Buying Beds: Online vs In-Store


There’s really only one reason someone would want to start buying beds by going to a store, instead of buying beds for sale online, and it’s psychological.

People believe that they need to test a bed by laying on it for a few minutes before they purchase it. They think they will be able to measure comfort within minutes. 

But studies show that deciding on a bed by laying on it as a test serves no purpose. 

RTI, a non-profit research organisation which conducts research to improve the human condition, found that testing beds in a showroom does not lead to choosing the best bed.

The comprehensive study used participants to embark on one-month trials of various beds; participants recorded their sleeping experiences and their overnight bed movements were recorded by sensors.

The test concluded that standard showroom selection does not make people select the bed that ultimately felt most comfortable to them; and they actually tended to choose worse than selecting a bed randomly.

We’ll get into the reason for this in a moment. Other than that, in this guide, we provide all the information needed to make an informed decision about whether to find beds for sale online, or physically go to a store.

Genie Original

The original Genie Mattress that everyone has been sleeping with.

Genie Elemental

Genie Elemental

A medium firm Genie Mattress. The just right feel mattress that Goldilocks would love

Genie Essence

Genie Essence

A firmer take on the Original Genie Mattress we all love.

The importance of a quality bed


Your body needs a few things to give you a joyful life:

  • Good fuel and sustenance from what your mouth consumes
  • Movement to build bones, help digestion and keep muscles intact (and a lot more, but we’ll stick with just these three things)
  • Sunlight to create Vitamin D and keep your bones strong and healthy
  • A healthy mind, and 
  • Rest to regenerate; without sleep, we will die.

Think of your bed as your body’s place of restoration. Your body keeps you going day in and day out, and it only needs to take up a mere quarter of the 24 hours of a day to regenerate through sleep.

Looking at it very briefly, what happens to the body when we sleep?

Well, deep sleep is critical to transfer short-term memories into long-term ones. During deep sleep, hormones are released, and this is important for cell reproduction and repair; without this, we would die. Cell reproduction keeps us alive.

We don’t know everything about the importance of sleep, but some scientists say that deep sleep gives our brains a safe place to practice dealing with situations or emotions that we may not be able to handle while awake.

And so you can see, that sleep is a pretty big deal, and DEEP sleep is critical.

sleep stages

Image Credit:

However, if your body is not comfortable, you won’t get enough deep sleep, and that results in:

Image Credit: Yahoo

  • Having difficulty making decisions, concentrating, remembering things and a slowed down reaction time.
  • Droopy, dark eyes.
  • More noticeable fine lines and wrinkles.
  • More prone to illness as your immune system takes strain and can’t fight off sickness as easily.
  • Increased appetite which can result in becoming overweight.

What this all boils down to, is that good sleep starts with a good bed. While there may be a plethora of reasons for an ongoing struggle for sleep, the bed is the first thing to look at.

What makes a good bed?

Genie Mattress

The goal of a good bed is to keep the spine straight and to relieve pressure points.

First up, the bed that Sophie thinks is so comfortable may not be ideal for you. The right bed depends on the person’s health, height and weight.

This can get tricky when buying a bed for a couple, because John may be very overweight and gets hot in the night, while Joan is skinny and tends to need a heap of blankies to keep warm.

For couples who have different needs, but still wish to sleep together on one bed, the best bed is typically a hybrid with individually coiled springs, like the Genie bed, which is usually a good fit for anyone with any issue or need.

If we briefly examine Genie’s hybrid mattress, you will see that it consists of layers:


Genie Bed technology

  1. Layer one is anti-mite and so the bed is good for people who typically suffer from allergies.
  2. Latex is another layer, and this is to shape your body and distribute your weight on the bed, so no aches and pains, and helps improve blood circulation. Because latex is breathable, unlike memory foam, it keeps your body cool.
  3. Foam is another layer, for added comfort.
  4. Individually pocketed springs is a smart technology used by Genie to allow people of any weight (under 200kg each) to use the bed, and it’s these springs that allow for movement from both parties which will not disturb the other person.

What to consider before buying a new bed

Size of room

Before deciding to buy single beds, a double bed, king or queen, or extra length bed, first consider the size of the room in which the bed will stand…can’t squeeze a double bed into a space that was converted from a balcony to a bedroom…

Age of bed-dee

What is the age of the person who will utilise the bed? The needs of a 5 year old child vs. that of an 85 year old will differ greatly. A child can sleep on just about anything, but an 85 year old may need latex which is similar to memory foam, but will not hamper movement as much as memory foam, making it difficult to get out of bed!

However, a 35 year old suffering from backache may do well with memory foam.

Special needs

Are there any special needs of the person for whom the bed is being bought? For instance, a person with allergies, or backache, or osteoporosis, or is of obese weight will need a bed that caters for that need.

Sleep position

Sleeping position is key to choosing the right bed. For example, a skinny person who sleeps on their tummy will need a softer mattress than the person who sleeps on their back.

