Hey, Thanks For The Bed Bugs!

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.

Regards,
Sarah

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?

(Photo:Getty)

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. mantari says:

    What makes you think that reporting the incident to hotel management will help other unsuspecting individuals avoid the same fate?!

  2. tricknick says:

    My community is currently going through an intense bedbug infestation. We are very lucky that our contracted exterminator is only charging $195 for treatment and $95 for preventative treatment.

    Many of my friend’s condos have been infested and I’ve seen the hell they are going through. I have been very lucky that my condo has not been infested. Once bedbugs are in an apartment building or condo building, they will spread through the walls to find my food (your blood).

    Good luck to anyone that has to deal with this.

  3. Imaginary_Friend says:
  4. savvy9999 says:

    Yucky yuck yuck.

    I wonder if her acceptance of the $950 refund was the end of the argument; was that her tacit acceptance of a final settlement?

    A lawyer would be a great start, but it might be too late for that. Good luck.

  5. sirwired says:

    While this is unfortunate, I can’t really blame the Hotel here for the original problem. (Giving the writer the runaround instead of just saying no is bad though.)

    Bedbugs are impossible to prevent in a hotel if a traveler brings them attached to their suitcase. There simply isn’t any way to clean the room so thoroughly as to get rid of them after every stay. They can survive for over a year without feeding, hide in the tiniest cracks and crevices, and the grubs are about the size of a speck of dust.

    SirWired

  6. weakerthan says:

    I work at a 4 star suite hotel in a high end district of downtown Vancouver by the ocean. We have had one incident of bed bugs here in the last 2 years.

    We receive lots of international visitors; Asia, England, Germany, India, Africa and the US.

    In that one incident I was working and when the guest came down with a tiny bug in a kleenex, saying it was biting her leg. Immediately, and I mean immediately, we moved her to the room across the hall, but before that, she had to remove all her clothes and put on a bathrobe. We then took a *brand new* mattress from storage, and put it in the new room. We inspected the old matress and it was clean, but still replaced it. We then took all her belongings and placed them in garbage bags to be put in the freezer of our restaurant for the night (at least 12 hours). We then called Orkin for a 6am inspection and comped 3 nights stay (3 x $199 is nothing to scoff at). We made sure all rooms around the lady were unoccupied and put them as offmarket. Orkin came in and found no bedbugs in the room, or any around in it. We still honoured the comped rooms.

    My rule: don’t stay at franchise hotels, the corporations will take better care of you (management ladder always wins).

  7. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    I’ll sleep in my car, thank you.

  8. heavylee-again says:

    @Harvard U’s advice:

    How are you supposed to check the mattress before you check in?

  9. backbroken says:

    Now that you have me itchy all over, let me add: DDT FTW.

  10. theblackdog says:

    I really did not need to read this right before traveling.

  11. @heavylee-again:
    Theoretically you could ask to see the room before you sign the registration card. If you found bed bugs and then decided to cancel your reservation and the hotel tried to charge you for canceling you could definitely object to that, but you could also ask for a different room at that point as well. Once you sign the registration card you can still change rooms, it’s just more complicated for the front desk.

  12. willsueforfood says:

    Bed bugs were the worst thing I’ve ever had to deal with living in New York.

    The worst part about bed bugs is that it’s not contingent on you bring dirty or clean, living in certain areas, etc. They just show up and stick around.

    If I get them again this summer, it will be cheaper to move.

  13. jamesdenver says:

    ugh – my sympathies. Whenever I check in to a room I always examine the bed in the brightest light possible. I pull the mattress up, look at the corners, and look for any little black spots.

    I don’t know if i’m doing it right – but I’m paranoid of bringing them back home and going through a nightmare investation in my own place.

    If I did get them I’d at least want to know, burn my clothes and sleep in my car before entering my house.

  14. ClayS says:

    Pretty disgusting.

    Let’s remember that when it comes to hotels, the are the bugs you can see, and the bugs that you can’t see (viruses and bacteria).

  15. willsueforfood says:

    One other tip is look for small, thin trails of blood. If the mattress has these thin trails, it is most likely bed bugs, since they always gorge too much on you, and leak a tiny bit.

    I’m going to stop thinking about this now.

