About a decade ago and roughly a mile from where I lived at the time there was a mansion on a hill. As I don’t much care about mansions I don’t recall many of the details. I do remember a huge pool in the center of the house with columns running along the sides and reaching up to the glass ceiling far above and the various courtyards that the sprawling building wrapped around. These I remember because they were where the party was held.
Hundreds of people attended this annual event. The man who owned the house invited all his friends, all his employes and, to avoid complaint, all the neighbors. That last was how we made the cut.
The fine liquors flowed and the food was wildly diverse. Both were relentlessly replenished and each courtyard held a different live band. Indeed, the best Blues I’ve ever heard was in one of those courtyards here in New Hampshire. And I grew up in Chicago.
It was the kind of party Gatsby would have thrown if Gatsby had had, you know, real money.
I got to know our host fairly well over the years. He made his money in many and various enterprises and unfortunately one of these involved buying and bulldozing the 150 acres of woods behind my house. This land had been logged by the earliest settlers who then tried to farm the rocky soil, building beautiful stone walls in their vain attempts to clear the fields. Eventually they gave up and the forest returned. When hiking it I was always trespassing, of course.
I enjoyed it mostly in late Fall, Winter and early Spring when the bugs were gone and the low, marshy spots were frozen. The dog and I would wander about, inspecting the old hunter’s blinds and the two shot-up derelict cars from the 1940s. It was hilly terrain and there was a lovely little pond tucked into a ravine. Chunks of granite stuck up out of the ground here and there and a couple of these made fine spots to sit, rest and enjoy a cigar. Only once did I ever see anyone else back there.
By the time his crews had finished, the hills were leveled, the pond drained, the derelict cars hauled off and not even the granite outcroppings remained. I couldn’t identify a single landmark I’d once known. In their place was a nice flat suburban subdivision with winding roads named after his daughters and million-dollar houses on the rise.
But his real money was made selling mattresses. He owned a chain of retail stores for that purpose. Because I knew him, I got to know just how incredibly profitable selling “discount” mattresses is. Because he tore down “my” forest, when I needed one I bought from his competitor. I still paid too much.
I paid too much partially because his competitor enjoyed the same handsome markups and partially because I bought a high quality mattress. This quality assessment I based on the fact that it was expensive and fancy.
I was willing to pay for expensive and fancy because I don’t sleep well. Most folks chalk this up to the likelihood that I have a bad conscience. Could be.
Unfortunately, the expensive and fancy new mattress did nothing for my conscience or my insomnia. In fact, we had it replaced three times.
Each time they sent out a Mattress Inspector. Did you know there were such things as Mattress Inspectors? I didn’t.
Anyway, each time the inspector came to our home, took careful measurements, sent in his report and shortly thereafter we received a new mattress. Seems it would have been cheaper just to send out the replacements without the inspector but then, what do I know?
This was all very odd as presumably the inspector found the mattress defective and yet each replacement was exactly the same. Finally we gave up and just chose to live with it, looking forward to the time when we could justify replacing it. Hopefully with a better choice.
As it happens, earlier this year I was planning to do just that. Not a task I was looking forward to. Then, in the summer, I received an email from Daehee Park.
Mr. Park and his partner John-Thomas Marino
Operating this blog I get lots of emails trying to entice me into featuring some product or another so as to pawn it off you. It takes me about 3 seconds to hit the delete button. I was a breathe away from doing the same with Mr. Park’s.
But something made me pause. I read it more carefully and decided to respond. Among other things I said:
“So my first question is, do you really read my blog and has it really helped in launching your business? I’d ask that you take a moment to tell me how and what you like about it, just so I know this isn’t a spam email.”
I figured this would chase him away. But instead I got a reply that said in part:
“I originally came across your blog through a link/comment over at Mr. Money Mustache.
“Following your advice, especially the Stock Series, I got my personal savings plan in order while bootstrapping Tuft & Needle. I opened a Roth IRA for the first time and set up a 401k plan for the company. I took your portfolio advice and selected the recommended low-cost Vanguard funds (mainly VTSAX). It was tough getting it going while committing resources to a startup, but I’m glad I developed the ritual and habit early on.
