American shopping mall, real estate fund managers are betting some will prosper – if they can lure the right kind of consumer.

Simon Property Group, the largest high-end mall operator in the country with properties including Palo Alto, California’s Stanford Shopping Center and suburban Philadelphia’s King of Prussia Mall is the top holding in 53 of the 71 U.S. real estate funds tracked by Lipper. The average real estate fund devotes 8.8% of its portfolio to Simon, a bigger average bet than the 7.6% that tech funds invest in Apple and almost one percentage point more than the weight of Simon in the benchmark S&P U.S. REIT index.

Still a symbol of a car-based, middle-class suburban America, malls are increasingly seen as viable only if they attract the affluent. Fund managers are bullish on so-called Class A malls, anchored by department stores like Bloomingdale’s and featuring retailers like Apple, reflecting how better-off consumers have thrived since the end of the financial crisis while middle and lower income consumers have struggled.

“Class A malls are repositioning themselves to be destinations, with more restaurants, which is making them more resilient to what’s going on with the Internet,” said Rick Romano, a portfolio manager of the $3.8 billion Prudential Global Real Estate fund, who holds 4.5% of his portfolio in Simon, his top holding.

Class A malls are also the only shopping centers able to attract an Apple store, which can post annual sales of more than $5,000 a square foot – the highest of any U.S. retailer – and boost sales growth for other retailers throughout the mall, Romano said. As a result, Simon has been able to post rent increases of 18.9% for new leases over the last 12 months, according to Paul Morgan, an analyst at MLV & Co.

Simon’s average rent per square foot – which includes ongoing and new leases – rose 4.5% in the first quarter compared with the year before, or about six times the 0.8% pace of inflation in the U.S. Bloomingdale’s is the most frequent anchor store at the highest-rated malls in the country, followed by Nordstrom.

Those Americans in the top 20% of income – or Class A mall shoppers – have seen their household assets jump from about $15 trillion in 2010 to $25 trillion in 2014, according to Green Street Advisors. Household assets for Class B and lower mall customers rose from about $7 trillion in 2010 to a little over $10 trillion in 2014.

Class B malls are often saddled with struggling department stores such as Sears or J.C. Penney as anchors, making them less attractive to prospective tenants. Some 24 such malls have closed since 2010, and an additional 60 are on the brink of closure, according to Green Street Advisors.

No REIT fund hold Class B or lower mall operators as their largest holding, according to Lipper. J.C Penney and Sears are the most frequent anchor stores at Class C and lower malls, according to Green Street.

There are about 1,000 enclosed shopping malls in the U.S. Foot traffic at malls during the November and December holiday shopping season fell from approximately 35 billion visits in 2010 to 17.6 billion in 2013, according to an October Cushman and Wakefield report. Online commerce now accounts for 15% of retail sales – just 5 percentage points less than the percentage of retail sales that come from malls and gaining, according to a report from Green Street Advisors.

DEMAND FOR HIGH-END RISING

Investor demand for high-end malls will rise even if consumer spending overall flattens or starts to slow, said Jason Ko, a co-portfolio manager of the $2.1 billion J.P. Morgan Realty Income fund who has 7.8% of his portfolio in Simon, his largest position.

Macerich, the third-largest mall owner in the U.S., rejected a $16.8 billion takeover offer from Simon Property on April 1, a merger that would give Simon an even larger hold of the high-end mall market. Simon is not expected to come back with a higher offer, analysts and fund managers said.

“What that attempt signifies is that high quality malls are irreplaceable: difficult to build and difficult to buy,” Ko said.

Shares of Simon Property are down 5.5% since Macerich rejected its takeover offer, while shares of Macerich have fallen 2.2% over the same time. Over the last 12 months, shares of Simon are up 5.7%, or about 2 percentage points less than the 7.9% gain in the benchmark index.

Simon shares closed Wednesday at $181.31, compared with the average target price of $217.05 among analysts tracked by Thomson Reuters. At that price, Simon is selling at 39 times trailing 12 month earnings, slightly below the average 45 times earnings among its peers, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Class B malls, meanwhile, will not only feel the effects of sales declines at J.C. Penney and Sears, but will see increased competition from so-called power centers – suburban developments that are often next to a major highway and include a Home Depot or Best Buy alongside a traditional strip mall, said Ian Goltra, who helps oversee $2 billion in real estate investments at San Francisco-based Forward Funds.

Goltra has several short positions for Class B mall operators in his funds, yet expects shares of Simon to rise, even with its high percentage of fund ownership. He has been adding shares of Simon as it has traded in the $180s, down from a high of $205.31 on Jan 28th.

“They have the largest portfolio of blue-chip tenants, and that’s something their competitors have not been able to replicate,” he said.