  16. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    This is horrible! A friend of mine recently just went through the same experience and it was just what Sarah explained – basically a month of packing up the apartment, moving out while the “Treatments” were happening, and rearranging your life. In addition, her bf needed his house treated too b/c she’d brought them over with her before realizing she’d had them.

    So this begs the question — how does she prove she got them from this hotel and not another source? This is going to be the hotel’s main argument, I guarantee it.

    Best of luck Sarah – this really sucks. :(

  17. courtarro says:

    @tricknick:

    “Once bedbugs are in an apartment building or condo building, they will spread through the walls to find my food (your blood).”

    My food = your blood? I believe you just admitted to us that you are, indeed, a vampire! Consumerist, please work on adding filtering to prevent access to vampires. We don’t want their scum here.

  18. metaled says:

    There is something more you can do. The hotel industry is fully aware of the problem nationwide and blames most of it on international travelers. I read a story in the LA times (I believe.) where hotels are using dogs, similar to the drug sniffing dogs. Not searching for bombs or drugs, they are using the dogs to detect the presense of Bed Bugs. The dogs will alert on hidden bed Bugs which human’s can’t yet see!
    I would check with the hotel/motel prior to making reservations to see if they have checked the rooms for Bed Bugs recently and ask for written proof of the last inspection/prevention/erradication. If they are unable or refuse to povide such info, make sure they know they lost that room rental. They should be happy to provide it since they know you won’t be making a claim against them if you have the prior knowledge for the steps they have taken. (probabky not legally obligated to provide it).
    I travel a lot, and I have been hearing horror stories about bed bugs for the past few years becoming almost epidemic. I don’t have the funds/time for professional extermination (consumer products won’t erradicate them.), so prevention is my only choice and I plan to do this the next trip I take! Any spray you get from home improvement shops won’t help by spraying the bed before your stay, only proffesional/commercial (licensed) chemicals will kill them.

  19. tricknick says:

    @courtarro: My apologies, I meant “their food.” I only drink blood at night time.

  20. jesuismoi says:

    We have a hotel inspector in the family.

    Strongly suggest you call the health inspections department local to the hotel and tell them of your stay. They will inspect the hotel for bed bugs and the report will be posted for the public.

    In different states different agencies have this role, but start with the people who inspect food establishments (not the “health department” which tracks STDs and TB), they will know who you need.

  21. ElizabethD says:

    Oh noes… Our family is going to be staying in a hotel in Syracuse (Embassy Suites) this Thurs and Fri. Now I’m afraid!

    It’s good to have the advice about checking mattresses when we get to the room, though. Thanks for a timely (for me) warning. I am extremely allergic to all insect bites, such as mosquitos and fleas, so I imagine I’d be miserable if a bedbug went to work on me.

  22. mmstk101 says:

    I just recently had a fairly minimal bed bug problem in my apartment, thanks to the person next door who had “multiple nests.”

    Bed bugs are so, so very gross. I almost threw up when I realized what had been biting me. It’s been possibly one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had. Luckily, though, my apartment building’s management was super understanding, and I didn’t have to pay for the exterminator.

  23. lockdog says:

    The good news is bed bugs generally aren’t known for carrying or transmitting disease. The bad news is they’re spreading, and they are near impossible to get rid of. The recommended treatment is to dry clean and professionally! steam clean everything, replace all bedding, mattresses and carpet, multiple courses of insecticide, and cross your fingers. Most good exterminators will admit that in some cases there is absolutely nothing you can do to get rid of them.
    In my area we are having a huge problem with bedbugs in low income households and student housing. Its not that people aren’t clean, but once they infest a house, say from a neighboring apartment or a second hand mattress, people who are already financially stressed just have no options but endure it, or possibly find a black market exterminator who will use any number or dangerous or illegal pesticides.

  24. sirwired says:

    @lockdog: Whoa! It isn’t necessary to throw away your bedding and replace the carpet. While bedbugs are indeed very hard to eliminate, chucking thousands of dollars worth of mattress, box spring, and linens doesn’t help.

    The linens can be cleaned, and the mattress and box-spring encased in bug-proof bags that will prevent them from escaping in order to feed.

    Carpets can be steam cleaned and thoroughly vacuumed. It does need to be peeled away from the wall to clean out crevices, but it can then be put back.

    Are these methods guaranteed? No, but they aren’t any more or less sure than throwing all that stuff away.