“My favorite and most useful post, which I also refer our team members to is this one: http://jlcollinsnh.com/2011/06/08/how-i-failed-my-daughter-and-a-simple-path-to-wealth/“
Then, being the astute businessman he clearly is, he went on to tell me a bit more about his company:
“Back in 2012, my co-founder JT and I left the software technology industry in Silicon Valley and launched Tuft & Needle with $6,000 of our own savings. We’ve grown quite a bit since then. We’re now 15 team members and we did over $1MM in sales in the first quarter of 2014.
“…we are trying to a) cut out the middleman markups and b) put the customer experience first.”
It didn’t take long for me to start thinking of these guys as the Republic Wireless of the mattress space. That is, a way to buy a better mattress at a lower cost and not have to do business with the guy who ripped up “my” forest. Not that I’m one to hold a grudge.
So I began my due diligence. Anyone who reads this blog knows I value simplicity and here the T&N folks score big.
You chose what thickness you want (5″ or 10″) and you chose what size you need. That’s it. You’re done.
I also value, well, value. Depending on size, your T&N mattress will cost you between $250 and $750. That’s right. You can’t pay more than $750 even for their biggest, thickest king size mattress. Shipping is, as it always should be in my opinion, free.
Didn’t take long before my personal order was in: 10″ Queen. $600. To put that price in perspective, my same-sized fancy mattress from the “discount” store in 2007 cost $1299.
It arrived, as promised, on the appointed day. When I got home I expected to find a large rectangle waiting to be unpacked. Instead it was a more compact, but still large, cylinder. That’s interesting, I thought.
This cylinder was tightly wrapped in plastic and as I carefully cut this away the mattress, which had been very tightly rolled and bound, began to inflate. “Inflate” is really the wrong word. It wasn’t actually being pumped up with air or anything. But that’s what it looked like. That, or some monster breaking free of it’s bonds.
Mmmm, I thought, this can’t be good; as much fun as it is to watch.
I don’t like air mattresses and I couldn’t get the whole inflate concept out of my head. But I shouldn’t have worried.
In short order it expanded (ah, that’s the better word) to it’s full size and has proved comfortably firm. And, importantly, when I move or my wife does, the movement isn’t transferred across to the other person.
I’ll let you go to their very cool website for the details of how these mattresses are made and why they perform so well. But I will say one of the best things is that these guys aren’t just middle-men. They custom manufacture their products to their own specifications.
So, we’ve been sleeping on our T&N mattress for a couple of months now and we remain thoroughly impressed. I doubt we’ll need another for many years to come, but when we do this is where we’ll return.
Ok, let’s see. What else? Well…
…They offer a 30 day trial and a 7-year warranty. I can’t speak to either of those because there is no way I’m letting them have mine back. But I do like the attitude reflected in what they say about it:
“Contact us if you’d like to make a return so that we may begin our hassle-free process for a full refund.”
…They don’t pick up and dispose of your old mattress. This initially concerned me but at their suggestion we contacted The Salvation Army and the problem was solved easily enough and in a way that benefited somebody else.
…They don’t sell box springs. But we already had ours. Plus, if I were buying a bed frame again I’d get a platform style. It’s that whole simplicity ethic again. Box springs really are silly extra things.
That’s about it.
So if you need a mattress, and I can’t imagine you’ve read this far if you don’t, this is the place I use.
I like the company. I like their product, I like their prices, I like their service, I like their style, I like their business ethic and approach and I like them.
If you click on the ad directly above, it will take you to that really cool website I mentioned earlier. There you’ll find lots more information and you can begin your own due diligence.
Then, if you decide to buy (and by way of full disclosure) this blog will earn a small commission. Your price is the same regardless.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, as nice as it is, my new T&N mattress has not cured my insomnia. But, I’m a whole lot more comfortable now staring thru the darkness at the ceiling.
Addendum, November 21, 2014:
T&N recently announced a new version of their mattress incorporating a new type of foam. Responding to a question about their recent price increase (I’ve now updated the prices in the post) in the comments below, Evan Maridou explains:
Evan here from Tuft & Needle. I head up our customer experience and operations teams.
Thanks for raising this concern. We’re all about transparency as a company so here we go! I apologize in advance as this is an incredible amount of information. We just want to be as honest as possible and give you all of the details (something we should have been more proactive about in the first place.)
This past Tuesday, we started shipping a new version of our mattress. We’ve been working over the past year to develop a new type of foam. For years, the industry has had the same three options in foam: Memory Foam, Latex Foam and Poly Foam.
