Having recently moved, I figured it was time to replace some of my old, dilapidated household items, especially the flattened-from-use pillow I’d been using for only lord knows how long. Now, I’ve always thought pillows were pillows, but having slept on some truly luxurious ones in hotels over the years, I’ve come to realize how ludicrous that thought is. There are pillows, and then there are pillows. Some, you merely sleep on – others caress you with the touch of an angel.
A few weeks ago, I went off to the local power mall in search of such a heavenly experience, with my destination being Linens N’ Things or Bed, Bath and Beyond or any one of those big-box chain retailers endemic to suburbia. It turns out I had misremembered, though – whichever one of them it was had closed down some time ago, replaced instead by a Sport Chek. Such is the cycle of life in the box-eat-box world of the ‘burbs.
Still, I was determined to replace the deflated pancake I was sleeping on so I scanned the horizon for alternatives. Only one possibility emerged from the din: Walmart. I ventured somewhat reluctantly in amid the hordes, who had already come out in search of Christmas deals, and made my way to the bedding department. Walmart’s true nature immediately greeted me – I didn’t even know it was possible to manufacture a pillow for $3, let alone sell one for that and still presumably make a profit. But there it was – a pillow that would cost less than a latte.
Pretty sure that wasn’t the luxury I was looking for, I continued looking and found the chain’s highest-end offering: a Serta pillow selling for about $16. I’d never really shopped for top-shelf pillows before so I wasn’t really sure what they should cost, but I was fairly certain it’d be more than that. Still, Serta has a strong brand name (at least in mattresses), so I grabbed it and looked for a dust cover for it. That’s when fate stepped in.
My chosen pillow was a queen-size yet Walmart was only stocking standard-sized slips. Figuring I’d have to make an extra stop on my way home just to get one, I made the executive decision to scrap the Serta and simply make all my purchases in one place.
Next stop: Sleep Country Canada. Why buy a pillow anywhere else? Well… that’s not how the theme song goes, but anyhow, I steeled myself to pay considerably more and walked in.
The gentleman greeter welcomed me and asked what kind of pillow I was looking for. I said, “A good one.” Without missing a beat, he said, “You’ve come to the right place.” This is when he hit me with Sleep Country’s embarrassment of riches.
Before long, I was lying on a bed surrounded by pillows, feeling a bit like an overindulgent Sultan. The only thing missing were harem-ites feeding me grapes.
It turns out that shopping for a pillow – especially a pricey one – is one of the hardest purchases you can embark on because it’s ultimately a high-risk experience. Everyone has tried on those pants or that sweater at the store and, thinking it looked good, ended up buying it; Then, in the cold, harsh light of day at home, realized it was not at all flattering and proceeded to return it. You can’t do that with a pillow – health restrictions prohibit it, and probably for good reason. Doing so would be about as grodey as returning used underwear.
If you’re going to spend a lot of money on a pillow, you’ve therefore got to be sure. But how can you be sure you’re going to like it after trying it for only a few minutes – and in a conscious state, no less? Welcome to the dillemma of modern pillow buying.
I’m a terrible judge of such things. Truth be told, all pillows initially feel good to me because if I’m using them, chances are good I’m doing what I love most: nothing. It’s the long-term feel, however, that’s tough to get a handle on so you inevitably have to take a deep breath and guess.
I narrowed my cornucopia of choices down to three options and asked my attendant Pillow Master about their prices. They ranged, he said, from $50 to $150, which I immediately noted was considerably higher than Walmart. But I was undaunted – I knew I wanted the sleep of angels and I was prepared to get it. Heck, I work hard, I make a decent living – I can afford a little luxury here and there, especially if it improves my nightly escape from this cruel, hard world.
My decision ultimately came down to technology. I went with the GelCool pillow, which isn’t just comfortable because it’s made of springy memory foam (invented by NASA, by the way), it also disperses the heat from your head with a gel pad as you sleep. A grid of blue gel covers one side of the pillow and it is literally cool to the touch. It’s fantastic if you tend to sweat through your head a lot while you sleep, which is, ahem, an issue I’ve been known to have on occasion. (Okay, okay, my head sweats profusely).
The GelCool came in at a cool $90 – pun intended – easily making it the most expensive pillow I’ve ever bought. I could hear my younger self yelling at me: “Do you know how much beer that could buy?!?” But that’s okay: “Hey, younger self: get a job and a haircut and then we’ll talk.”
Weeks later, I’m proud to report that the GelCool is indeed the best and most comfortable pillow I’ve ever owned. I do think I sleep better on it and the head sweats have subsided (now if only I could do something about the horrible nightmares that cause them).
While I’m really looking forward to my time off – my wife and I are taking our first-ever cruise (take that, younger self!) – I really hope I don’t have to deal with any Walmart pillows while I’m away.