    SirWired

  25. SkokieGuy says:

    Not a single blame the victim posting?

    How does the OP know she isn’t the one who infested the hotel room? Bed bugs are an epidemic these days and unless her home was just doused with pesticides, she might already have them.

    Getting the entire stay comped sounds more than reasonable to me. After finding bedbugs, the OP accepted moving to another room within the same property, (instead of changing to a different hotel, for example).

    Further, knowing that she had stayed in an infested hotel, were any precations taking upon returning home? (Laundering all clothes in hot water, leaving luggage outside, etc?

    The poster moved out of her house for a two week treatment and stayed in a hotel? A bit excessive?

    According to The Harvard School of Public Health it can be consumer treated, but infestations may be better treated by professionals and: “and may require the tenants to leave the building for a few hours or even several days”

    Did the poster contact the hotel to discuss the treatment and plans (perhaps the hotel could have arranged no charge accomodations at a local property?).

    Sounds like Sarah is angry that the hotel didn’t pay for her two-week vacation?

  26. hexychick says:

    I’ve got a business trip coming up in June and after reading this, I’m definitely going to check that bed before I lie down in it!

  27. katylostherart says:

    uh, the hotel obviously has a record of her having bed bugs. if she had to call down to the front desk and change rooms i’m sure (i hope) she stated the reason was because her bed was crawling with bugs. this has got to be written down somewhere.

  28. KogeLiz says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers:”So this begs the question — how does she prove she got them from this hotel and not another source? This is going to be the hotel’s main argument, I guarantee it.”

    Well, if the person reports it to hotel management WHEN it happens, they have more of a case.
    If the person also took pictures of the bites and pictures of the bugs in the apartment and asked the exterminator to revise the information…
    it may help more than just showing up at a hotel a couple of weeks later and complaining that they have bedbugs in their apartment and it must be from the hotel (even though not reported at the time).

  29. themidget says:

    @sirwired: Sometimes it is necessary to throw everything out, depending on the severity of the problem. Furniture rental companies are having a bitch of a time with this as bedbugs can burrow into wooden furniture. There was a case in Atlanta a few months ago, family had moved here for a temporary job, rented furniture, became severely infested with bugs, had to throw out basically all their linens and possessions because the infestation was so bad and found out their house was still infested after extensive treatments. Turns out the bugs were in the rental furniture. So in addition to paranoia while traveling, you can add it being nervous about that great used armoire at a garage sale.

  30. KogeLiz says:

    @katylostherart:

    Doesn’t really sound like she mentioned it when she asked to have her room switched… sounds like she told them days later:

    “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 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.”

  31. rjhiggins says:

    Bed bugs are indeed gross, but let’s not overreact here. They won’t kill you. And you can find them in even the most clean, upscale hotel; all it takes is one guest who has them in his luggage.

    As SkokieGuy points out, you CAN get rid of them in most household cases, and you don’t have to move out of your house, burn all your clothes and bedding, etc.

    Sarah seems a bit over the top to me.

  32. Zombilina says:

    This thread is making me itchy. You can bet I’ll be inspecting the mattresses when I travel.

  33. Daniels says:

    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

    From what I was told, there’s almost no good way to prove whether you caught the bugs from them or if they caught the bugs from you.

    We had them in my apartment for months and just thought we were allergic to something. We ended up finding them because my cat was freaking out and chasing invisible things on the bed.

  34. Daniels says:

    Whoa! It isn’t necessary to throw away your bedding and replace the carpet. While bedbugs are indeed very hard to eliminate, chucking thousands of dollars worth of mattress, box spring, and linens doesn’t help.

    You seem to be dismissing the psychological difficulty with knowing your mattress is crawling with bugs.

    I had to get a new mattress… I couldn’t sleep on the old one anymore.

  35. Snakeophelia says:

    I got hit by bedbugs when I stayed at the Excalibur in Vegas two years ago. I wasn’t paying for the room (was crashing with a friend) and didn’t realize until after I’d gotten up early and dashed to the airport that I had been bitten. So I didn’t ask for any money back, but I did have a great deal of fun filling out a survey for the hotel (I’d paid for two rooms on my own the night before I crashed in the room infested with bedbugs). I think they took me off their mailing list after they read my survey comments.