Before Tuesday, we used poly foam. All three have their pros and cons. And for years, mattress companies have tried to layer them on top of each other to realize the benefits of each. It honestly just doesn’t work.
While we used our poly foam, we heard a few complaints from customers. Not many, but they kept us awake at night none the less. So we set out to address these.
The new foam we’ve created is truly unique. We partnered with some of the best manufacturers in the United States and created it from scratch. We’re not big fans of gimmicky names but I can tell you that we are the only place that offers this new formulation.
The biggest innovation in the foam is that it is more comfortable for more people. If you have our current foam and find it comfortable, this foam wouldn’t feel like much of an improvement. But for anyone in the past who has returned our foam for being too firm or too soft, we’ve devised a way to provide different levels of comfort to different individuals. We’re now able to set the firmness for individuals of any weight, independent of each other.
The new foam also has a new technology we call localized bounce. Memory foam is great in that you won’t feel your partner moving around. The downside is that it feels like quick sand when you try to roll over. Our new foam is both responsive and pressure relieving. It’s like that old commercial where someone would put a wine glass on the bed and drop a bowling bowl on the other-side and the glass wouldn’t move. The only problem was the bowling bowl wouldn’t bounce. On our foam, it will.
The final innovation is better pressure relief. Again, for owners of our current foam who find it comfortable, they’re not missing out by not owning the new foam. But for the customers who chose to return their mattresses for being too firm, they would likely find our new foam to be extremely comfortable.
There are only two downsides to this foam. It’s heavier and it costs A LOT more to make. The heavier piece doesn’t have an impact on the consumer, except that the box it ships in is slightly heavier to lift when you first move it in. After that, it won’t have any impact on comfort. It’s also no heavier than a traditional mattress. It is heavier than our previous version though.
We’re using this foam on the top 30% of the mattress. Using it all the way through would cost way too much and does absolutely nothing for comfort (The same way a box spring has little to no impact on comfort level). Just how much more expensive is this new foam? It’s three times the cost of the old foam we were using.
The good news is that foam is only part of the cost of our mattress, and in this case, only 30%, of part of that cost, has increased in price by 3x. This is where you saw price increases of up to 25%
John Lynch also made a good point that our King Size mattress price increased more than the rest, up to 25%. The reason for this is the increase in weight was most profound on our king size mattress. FedEx (and UPS) charge us based on three factors when shipping a mattress. How much it weighs, how much space (cubic volume) it occupies and how far it travels. The king size mattresses now cost more to ship than our old king size mattresses. And the increase in price related to shipping was much more expensive for the King size mattresses than the rest.
All of this is a long way of saying that our price increase only reflects our increased cost for making this new product.
Some people might argue that this is still our fault for not setting our prices with enough cushion in the first place to handle increasing costs of manufacturing. Or that if we were developing this product over the course of the year, we could have slowly introduced price increases over time.
We whole-heartedly disagree. One of our core values as a company is to charge fair and transparent pricing. It would be completely unfair (in our opinion) to charge our customers a higher price before this new product arrived. We wanted to ensure that only those individuals who got our new foam, paid a higher price.
So to address your specific concerns, we’ve operated our company with the same margin since we started. It’s modest and is enough to cover our costs, pay our employees competitive wages, manufacture in America and continue to innovative on our product.
Our goal was never to create the cheapest product. It was to create a product of superior value. We’re not blind to the fact that this was a significant price increase. That being said, our goal from day one has been to make the best mattress in the world, at a fair price. We truly believe that this new version is a major step in reaching that goal.
We back all of this up with our 30 day return policy. You can return the mattress for any reason at absolutely no cost to you. No questions asked.
Next week, we will also be announcing that we are increasing our warranty to 10 years. This will apply to new as well as existing customers. We stand behind the quality of our mattress and are always looking for ways to increase the value we provide to consumers.
I hope this helps provide some clarity on why we chose to increase our prices. We really do appreciate your feedback and if we’re putting ourselves in your shoes, we agree these price increases are a bit shocking. We apologize for not being more in front of this and explaining all of this reasoning to our customers in the first place. With the information available, your conclusions were fair and warranted.
If you have any other questions, we’re always standing by. You can email myself or our cofounders and we’d be happy to discuss it in more detail., or .
I said it before but I want to re-iterate that we’re grateful for your feedback. Our customers have called us out before (why are your products $299 and not $300) and we’re only better because of it.