Couples individual needs

If it’s a couple you are buying a bed for, take into consideration that each person may have different needs, so finding a bed to match both sets of needs is vital. In addition, individually pocketed springs are best for couples, so that neither is disturbed when the other moves around.

Put it all together

So now you have it: what to look for when buying a new bed. You may want to get more information, and this handy guide to choosing the right bed will help. What you need to do now, is make a list of all the above points, and then find a bed that matches them.

Buying New vs used beds

It is not ideal to buy a used bed (we know you know that), but you may be forced to do so anyway, in which case, we’ll give you a couple of tips:

  • Used mattresses may come with bed bugs (urgh!) Best you check for signs of them before bringing it home where the bed bugs will infest other furniture. But…if you buy a mattress and take it home and then find out it has bed bugs, immediately get in professional bug people to get rid of them. 
second hand beds for sale

Tell-tale sign of bed bugs – the splotches are bed bug faeces with the blood of the previous mattress owner/s.

  • Never buy a used bed online without first inspecting it in person, because you must check for internal damage, and see if any springs are sticking out.
  • A bed’s lifespan is dependent on how it’s been made. For example, with proper care, latex mattresses can last up to 15 years, while other high end beds need to be tossed after about 8 years.
  • While you most certainly should test it out first by lying on it, the problem with buying a used mattress is that your body will only usually complain in a few day’s time, or even after a month or so, especially if the mattress still looks good. The issues come from worn out springs which you won’t be able to see, but your body will feel over time.
  • Check for sagging in the mattress. If the sagging is in the middle section, it will probably cause problems.
  • Look for lumps and avoid those low quality mattresses.
  • A mattress topper may be a good idea to temporarily improve comfort levels.
  • Check the bed frame or base – the base is just as important as the mattress, so be sure to buy a used mattress and base that are still in good shape.
  • It’s a given that if you feel any springs, the bed is too damaged even if it looks great; the most important thing is the interior of the bed, not the exterior.

Buying online vs buying in-store

We tend to think that before buying a bed, we should lay on it. But does laying on a mattress for a few minutes cut it?

And if you look for beds for sale online instead of going in-store, will you be able to make the right choice?

We’ll answer those (and more) questions now.

Pros and cons of buying online vs. in-store

Online buying In-store buying
Prices Better More expensive
Assistance You have to do your own research Sales people on the floor, but they have a hidden agenda
Testing out beds Usually allow trial period Test out bed in-store
Convenience Easier to buy Takes more time to make a selection
Guarantees  No difference No difference
Returns Usually easier to return, and without additional cost Additional costs to return
Best deals Yes No
Delivery Usually free delivery nationwide Minimal cost of R350 +
Customer support Typically better than in-store Slow, unless you call
Best time to buy Special days and Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday Special days and Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday
Bed satisfaction Better when you’ve done your own research Not great if consumers rely only on sales staff on-floor

Price differences

Beds for sale online often means better prices than beds for sale in-store, and you can get very good specials online, but not as many by buying in-store. 

The reason for this is that a store can only keep so many mattresses, while online does not require physical storage, nor is there any middleman to pay. Instead, the bed is shipped straight from the manufacturer, which drastically cuts costs.

Testing out beds for sale

Should you buy a bed for sale without testing it first? Here’s the honest truth: in the case of most beds, testing out their comfort level by laying on them for 10 minutes will not give you a true perspective about the bed.

It actually takes at least a few nights to a few weeks sleeping on a new bed for your body to start complaining if the bed is not right for you.

It is for this reason – whether buying a bed in-store or online, that you should get a free trial period, so that if your body starts complaining after a month or so, you can return the bed. Genie Beds for instance, offers a free 100 day trial period, and if the bed doesn’t do it for you, you can send it back, no questions asked, and at no cost to you.


Ordering online is so fast compared to going to a physical location. Oftentimes, you can also get served immediately with Live Chat so you can ask questions, whereas in-store, you may need to wait while the floor sales person assists someone else.

To boot, typically when buying a bed in-store, it gets delivered as well. Genie Beds deliver theirs in a box! This is especially useful to get the bed up a flight of stairs, or through a small area, because all that needs doing is to place the box in the location you desire, and unbox the bed. Brilliant!

Guarantees and returns

It’s usually easier to return a bed that was bought in-store, but if you plan to buy a bed online, check their returns policy and guarantee terms. 

Another thing to watch for with returns from an in-store purchase, are the fees associated with returns. Some online stores, like Genie Beds for instance, offer a free trial period and if you don’t like the bed, all you have to do is contact them and they’ll pick it up, but not all online stores offer this particular service, so make sure before you click the purchase button.

As Genie does, make sure the website states their terms for collecting a return. Most of the time, buying online means there are not as many strings attached and it’s easier to return the mattress.

As for warranties and guarantees, always read the fine print.

Best deals

You need to understand that sales people on the floor make commissions, so it’s just about impossible to get truthful advice about the best bed for your body, so if an online site offers a Live Chat service, you will probably get more honest advice.

