March 1, 2014 - Marshall Coyle

I am the Old Bed Guy.

Welcome to the Old Bed Guy. I am said old bed guy and have been involved in the bed and bedding industry for over 60 years, and life in general, for more than 85 years. I have seen it all. I constantly shop the web, read trade papers, visit a route of many local stores ranging foreign imports, sleazy chain sleep shops, department and furniture stores, and local factories. For the record, I am based in Manhattan, New York, (not Kansas) and have easy access to almost every kind of bed store and wholesale showroom. A very few of my old mattress buddies around the country help with out of town information.  If you are in the market for a bed, bedding, mattress, or bed linen, pay attention. Careful reading will teach you a lot. You do not have to panic or be a victim after an hour’s study.

And, if you really pay attention, you might save yourself from becoming a victim of one of the very clever scammy websites. Beautiful expensive professional sites that have what appear to be far better mattresses at far better values than names you know, and with trial programs that are so good that they are unbelievable. In the back of your head you know you should be suspicions, but you don’t know what to look for. Nevertheless, if or when you know what I know, you will opt to trust and order from an established business with a street address and a history. I do my best to separate the phonies from the good guys in this informational blog. It feels like a new one blossoms every week. Washington is virtually powerless when it comes to policing internet monkey business. They have nailed only three out of the dozens in the last two years.

As far as brands go, we have a lot of current information about Aireloom, Shifman, Kluft, Simmons, Sealy, Sleep Number, Charles P. Rogers, Casper, Keetsa, Leesa, Yogabed, St. Regis, Kingsdown, Carpe Diem, Vi Spring, Hastens, Duxiana, Dux, Stearns and Foster, Leggett and Platt, Serta, TempurPedic, Hotel Mattresses, Saatva, Pin and Needle, Casper, and Marshall Ventilated Mattress for our Canadian friends, and many dozen more.

It never hurts to visit Consumer Reports to add to your knowledge if you do not get what you need from me, or from me and the oddly named, “Sleep Like the Dead”. The one month $6 trial at Consumer Reports is a bargain. I tend to question the methodology of their physical test procedures because their test results are often at complete opposites to the user reviews that they print. I make it a rule of thumb to always question the veracity of positive reviews and accept the negative ones. I know for a fact that scam mattress sellers manipulate their reviews. None of them pay for bad reviews. Consumer Reports testing machines seem to love memory foam, but the readers who write in about the top rated Serta, Sealy, and Simmons mattresses that are upholstered with layer on layer of memory foam, go to great lengths to complain about heat and outgassing. Because about half just love the same mattresses, and I know that these are honest reviews, I can just ascribe this to the apparent fact that different people react differently to the chemicals used to make memory foam.

The most often visited mattress review sites, especially those with forums, all, to me, appear to have an agenda to subtly or not so subtly steer you to a product or website that is invisibly paying for this service. At least one major site takes generous kickbacks for sending shoppers to a small select group of sites. “let the buyer beware” now that you know. I don’t say that the only two unbiased web services are The Old Bed Guy and Consumer Reports. The oddly named “Sleep Like the Dead”, is neither here nor there. They make a whole lot of money from mattress advertising, and commissions on accessory sales, but claim not to be influenced directly. You still should visit and read the statistics for general ideas, not for definitive advice.

There may be others usable placed for unbiased information. Never the less, I have searched long and strong, and those that I have found in several years of searching can be summed up with the condemnation; the advice is paid for by steering you to one or more particular products, subtly and otherwise. I have lived in the New York metro area for more than eight decades and I often recommend Shifman and Charles P. Rogers, two local NY/NJ old time mattress makers not very well known across the country. Rogers only sells factory direct on the Internet, from a factory showroom and one on the same block where they have been since 1855 in the Chelsea section of NYC.  Shifman sells only through a small cadre of fine furniture and department stores including Bloomingdales, which speaks to their fine quality. New Yorkers in the know have relied on Shifman for about 118 years and Charles P. Rogers, America’s oldest mattress shop, for over 161 years. All the way on the left coast, there are a couple of unusually good mattress makers, E.J. Kluft and San Francisco’s McCroskey mattress. Canada has the Marshall Ventilated Mattress company in Toronto. There are a handful of smaller regional factories still turning out good mattresses, Connecticut has Gold Bond, a fine family company that still makes its own high grade felted cotton. None of them are the best. Each has its own strengths, but when I can include one or more in a virtual shopping report, I do. Sealy and Stearns & Foster, both now made on the same assembly line, were recently taken over by the Tempurpedic memory foam company. These brands rarely get a nod from me from me because of my personal sleeping experiences,  combined with the years and dollars I literally spent buying back sagging mattresses to placate valuable customers. My store policy was to buy back any mattress regardless of a maker trying to avoid responsibility with a too clever worthless warranty. “Been there and did that”.

