The Best Advice Is No Advice, by Deb Eleanor

Eleanor BrownSo recently J.C. and I were mattress shopping, as our old mattress was nearly 10 years old and we weren’t about to haul it to Colorado in its droopy, sagging state.  We were, in fact, those last few weeks of sleeping on it, ready to volunteer it for ritual sacrifice, as it had hit the point where sleeping on the bathroom floor was looking better and better, and if we had been able to locate any mattress-sacrificing cults on such short notice, we would have gone through with it, by gum.

But that’s not the point of the story.

We went to a furniture store and met one of the mattress salesmen, who was totally awesome and so low-pressure I practically had to force him to sell us a bed.  I’ll call him Neil.  Because that’s his name.

And Neil, who has been in the mattress business for 19 years, was talking about how reviews and ratings on the internet has actually made it harder for consumers to buy a mattress.  Basically, Neil’s Theory of Mattress Buying (which shall heretofore be known as NToMB) is that you should buy the mattress that feels good to you.  After all, you are the one who is going to be spending a boatload of money on it (and may I just mention that we laid on one mattress set that retailed for $8700?  Man, for that price it had better come with thousands of tiny masseuses who live inside the coils and rub your back all night long), and you are going to be sleeping on it every night, hopefully for a very long time.

So it doesn’t actually matter if mattress site X says that a certain brand or coil density or level of firmness is the best, or the best for your particular back problem, or your age or weight or bedtime predilections.  What matters, according to NToMB, is that YOU feel it is the best mattress for you, and spending days Googling every possible mattress review is really only going to tell you what works for other people on a pretty personal topic, leaving you confused and second-guessing yourself for liking a mattress that isn’t supposed to feel good to you.

Neil takes NToMB very seriously.  So seriously that he wouldn’t tell us what kind of mattress he had – not even the brand – until we had made our own decision, because he didn’t want us to be influenced just because he’s more knowledgeable about mattresses than we are.  (Which wouldn’t be hard.  I basically know one thing about mattresses: they are nicer to lie on than the bathroom floor.)  And he was absolutely right to do so, because Neil likes his mattresses low and squishy, and J.C. and I like ours high and firm.

And that’s the problem with advice in general.  What works for you is not necessarily going to work for other people.  So they’ve slept on a low, squishy mattress for twenty years, and they can tell you all about how great they feel, but you are not them, and if it works out the same for you, that’s more dumb luck than anything else.

There have been times in my life when I’ve opened my mouth to give advice far more than I should have, and I hope I’ve gotten better at that.  Nowadays I try very hard to say, “Here is what I would do,” or “Here is what I think,” rather than “Here is what you should do.”  I’m not perfect at it, because it’s human nature to stick our noses into other people’s business, especially when you are born bossy, like I am.

Now that I’ve met Neil, I’m going to work harder at applying NToMB to life in general.  Which may mean that if you ask me for advice about which job to take or what you should have for dinner, I’ll tell you to lie down for a while, but hopefully also means that I’ll be giving you the best advice of all – none.

What do you think?  Are you ready to join the cult of NToMB, or do you think Neil should have sold me the $8700 mattress?  Let me know in the comments!

*Bonus comment points if you caught the Bridget Jones reference in this post!

19 Replies to “The Best Advice Is No Advice, by Deb Eleanor”

  1. For $8700 Jon Hamm had best be lying on those coils with Dolph Lundgren elbowing him out of the way. You’re right, no one wants to hear, “You SHOULD….” but when you soften it a bit, “Have you considered…” for instance, people tend to at least listen. I run into this A LOT in the autism world. Honey gets more than bossy old lemons. Even when bossy is your instinct, like it is for me – my maiden name is Rossi – and it rhymes with bossy for a reason.

    $8700? Madonn!

    1. I imagine parenting in general comes with piles of “You shoulds,” multiplied by a thousand with autism. Opinions and a**holes, etc.

      And HA@ Dolph and Jon on the bed – you’d best be getting a California King!

  2. OMG, I love this post! We did the great mattress hunt a couple years ago, and ended up buying from a guy who must have been the anti-Neil. He had very strong opinions about what we should buy, and when we selected something different, you would have thought we’d just beaten his family dog in the parking lot. I’m surprised he even accepted our credit card.


    1. Ha! Of course, as I’m starting a religion, if there is a Neil, there must be the anti-Neil. Special bonus in that they are literally on opposite corners of the country.

      I wonder why he was so personally invested in your mattress choice. Maybe he thought he would be invited over for slumber parties?

    1. You know, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about those beds, but J.C. runs about ten degrees hotter than a normal human being, so we elected not to go with one, as we’d also heard they tend to store body heat. They do sound temptingly comfy, though.

  3. Right on the money. While there are a great many issues that plague this world, they all start with us and you have hit one of those nails right on the head. We were just talking ( on facebook of course ) about “information” and such and people are becoming unwitting sheep. Too easy to believe what you read/hear and just blindly follow whatever is being said or advocated. ( why has been created? ) We are all potentially Jim Jones, and all potentially his followers. Made me think – thanks.

    1. It is funny how as we become more and more media-savvy as users, we become weaker and weaker as critical thinkers. It’s on the internet, it must be true.

      I do wish I could have the Snopes URL tattooed on some people’s foreheads, or at least their mouse-clicking hand.

      Thanks for coming by!

    1. You mean the ones Garrison Keillor recommends? As much as I love me some Garrison, I did some reading and it’s essentially a really expensive air mattress surrounded by latex. Not worth it for the money, to my mind, and since J.C. and I like the same level of firmness, not really necessary.

      They do sound fancy, though, don’t they?

  4. Because that is his name! Oh, I love that movie.

    I like Neil’s philosophy. But…if people are being extremely irrational it’s hard not to jump in and offer up some kind of advice. So, you can probably tell by that statement that I jump in far more than I should. It is really interesting that by offering no advice Neil still somehow earned your trust (at least it sounded that way). I guess telling people to trust themselves makes you a trustworthy person. Hmm…

    1. Yay! You win the Bridget Jones prize!

      See, when people get really irrational, I just want to roll my eyes and walk away, because I know there’s no reasoning with them. There must be a good balance somewhere in the middle.

      And yes, he did earn my trust by offering no advice. But he did offer lots and lots of information, and in that situation, that was worth much more. I think I’m hardwired to be suspicious of salespeople, and when he just gave me tons of information and no hard sell, he totally won me over.

  5. should pop up automatically as your cursor nears the “forward” button.

    Sadly, I have a tendency to have the fixer thing. I don’t claim to have the right answer, and I do preface by saying it’s just a suggestion… but I do suggest.

    Two random things:

    One — I notice you reply to the individual post. When you do that, does the person to whom you’re replying get an email with your reply in it?

    Two — And this has nothing to do with anything — I’M IN MID-AIR! WiFi on the airplane! First time I’ve used it and I love it!!!!!

    Thanks for the great post, Eleanor!

    1. I love the auto-Snopes forward feature!

      Hey, I’ve never gotten a blog post reply from mid-air before! Or maybe I have and they just didn’t tell me. Maybe *everyone* is replying from mid-air.

      And I don’t know about the reply. Let’s test it, shall we?

      1. Nope, it didn’t email me. Wonder if that’s something we can make it do, so we can reply to someone on the site and they don’t have to re-visit the site to see the reply. Hmmmm.

    1. I’m with you – I think intentions are usually good. In my case, there are just lots of reasons I’m working on keeping my big mouth shut more often, but I don’t think everyone else has to, and heaven knows there are tons of times when other people’s personal experience can save me a lot of heartache.

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