  36. consumer7546 says:

    @willsueforfood:

    I also encountered bedbugs when visiting New York last year. My friend and I had a total count of over 70 bedbug bites! It lasted for 3-4 weeks and swelled up into quarter size welts. It was hideous. Be careful when traveling to New York!

  37. weave says:

    Wow. If I got them at a hotel I think I’d definitely toss out all my clothes and walk into my house naked. For the sake of the public I would do this at 3am though!

  38. sarahandthecity says:

    @SkokieGuy: my friend had bedbugs and the whole ordeal was so traumatic (not to mention expensive, $5k or so) that we are forbidden from mentioning them in her company. Like Voldemort. So it’s not exactly a “vacation” and you don’t exactly have a clue what you are talking about.

  39. SkokieGuy says:

    @sarahandthecity: And neither does the Harvard School of Public Health.

  40. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @KogeLiz: Yeah but let’s say I’m the hotel. I say “well that’s great and all – I see you have something idicative of bed bug infestation, and yeah – you may have reported it the week after you stayed with us, but you didn’t do anything about it at the time, so how are we supposed to know you got them HERE?”

    The fact of the matter is she’s got no proof that she picked them up at the hotel. No photos, no manager coming in to look at her bed THAT NIGHT, and then to top it off – she went BACK to the same hotel a week later! If I’m counsel for the hotel, I’m going to say “well – she obviously wasn’t that torn up about it to come back and patronize our establishment again.”

    I’m not trying to dispute her story, I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud, nor am I blaming the victim — just merely playing devil’s advocate.

  41. rg says:

    exactly!

  42. KogeLiz says:

    @pinkbunnyslippers:

    Oh, i know. I am totally agreeing with you.

  43. Skeptic says:

    Your vacuum is your friend. While it isn’t a perfect solution, you should vacuum your suitcase to help reduce the chance of the bedbugs coming home with you.

  44. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    @KogeLiz: Oh. lol!

    And by the way I totally echoed your comment on the Verizon/Applebees article – I was like “who the F is Sam?”

  45. bigmac12 says:

    RE:by jamesdenver at 10:00 AM

    Reply:
    Sleep in the car? Now you’ll have them chomping on your butt while you are driving!
    Mac

  46. Trai_Dep says:

    Makes one nostalgic for the whimsical days when the worst thing you could bring back from your business trip was a nasty case of the Clap.

  47. Trai_Dep says:

    “Aww, mom, he’s so cute! Can we take him home?”

    [blogs.sfweekly.com]

  48. Trai_Dep says:

    “…We’ll name him ‘Spot’!”

    [z.about.com]

  49. willsueforfood says:

    Ah fuck, I’m having terrible flashbacks. You have NO idea…

  50. JaneBadall says:

    Stayed at the Excalibur in Vegas with my niece and nephew. Found a bed bug on the pillow when I checked in. Called the front desk, met with bored disinterest. Tracked down the manager who told us that he had only one other room, take it or leave it, an no refunds.

    Here’s the kicker, in order to get room #2, we had to be out ASAP so that room #1 could be rented!

    I have yet to hear about an infested hotel that acted concerned.

  51. chartrule says:

    i wouldn’t of stayed there a 2nd time

  52. evixir says:

    Crap. I stayed at the Excalibur a year ago. Who knows what they had going on there then? :/

  53. Daniels says:

    my friend had bedbugs and the whole ordeal was so traumatic (not to mention expensive, $5k or so) that we are forbidden from mentioning them in her company.

    We refer to it as “the incident.”

  54. @SkokieGuy:
    While it’s true that bed bugs are adept hitchhikers, he fact that Sara found multiple bed bugs, killed and flushed them, and then found more suggests that she did not travel to the hotel with a stray bed bug from home. Anyone carrying that many bed bugs around would see them.

    @heavylee-again:
    You can inspect a mattress (and room– bed bugs don’t just live in the mattress). There are links here to a 15 minute CBC Marketplace Report video which shows people doing a careful room inspection, and to a University of Minnesota PDF showing both how to search for bed bugs in hotels AND what to do if you find them, to avoid taking them home.

    If you find them, you have to bag some samples, and you have to contact the management right away. Don’t give up your samples to the hotel, however! And call the local health dept. Some hotels have been shut down and forced to deal with large-scale infestations.

  55. ltlbbynthn says:

    What hotel is going to let you into a room before you check in?