On-floor sales people are also very skilled at determining consumer’s budgets, and will sell a bed based on your budget instead of your requirements, many times turning your attention to the most expensive beds, but which may not be the best for your particular needs.

Because of the tricks that shops use to sell beds, it’s essential to do your own comparisons, and compare apples to apples, and this can all be done online, where you won’t be influenced by a pushy salesperson who is only after the highest possible commission…

Here’s how to compare the best deals and avoid being suckered into a “special” that’s not really a special:

The biggest brands usually have at least 3 “lines” of beds, which include 3 beds each, and they are classified as:

  • Memory foam
  • Coil
  • Hybrid

When a mattress is called, “plush”, you can expect it to cost more.

So when you do your homework and want to make a comparison, do it according to this little formula. Here’s an example of a comparison chart:

Type Brand 1 double bed mattress Brand 2 double bed mattress Brand 3 double bed mattress
Memory foam = uses your body heat to mould to your shape Gentle firm: R5700.00 (online) Plush: R8900.00 (online) Ultra plush: R9200.00 (online)
Innerspring = coils covered with padding Gentle firm: R6100.00 (online) Plush: R8800.00 (online) Firm: R3700.00 (online)
Hybrid = two or more support systems Gentle firm: R4400.00 (online) Plush: R7500.00 (online) Firm: R5000.00 (online)

You may also want to check out this helpful resource as to how much you can expect to pay for different types of beds.

Bear in mind, that each mattress type is made differently, using different materials, and this will impact your needs. It is critical to understand what each layer of material does, because it’s these details which make the bed unique, and its fit right for you, or not so much. This is why comparisons can be difficult. 

For example, the Genie Beds are hybrid, which means they include more than one support system to provide comfort and support. 

While Genie uses latex, another manufacturer may use memory foam. What you need to know is that these two materials do the same job, but in a different way.  Latex gives you the same comfort as memory foam, but allows circulation so that you don’t wake up feeling hot and sweaty at night, unlike memory foam. Latex is also a resilient material which offers relief on pressure points of the body. Lastly, latex its 100% natural, so it tends to be more expensive than memory foam. 

Then you will find a mattress with individually pocketed coil springs, that comes with low quality foam, and another also with the individually pocketed coil springs, with a layer of high density memory foam. High density foam is more expensive, but makes for a better bed.

Can you begin to see how complex this bed buying thing can be? Hence our guide…

Reviews and research

So you are being smart and doing your research, whether buying online or in-store. 

Finding reviews is a good idea, but beware! Here’s the thing: mattress manufacturers often allow their beds to be rebranded by retailers, so it’s difficult to find reviews because of this. What’s also going on, is that mattress bloggers – in exchange for free goods – make positive reviews on mattresses, so most of the reviews on websites can’t be trusted.

This impacts both online and in-store purchasing, because you need the internet to conduct your research, no matter how you choose to buy a mattress.

It’s essential to do your homework, but without the influence of people who want to make a buck off you, and so unbiased information becomes difficult. The key is to understand your needs, and how mattresses are made, and what’s good for what, so that you can make your own choice, and then find either an online store or physical location that offers a free trial without a huge amount of conditions attached, so that you can buy and test a new bed without risk.

Best time to buy

The best time to buy a new mattress is probably over Black Friday weekend, when online or big home stores have good specials, but you should get good deals regularly from online stores.

Be aware that physical stores may have sales, but a lot of online stores already charge lower prices, which makes in-store sale prices obsolete.

Delivery costs and speed

Always check delivery costs and how long it will take to deliver the bed. If you’re buying online, simply scroll down the website’s page and you should see a link to information about delivery costs and time frame.

A big bonus is that many online stores offer free delivery to standard locations, so that’s a savings of about R350 – R650.

You can usually expect delivery from an online purchase within 5 days, if the item is in stock, and up to about 21 days if not.

Buying in-store may mean a quicker delivery, but you’ll pay for it – anywhere between R350 – R650 depending on where the bed needs to be delivered.

Customer support

beds for sale customer support

Customer support tends to be superior for online purchases, and you have more options for getting in touch with someone fast, while buying a bed from a physical location is not as easy, and often involves wait time.

Options for getting support when you buy a bed at a physical store are that you need to physically return to the store, or phone or email the store to get help.

Many online stores offer a way to get hold of someone immediately while you’re on the site.


There are both pros and cons to choosing beds for sale online vs. in-store, but ultimately, the best way to buy a bed is online, but only when you’ve done your homework and you know what to look for according to your specific needs.

Here’s a helpful guide to choosing the right bed.

Because you only buy a bed every 8 or so years, it’s got to be right for you, so be sure to: 

  • First find out what makes a bed right for you by doing research
  • Jot down your needs and if you’re buying as a couple, list the needs of each person
  • Once you understand what you’re looking for, go ahead and buy online, making sure the site allows a trial period so you can buy without risk

Get advice about the best bed stores in South Africa:

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Buy a Genie Bed