MONEY

6 Crazy Things You Can Sell on eBay

toilet paper roll
Michael Krinke—Getty Images

You'd be surprised how much money you'll make off these everyday items

It seems that nothing is too head-scratchingly weird to be placed up for sale on eBay. But what if I told you that you could earn some extra cash on eBay by selling common household items that most of us toss without a second thought?

This is definitely an example of one person’s trash being another’s treasure. Selling what is typically considered garbage can net you a few hundred dollars a year from eBay and have you rethinking what you throw away. Did you know that you could make money selling:

1. Old Computer Software

If you have software for computers you replaced years ago, you may be able to sell them for extra cash on eBay. That’s exactly what I did when I discovered a bunch of old software in my junk storage drawer. Think no one is interested in your 2003 Microsoft Word software? Think again. That’ll sell for $15 to $30 on eBay. And that’s just one example. The amount of software out there is vast, so it’s impossible to provide a lot of specifics for what will sell. However, it doesn’t take long to check. Seriously, it’s a potential gold mine. Pull out those old disks and check away.

2. Magazines

After being convinced that I needed to part with some of my beloved magazines, I jokingly implored my husband to check on eBay to see if anyone would buy them. I was surprised to find out that I could make money selling my old issues, and I started cleaning house!

Which magazines sell? The specific magazines and the prices they will sell for vary. For instance, one back issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray sold for $5, while a group of 11 magazines from 2008 to 2011 sold for $19.99. We’re not talking rare or vintage stuff here, just regular issues that people are selling after reading them. Spend a few minutes on eBay looking up your magazines and you could be ready to sell and make some money too!

3. Empty Makeup Containers

Specifically, the empty makeup containers of a specific high end brand, M.A.C., are in high demand. They are popular because of the retailer’s “Back to M.A.C.” rewards program where customers can exchange six empty M.A.C. makeup containers for a free lipstick. At $16 a pop, people are looking for ways to get their pricey lipstick for less. Empty M.A.C. containers sell anywhere from $5 to $40 depending on the number for sale and the cost of shipping. If you use this brand, it’s an opportunity to score some extra cash. If you’re looking for a way to get your M.A.C. for less, well, here it is.

So there you have it, six examples of common household trash items that can be sold on eBay for a few hundred dollars per year. I’ll be looking for others because I’m sure there are more. That’s my type of recycling.

4. Coupons

How would you like to make $5 to $10 for selling one coupon? Sounds crazy, right? But there’s a market for these recyclable bits. Some coupons seem to sell at a premium. For instance, a 15% coupon from Pottery Barn, or other high end stores, regularly sells for $9.99, and a $25 coupon sells for $14.99. Coupons for many other retailers like Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, and more sell well too. The beauty of this is all you have to do is wait for them to show up in the mail and sell what you’re not using. Doing this once a month could probably net you an additional $50–$75 a year.

5. Empty Egg Cartons

To think I felt good about myself because I made a point of placing my empty egg cartons in the correct recycling bin for trash pickup. Who knew I could give them new life and bring people joy (and earn some extra cash) by selling them on eBay?

Like the cardboard tubes above, egg cartons seem to be wanted by the arts and crafts crowd. It’s not uncommon for a stack of empty egg cartons to sell for $10 to $20, and it doesn’t seem to matter if they are cardboard or foam. They are easily stackable and won’t take up much space while you collect enough to sell. By saving my cartons (and taking my parents’ empties), I should be able to sell a few stacks a year.

6. Paper Towel and Toilet Tissue Cardboard Tubes

I know, right? Who would have thought that people would pay money for the cardboard tubes of spent tissue? The people who are selling them on eBay and making money, that’s who! It seems that these recyclable goodies are popular for arts and crafts projects.

To cash in you’ll need to stock up before you sell, saving at least 35 empty tubes. So grab a bag, toss in those tubes, and let them add up. Depending on the size of your family and how quickly you go through rolls will determine how often you can sell on eBay. It’s not uncommon for empty cardboard tubes to sell for $10, $20 or $30. That’s pretty good for something that is literally tossed in the recycling bin.

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MONEY groceries

This Is America’s Favorite Supermarket

Robin Gallo (center) of North Palm Beach attended the opening on the new Trader Joe's store in Palm Beach Gardens store Friday, September 19, 2014. ''I got here at 6am and was the first in line, '' she said. ''I am using half a vacation day for this.
Bruce R. Bennett—The Palm Beach Post/Zuma Press, Inc./Alamy The opening on the new Trader Joe's store in Palm Beach Gardens store in Florida on Friday, September 19, 2014.

Yet again, Trader Joe's has been named as the best supermarket in the land by grocery shoppers, in a survey that factors in cleanliness, service, speed of checkout, and overall value.

