An anonymous emailer (well, she used a pseudonym, but even those are safe with me) pointed me to a hotel review on Tripadvisor.com.
Most of you know that travelers write reviews of hotels on Tripadvisor and also hotelchattter.com. In cases where bedbugs are encountered, this is a good way to warn others about to pay good money to potentially get bitten, and maybe even bring home some new pets, of the kind that suck your blood, cost lots of money to eradicate, and can make you a social pariah.
Skeptics point out that people do make up malicious lies and post them on such sites, in order to discredit their enemies in business. But I think it’s safe to assume that most hoteliers would have better things to do than waste their time in this way, and I think that if there are multiple reviews of one hotel that have reports of bed bugs, there’s probably something to them.
I do feel it’s necessary to note that even hotels that try to prevent and treat them properly will have bed bugs–all kinds of hotels, of every class and in every city, anywhere. And hotels will generally have bed bugs in some rooms, and there is no way hotel managers can possibly always be aware of every infested room. It is a matter of degree–and how they respond to complaints.
With that in mind, I always check these sites (or google the name of the nice hotel I’ve found a great rate for plus the words “bed bugs” and “bedbugs”) to try and get some reassurance that I am going to have a bug-free stay. And I do my part, as a good bed bug citizen with “mysterious bites”, by traveling carefully. I shower and dress in clothes fresh from the ziploc they were sealed in after being washed and dried on hot, I don’t bring luggage, but sealed ziplocs (these can be more discretely carried inside washable tote bags).
The anonymous emailer, to get back to my story, sent a link to a certain hotel review on TripAdvisor for the Herald Square Hotel here in NYC. I hesitate to say its name because it really is true that any hotel can have rooms with bed bugs. Realize that the people who stay in those rooms stayed in other places before, and they’re carrying them from home to hotel or hotel to hotel. There are many hotel reviews on Tripadvisor.com that mention bed bugs (and if you read them carefully, you’ll see that some of those come up in a search but say “no bed bugs here”).
This particular hotel has reviews on the site mentioning bedbugs or bed bugs twice in 2002 and once in 2006; other hotels have multiple recent reports. (And it’s worth noting that the reviewer cited below rated the hotel 2 out of 5; it must have been a fairly nice place if you get a 2 with bedbugs.)
That said, it’s the content of the review that I want to comment on. The reviewer wrote on 10/30/2006:
The first morning that we were there my girlfriend woke up with bites on her hand and arm. We thought maybe there might be bugs but we couldn’t see any in the bed and the room was so nice we thought, how could it be? Our second night there she woke up in the middle of the night to something biting her again. In the morning we called front desk and told them what was happening. They wanted to come up to the room and see the bites and she said she would get changed and come down but before she had time, 2 minutes later, someone from housekeeping was at our door ready to inspect the bed.
We were really annoyed that this guy came up and was going through the bed while we were still in our pajamas! When he couldn’t find anything he said it must be an allergy to the down pillows. My girlfriend is a doctor and she informed him that allergy does not present like that, he wouldn’t believe her. So they changed our room to a much smaller one on another floor and that room seemed fine.
I would recommend that people who are bitten in hotels make a report by going down to the main desk. Ask for a manager. Reports of travelers to other hotels where bed bugs were found suggested that the traveler spoke discreetly to the manager, and got a good result (an apology, and immediate move to another, bug-free room). I don’t think you want to yell at the manager or cause a scene.
But I do think you should go down to the desk and talk to the manager directly. Because if they are not responsive, you can switch from being discreet to talking at a normal volume, and they know this. You did nothing wrong, and hotel managers should all be aware by now that bed bugs are an issue, and that they are not always easy to find. If you are bitten in a hotel, try and get a sample bug (live, dead, whatver). This is harder than it sounds. Given the current bed bug epidemic. hotel staff should absolutely not be looking at your bed and, should they not find anything conclusive, implying you were reacting to a down pillow allergy.
My sharp and anonymous tipster wrote:
I have it on good authority that in the lowest-class rooms at the Herald Square Hotel (as opposed, I guess, to the new “luxury” rooms), the mattress and box springs are encased in thick vinyl and no mattress pad is used. The pillows look steamed, but housekeeping also leaves a small decorative cushion on the bed, covered in fabric that matches the bedspread. 🙁
Yikes. I hope you Bedbuggers have all eliminated small decorative cushions from your own beds. Nevertheless, even if the “luxury” room the reviewer was commenting on did have the vinyl mattress and box spring covers, which are absolutely a good thing to use, these are not guarantees that the room will be bedbug-free. My own mattress, people, has always been covered in one, and is pristine. They live in the floors, walls, ceiling fixtures, and can even travel through pipes. So even if you inspect mattresses in a hotel, it’s no guarantee. One entomologist in an article I read even pointed out you need to look all over the room, not just a sampling–they could be behind one picture frame and not another, one side of the bed and not the other, and so on.
I want to make it really clear that having bed bugs in one room of a hotel is not itself evidence that this is a bad hotel. Anyone who’s had bed bugs at home knows that we don’t get them because we are bad or dirty. Bed bugs are highly contagious. But if you are running a hotel, this is, unfortunately something you have to deal with. And customers are going to be willing to pay extra to stay in hotels where bed bugs are treated swiftly, with great care, and with respect to the customer’s comfort. They could learn a thing or two from hotels that know how to eliminate bed bugs, and try to keep on top of this situation.
Hotel management should be judged on how they react to an infestation. And the onus is on them to solve the problem. If they do not believe a customer, they should nevertheless have PCOs in to check the room and treat it.