Sarah is experiencing every traveler’s worst nightmare. Bed bugs!
I just started reading The Consumerist. I did a search on bedbugs to see if you had any posts, and then thought I’d tell you my own story after reading about the people who found bedbugs in a Santa Monica hotel. In August of last year, I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Santa Monica.
The last night of my stay, I woke up about 2am, got up for a minute, but when I went back to bed, I saw a small bug crawling on my bed. Then I looked at the other bed, and saw another tiny brown bug. Grabbed kleenex, tossed them in the toilet, but every time I walked back to the beds, there were more of them. Most were tiny and brown, a couple of them were larger and a dark black/brown. Didn’t know what they were, but I called down and asked the front desk to move me to a different room. Was creeped out, but didn’t think anything of it until three mornings after I returned home, I woke up covered in bites. Did some research, and figured out that they were bedbug bites (three bites in a row, that swelled up and were very itchy). The pictures I found matched the bugs I saw on the bed in the hotel room. I had to go back to that hotel the following week (for work, the company booked the room) and I told them that I had found bugs in my home which matched the bugs I found in their hotel. Got a gee, that’s too bad response.
Once I confirmed with an exterminator that I did have bedbugs, I called the hotel again. Got another gee, that’s too bad response, but they did refund the cost of the stay (about $950). Over the next month and a half ( the time it took to get the exterminator to my apartment and then get the treatment) I spent about $5000 on dry cleaning, storage supplies, the exterminator, and moving out of my apartment during the two-week treatment. I called the hotel again, and asked them to cover those costs. Since then, I’ve been given the run around, ignored by the hotel manager, passed off to corporate who said gee, that’s too bad but it’s up to the hotel, and finally given over to a risk management/insurance firm for InterContinental Hotels. This firm has called me a liar, said that I didn’t have proof of bedbugs being in my apartment because even though I found them in my apartment and the exterminator confirmed what they were and treated, the exterminator never wrote down specifically that they found bedbugs, that because I didn’t go to the doctor and have the doctor confirm that the bites were from bedbugs that I had no proof that they were indeed bedbug bites, and now will not return phone calls. They say that the hotel exterminator checked all the rooms and found no evidence of bedbugs, even though the hotel told me that their exterminator wasn’t looking only for bedbugs, just does a bi-weekly sweep for general problems and didn’t find anything.
I’m staying after them, but the worst thing I can wish on them is not that I go to court, sue them and they lose – it’s that the hotel management and the people from this risk management company all bring home bed bugs and have to go through the sheer hell that is getting rid of them.
Yuck! Sadly, it seems that since we stopped drowning our planet in pesticides the bedbugs have started to stage something of a comeback. They’re a fact of life now, and travelers should be on the lookout for infected hotel rooms — even in nice hotels.
Here’s some advice for travelers from Harvard University (PDF):
During travel, before you check into a hotel, check into the mattress. Carefully remove the sheets and examine the head section of the bed, look at the seams of the mattress as well as both sides of the head board. If you see any small insects in either of these locations, they are probably bed bugs.
Bringing your favorite pillow along on your travels may increase the chances of this pillow becoming infested with bed bugs and the transport of these bed bugs back to your home. If you have a favorite pillow, make sure it is encased in a bed bug proof sealed pillow case.
Remember not to place your luggage next to the bed. Find a location as far from the head of the bed as possible, and store your luggage in this location. This same principal applies to portable radios and other items that could conceal bed bugs.
If you do see bed bugs or think you have been bitten by bed bugs during your travel, it is extremely important to report this incident to the hotel management or else other unsuspecting individuals may meet the same fate.
This advice assumes, of course, that the hotel management cares.
Any readers been through what Sarah is going through? Advice?