Trader Joe’s may be known for its small stores, but it would be understandable if the grocery chain was getting a big head. For the third year in a row, TJ’s has been named by consumers as their overall favorite supermarket in a survey conducted by Market Force Information.

Survey participants are asked to rate grocery chains on attributes like Courteous Service and One-Stop Shopping, and Market Force compiles the data into what it calls a Composite Loyalty Index, meant to gauge overall consumer satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending the retailer to others. Trader Joe’s may not be the go-to spot for one-stop shopping, but for the past few years, it has ranked at or near the top of shopper ratings for attributes such as Courteous Service, Inviting Atmosphere, Low Prices, Cleanliness, and Fast Checkouts. That’s given the grocery chain the top ranking three years and running.

Publix’s high scores for courteous employees, speedy checkouts, and cleanliness helped the Florida-based supermarket chain nab the #2 slot in the Market Force study. The third-highest grocery chain, meanwhile, is Aldi, the exceptionally low-price, no-frills, generic-brand sibling of Trader Joe’s. WinCo Foods, another emerging low-price chain, and Costco received the highest ratings for value alongside Aldi.

This past spring, Consumer Reports’ study on the nation’s best supermarkets also placed Trader Joe’s and Publix in the top three, though it named Wegmans as the overall best grocery chain. (Wegmans wasn’t featured in the Market Force survey.)

One other notable nugget from both surveys is that Walmart is singled out for two reasons: It is the biggest and most visited of all grocery stores, and it receives the lowest ratings from shoppers.

Read next: Former Trader Joe’s Exec Opens Super Cheap Nonprofit Supermarket

MONEY Shopping

How to Buy a Mattress in 10 Minutes or Less

woman on bed
iStock

Simplify your quest for the perfect night's sleep

Mattress shopping can be kind of a nightmare. There are so many choices. And since the last time you bought a new mattress was probably several years ago, you probably can’t even remember how you did it. Is this an all-day shopping event? An endless, store-hopping nightmare?

Finding your perfect bed doesn’t need to be a stressful ordeal. In fact, preparation and the right tools will help you find a mattress in less time than it takes to brush your teeth, change into your PJs, and set the sleep timer on your TV. Here’s how to find the perfect mattress in less than 10 minutes.

1. Identify Your Current Mattress’ Flaws

Before even going to the mattress store, figure out what you want to avoid in your next mattress. Too many coils? Too firm for you and not firm enough for your partner or spouse? Narrowing down your list of current mattress flaws will give you a better idea of what you do want.

2. Do Your Homework

Once you know what you don’t want, and have a vague idea of what you do want, it’s time to do a basic search online. Check for prices, sizes, and brand names you’d like to see in person. This, too, will cut your actual in-person shopping time way down.

3. Test With a Trust Fall

For every mattress I’ve ever purchased, this is the sure-fire method I’ve used to find my ideal mattress match. I stand at the foot of the bed, pretend there are eight sets of trusting arms about to catch me, and I fearlessly fall back. I wouldn’t recommend this if you prefer a firm mattress, because, ouch, or if you have pre-existing neck problems, because whiplash. But if you’re looking for a soft and cuddly pillow-top, this is all kinds of fun, and only takes one minute of your time.

4. Try Out All Options

If you’re looking for a new kind of bed, then take the homework you did and test out firm, pillow-top, adjustable, and Tempur-Pedic mattresses by laying down for one or two minutes on each one. It’s kind of like trying on wedding dresses, in that you’ll know instantly once you’ve found “the one.”

5. Don’t Go for the Cheapest Mattress

A mattress is probably one of the most important purchases you will ever make. Restful sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing, so going for the cheapest mattress you can find is not the best idea. You will spend six to eight hours a day laying on this thing, so acknowledge that this is an investment and is worth the hefty pricetag.

6. Know Your Warranty and Refund Rights

You might feel confident in your mattress selection at the store, but just in case you take it home and completely hate it, make sure you know what the mattress store’s policies are with warranties and refunds. Most quality mattresses will come with a 10-year full warranty. As for refunds, some brands give you two weeks to decide if you want to keep it. Some offer a “comfort period” for your body to adjust to the mattress and then a set time frame for returns. But be wary of these “comfort periods” because they often come with a shipping fee and a restocking fee. So once you’ve found your top pick, ask about both before handing over your money.

7. Negotiate Away

If a mattress store is willing to negotiate on price, then you need to make sure they negotiate fairly. This is because most mattress manufacturers apply set minimum prices for their retailers, so many will just price them at the minimum right off the bat. If you find some wiggle room in price discussions with the salesperson, bring them down as low as possible, since you know they marked it way over the minimum manufacturer price. This might take the most time, so save five minutes for haggling, if needed.

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