This article on bed bugs in Crain’s New York Business quotes the owner of Liberty Pest Control, in Brooklyn, who calls bed bugs “the new moneymaker.” The article highlights how Pest Control Operators (PCOs) such as Liberty are gettinga huge portion of their revenues from bed bug cases, and targeting their advertising appropriately:
Liberty Pest Control, one of the larger local firms — with sales of $4 million and a full-time staff of 56 – gets 25% of its revenues from battling bedbugs. That is up from literally nothing three years ago.
Those gains are not driven just by fate. Liberty has aggressively seized its opportunity. In March, Liberty launched an online ad campaign. The company is currently spending $16,000 a month on bedbug ads, up from no expenditures as recently as a year ago.
Other exterminators are starting to follow suit. Brooklyn’s Absolute Death, a two-man firm with only $100,000 in revenues, is spending $5,000 a month on advertising. Bedbugs now account for 20% of its revenues.
Think about that: Absolute Death makes $100K in revenues, and they’re committing $60K a year to advertising. They’re expecting huge growth. It’s frightening, but not surprising to us Bedbuggers.
Many PCOs in NYC are seeing so much business from bed bugs, in fact, that they can’t always keep up:
Standard pest management in Queens, for example, has had to turn away some desperate bedbug customers as it struggles to keep up with the burgeoning demand from longtime clients. Broadway Exterminating in Manhattan temporarily yanked some of its online advertising this summer after seeing a 50% increase in calls between July and August.
Those are two large PCOs, from what I understand. I applaud these companies for knowing what volume of business they could handle. I have heard a few stories about poor service from PCOs with good reputations, and I have to think that sometimes steep growth in a short period of time (which, let’s face it, all PCOs who treat bed bugs must be facing no matter their size) can lead to quality control problems. Think about it: new hires may not be as carefully chosen or carefully trained in periods of booming business. I expect most reputable firms take care of their reputations, but some mistakes will be made. So when I hear the above firms decided to halt their growth, I am glad to hear it. PCOs who do a good job of fighting bed bugs should grow and those who don’t should not treat them! But good service providers know their limits.
The article states that the profit margin on bed bug extermination is 50%, that treating a 1-BR apt. costs on average $275 to $800, and that companies are starting to insure themselves against lawsuits, because they’re often guaranteeing work that is hard to guarantee.
I would venture that the profit margin on a thorough bed bug treatment is probably 50%; PCOs who do a cursory job, and we have heard of some, are the ones who are really making a killing, and probably killing too few bed bugs in the process.
The article said that due to the tenacity of the bed bugs, which usually do not respond to one treatment,
. . . some companies are changing their [guarantee] policies to adapt to the bugs. Standard Pest Management, for example, recently decided to treat all bedbug-infested apartments twice. Other companies now insist on three treatments.
I am glad that PCOs are learning that “once is enough” doesn’t necessarily work for bed bugs, and I hope they’re also learning how long to leave between those two visits (I’d venture 10-14 days). When PCOs have such an automatic policy on second visits, customers have a better idea what to expect.
When they don’t have such a policy, we often hear from Bedbuggers who think their PCO did a bad job, because they’re being bitten within 10 days of the first treatment. But you will be bitten– some bugs take a little time to die. Depending on the methods used, the bed bugs may have to be attracted to you (the bait) in order to walk through the poison; some may well bite during this time, but they will die. Eggs will hatch within 10-14 days, hence the need for a follow-up. In any case, you should be bitten less after treatment. And you should call your PCO to ask questions if you aren’t sure.
Crain’s bottom line:
“Most bugs don’t stand a chance against exterminators,” says Gene Miller, operating officer at Broadway Exterminating. “Bedbugs stand a chance.”
Now I am waiting for Crain’s to report on how hotels are taking the threat of bed bugs and lost revenue seriously, and what they’re going to do.
Note: If you’re new, read the FAQs — especially the one about how to choose a PCO, and the one that asks “Should I do my own pest control?”