The year is 2018 and somehow I’ve managed to become a premiere mind on memory foam mattresses. This unlikely situation presented itself to me, having moved into a furnished flat last year that had a horrendous mattress - by which I mean it sagged and swirled into itself in the middle. Having spent several months sleeping on it, I started to wake each morning with a curly spine, my general posture adopting something of a 17th century decrepit street urchin.
It was about the same time in London that the tube was being accosted by a smorgasbord of adverts for memory foam mattresses, all promising that their new foray into the mattress market was so exceptional that they would return your money to you after 100 nights should you not be satisfied.
Now, I have a credit card, but no desire to own my own mattress. In today’s rental housing market, where you are ejected every year when you recoil at a 10% price hike, owning a mattress is folly. Carting the bloody thing from property to property is a fool’s errand, especially when you have the general strength of your average 11-year old like I do. But with credit card in hand and a firm eye on this 100-night sleep trial, I called up the company with the most colourful advert and placed my order. My Eve mattress showed up a few days later.
This was an enormous step up from my whirlpool nightmare that I’d lain upon in the run up. The thing was firm but also sucked you down slightly. You know those photos of archaic funfairs where people would get in a glorified colander and be spun around until they were going so fast they could lower the floor and the sheer force of the spinning glued them to the walls? Well, memory foam mattresses are much like that, but lying down, with less vomit and only a smidgen of the unbridled panic. You sink in and there’s not a lot you can do about it. You get used to it.
Also a step up in the modern-day memory foam mattress game, is that these days they have some bounce to them. This is compared to my first encounter of memory foam mattresses when I tried to have sex with my university girlfriend on her parents’ bed, which had no bounce or give to it whatsoever. It was a horrific ordeal and is not recommended. If anyone reading this has even tried running along a sandy beach, then they’ll know what I’m talking about. I nearly suffered cardiac arrest at 19, so I was pleased to find out the makers of new memory foam recognised this fault and decided to throw us a bone, whilst we’re throwing a bone. Praise the Lord.
99 days later, I traded my beloved Eve mattress in for an Emma. It was the one recommended by Which? Magazine and also the one that made me sweat the most. You see, memory foam mattresses are very warm customers. They try to tell you they have a layer of blue cooling gel within them. Why they feel the need to tell you it’s blue is quite sad to me; as if the colour blue makes me think the thing is an ice-cube. Like if it were red I’d be all ‘No that gel is heating gel’. Complete marketing bollocks. But, despite its epic blueness, you’ll still find yourself hotter than on the average spring mattress. Or floor, park bench, whatever it is you sleep on. No, Emma was a particularly fiery one, and one that I was happy to see the back of. Perhaps they should make the blue layer more blue.
After Emma came Casper. I didn’t want to like Casper as there was a boy in my school called Casper and I disliked him for no good reason. Total wanker. Anyway, it turns out my Casper was a dream come true. Really made me question my attitude towards people I don’t know particularly well. When it was time to say goodbye to Casper, I was genuinely concerned.
But Simba was calling. I enjoyed The Lion King, though I’d never considered sleeping on a Disney protagonist (total lie, we all have when we were young and also drunk whilst adult). Simba popped out the vacuum sealed bag and is so far the front- runner in my mattress odyssey. Really didn’t see that coming. Simba is not too hot, sucks you down nicely, is firm but fair, but does smell of chemical foam. I’m told this subsides, but it’s been 2 weeks. It smells a bit like zombie lavender. Or internal bleeding; I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.
I have another two months of Simba before having to make the decision on who to roll with next. There’s only Otty and Leesa left to go, by which time I’ll have qualified in my Masters in Mattressing. And by then I expect I’ll have to either buy one of the bastards or move flats.
People have questioned how I am able to do this. Indeed, ethically I want to make sure I’m not particularly screwing anyone over. But having done a little digging, it appears that foam mattresses are remarkably cheap to make. Being that they’re foam. Foam costs peanuts to make, so when they sell you one for £599, that’s nearly all profit. And with one in 20 being returned (legit stat), they still make an absolute fortune - which is why so many companies have sprung up at the same time to offer these ridiculous trials.
I’ve also discovered that each returned mattress makes its way to a homeless shelter or some such other charity, so in many ways I’m doing this not just for me, but for the countless homeless people who now sleep a little better thanks to my discarded purchases. I’m just that generous and am happy to be doing my bit. Maybe you should get off your arse and do something for somebody else now and again, yeah?
While not always being amazing at making technology (Amazon have famously failed at eBooks, phones and tablets), Alexa seems to be bucking that trend. Around 50 million of the devices are currently in homes around the world, according to The Information. Google is selling their versions (with around a third of the market) like hot cakes, with price drops, promotions and lots of fluffy, consumer safety campaigns. Voice is quickly growing into our brains as a defacto behaviour.
The manufacturers are pushing it on us, and we are just lazy enough to grab it with both hands. Alexa has become, like Google is already, an eponym for voice control. The issue with this? Bezos and co aren’t known for their humanitarian desire to push the human race to greater heights. While Bezos has had his moments (recently donating a huge chunk of change to underprivileged kids), the man and the company are not shining beacons of much else other than making money and being incredibly valuable (recently seeing their value rise above a trillion dollars for the second time in history - Apple was the first). Yet all may not be lost - people just want their MTV, apparently. Data suggests that less than 2% of consumers who have a voice assistant actually try to buy things through it, and of those that try to buy things, 90% never try again. Time will tell if this behaviour takes off, but something tells me Bezos won’t keep that 2% at that level for long, once the pucks are in every home across the land.
My issue with both voice and smartwatches, is the new level of data they give companies that they could previously only have dreamed of. Your heart rate is one but your voice can also tell a lot about the state of you as a person, and both can be abused if a company is smart. These elements used to be personal, but are now freely available to companies who haven’t fully promised not to use it against you. Raised heartbeat when in a certain area? Could Apple deduce anything from that? Voice trembling when asking about pregnancy questions? Would Amazon start their pregnancy promotion cycle? The list goes on. We’ve just given Amazon the keys to our search behaviours without realising it. Whilst Apple seems to be laying privacy rhetoric on us, Amazon has no such compunction and seems hellbent on trying to get regulated. Where this ends is anyone’s guess at the moment, but you can bet it’ll start with ‘Alexa’.