Ever wonder what happened to waterbeds? This explanation may surprise you.

By @PaulFiarkoski

Vintage 1990s waterbed
Vintage 1990s waterbed

Shortly after relocating from Denver to Phoenix in the summer of 2012 my wife and I were in the market for a new bed. In the process, we met a furniture store owner who has been in the business for over 30 years. Saying he knows his stuff would be a gross understatement. This guy can school anyone in the business, regardless of their experience level.

Needless to say, he earned utmost credibility with me in just a few minutes. He also knows a lot about backs, especially bad backs. After all, he has helped many people over the years who had come to him because they just can’t get a good night’s sleep with their back/mattress combination. He even has a bad back himself.

Since my wife has back issues, I found it natural to ask the question: What kind of mattress do you sleep on? A waterbed was his answer, followed by a quick dissertation on flotation being the most natural fit for any body.

My look surely went from convert to disbeliever as I scanned the showroom looking for a waterbed.

“I don’t sell them. They don’t make waterbeds anymore,” he said.

The explanation
He went on to tell me that back in the 90s, the three S’s of the mattress industry (Simmons, Sealy & Serta) pooled together to buy out all the remaining waterbed manufacturing plants under the stated intention of modernizing the facilities. They ended up shutting them down altogether and in effect killed off an entire industry, leaving consumers with only their high margin spring-loaded and new age foam models to choose from.

Sounds like a far-fetched conspiracy theory, I know. But it’s not the first time I’ve heard of companies playing hardball to eliminate threats to their profits.

Makes me wonder if the three S’s are buying up landfills too. Have you tried to dispose of a mattress lately? The cost is outrageous.

Incidentally, we had to exchange the high-end memory foam mattress we initially bought for a moderately priced coil and pillow top model. That’s just what feels best on my wife’s back.

The moral? Higher cost doesn’t always equal better. And you can’t trust companies that start with the letter ‘S’.

3 thoughts on “Ever wonder what happened to waterbeds? This explanation may surprise you.

  1. Paul you are great. Can’t wait to read more. Don and I loved our water bed. A dog put a leak in it went to buy another one. Well you know what happened .

  2. Great post, Paul! As a child of the 90’s, I remember more than a few friends whose parents experienced floods as a result of a leaky waterbed.

    Keep the good stuff coming!

  3. Ok, I’m bad on my business terms, but it sounds awfully similar to colluding (that the right word for when they work together to fix pricing??). Interesting!

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