When we were retailers we took home every ” new breakthrough” invention or construction to try personally. If it taught me anything, I learned that the progress was usually verbal. We did try to like Tempur-Pedic and came close. The first few minutes were always very good. However, as the unventilated temperature sensitive foam accumulated and responded to our body heat and perceptibly slumped and hardened, we, and anyone else with real memory foam, will find yourself sleeping in a tub inches deep. I was only in my late sixties and even then found it annoying to climb out when I had to turn. This was at least twenty years ago when they still used genuine Swedish (from Sweden, really) almost odorless foam. Today’s visco/memory foam(s) seem to be far gassier than the early versions. If the gas wasn’t formaldehyde related, all it would be is an annoyance for a few months until you get used to the odor and no longer notice it. Never the less, science seems to believe that formaldehyde is cause of liver cancer and OSHA is very concerned strict about factory ventilation. No one knows if or how many molecules it takes to start a cancer and since there are so many other things to sleep on, why should you be a test animal? When you see a memory foam mattress advertised at an unbelievable price, believe it, because of China. Chinese foamers completely unregulated, are shipping container loads of incredibly cheaply made, short-lived, and odiferous, and probably dangerous, Chinese incredibly cheap versions of “memory foam”. Our laws do not protect you, only your good judgment can. In my opinion, natural latex foam, foam that appeared around 1928, when I did, can make a wonderful mattress when combined with an appropriate steel spring.

I know of nothing better than natural talalay latex to top off a good innerspring unit when you want the best comfort and support. Caveat: like all foams, latex is made in a wide range of firmness and actual quality. It is important to know the differences. Memory foam has a lot of issues and not enough benefits in general for me to frequently recommend it to a reader. More elsewhere in the OldBedGuy blog.

Before you ask me , “which is better, a one sided or two sided mattress”, the answer is “yes”. I go into detail somewhere else in this blog. The only Beautyrest that can compare to the high quality mattresses coming from the smaller factories mentioned above is their Black Lillian with latex. (Macy’s). Between these two duopolist Tempur/Sealy/S&F and Serta/Simmons, we now have only two companies, producing many very similar chemical foam laden mattresses under five labels and “own” 81% of all American sales. The remaining 19% goes to a handful of stalwart and usually scrupulously honest well-established firms.

And increasing every day,  are synthetic foam mattresses crushed and rolled into small easily shipped boxes. I have not yet found any of this new kind of sleep product that I can recommend.   I do my tiny bit to shed some light on  blatant con artists, but I am only one tired and old guy, so, “Trust, but verify”. What I do not do is reveal my real identity as I am rather well known in the home furnishings industry and I do not wish to risk losing friends over my pointed opinions. So let the buyer beware. If you want advice as to how to stay married more than sixty-seven years, make money, deal with all the bad news on every front page, I charge ten cents. Advice on dog raising is free. Medical advice questions should be limited to aches and pains.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Bed Buying Tips / Bed History / Bed Value / Bedding / Casper / Iron Beds / Mattresses / Old-Bed-Guy Old-Bed-Guy /


  • Ruth says:

    I have a relatively new (three years old) Shifman mattress called the DaVinci model (368 Coils, 12 1/2 gauge spring, two-sided pillow top with 1 1/2 ” convoluted natural latex foam) boxspring is 80 coils, 9 gauge). The store in NJ where I purchased the mattress is out of business. The mattress is beautifully made but is too firm. How can I soften the mattress? Will a high quality latex topper 2 or 3 inches mean too much latex on the bed? Thank you so much for any advice.

    • Marshall Coyle says:

      Dear Ruth,
      All Shifman mattresses tend to be too firm, always were, and maybe alway will. They exist to supply mattresses that are made as closely as possible to the mattresses they made 64 years ago when Mrs.Coyle and I got a Shifman Sanopedic extra firm set for a wedding gift. As hard as my desktop. Shifman still uses the same springs in the core but has added latex as filling material. The latex is very high quality and makes the mattress unusually long-lived compared to mattresses filled with wool, hair, or other crushable fibers. All this means that you probably will be keeping it for a while.

      You will be very happy with a natural talalay latex topper. Three inches should do the trick if you buy “soft”. I have found that Amazon, by far, has the best selection and also the best value on the legitimate product.
      Marshall Coyle

  • Ellen says:

    I am looking for a new mattress. We have a platform bed. Currently have an old Sterns and Foster mattress; more than 10 years old. We liked it because when one of us turned in bed the other didn’t feel the movement. Now Sterns and Foster isn’t that highly rated. We are seeing some good reports of Shifman mattresses. I have a problem back and need a good supportive mattress. Not sure what I should be looking at. The top rated consumer reports mattress isn’t available. I am a back and side sleeper. Do you have recommendations.
    Thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *