“Disproportionate Horror”: Vancouver Hoteliers Get Schooled

by jessinchicago on January 19, 2007 · 5 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bug treatment in hotels, bed bugs, bed bugs and travel, bed bugs in hotels, british columbia, california, canada, legal aspects of bed bugs, new york, photos

An article in the Vancouver Sun today gives hope for a committed response from the hotel industry, but, in what’s becoming the grand tradition of bedbug journalism, minimizes the effects of bed bug attacks on innocent travellers.

What’s good about the article? Well, it documents a concerted effort on the part of Vancouver hotels and a dedicated (probably money-hungry, but who cares?) PCO to learn about and control bedbug infestations. The author does a great job of acknowledging the detrimental effects, monitarily speaking, of bedbugs on hotels:

Nobody wants to admit they have them, but nobody can afford to pretend they couldn’t get them at any time. The recent resurgence of the bedbug has become a major issue for the reputation-sensitive hotel industry, where its bite can cause serious financial hemorrhage.

Later, the article defines the nature of the damage from the hotel chain’s perspective:

Hotels rely heavily on repeat business, and Jarvis said concerns about public health issues like bedbugs can be very damaging,

“You could have a customer who is a business traveller and spends 50 hotel-nights a year with one particular brand,” he said. “If they have one incident, their likelihood of returning to that brand is fairly small, and the financial impact of that is very significant.

“So we see all of the major brands really reacting in quite a big way to this.”

Concern over potential lawsuits, particularly in the U.S., has led many hotel chains to re-examine their policies in regard to bedbugs in order to make sure they are doing all they can to prevent or eradicate them.

It’s a relief to know that hotels are becoming more aware of the potential for bedbug infestations, and are taking serious measures to combat and eliminate them. This is great news, and is going to become more and more necessary as people are bitten and lawsuits are filed.

That’s the upside of the article. The downside? The author seems to think that the general public overreacts to bedbugs. In fact, the author says

[A bedbug is] a tiny, blood-sucking pest capable of inspiring disproportionate horror… The idea of blood-sucking insects attacking people while they sleep seems to create a primal horror, although bedbugs do not pass on disease and their bites often go unnoticed.

Bedbug bites often go unnoticed? Sometimes, but not when you get five hundred in a single night, as this Chicago woman did at a hotel in Ellenville, NY. Or, for that matter, when you are bitten 600 times and your children suffer five hundred bites A PIECE in one night, as Eunice Juarez and her family were at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Disneyland Resort. Check out the graphic pictures in these articles, and then tell me that bedbugs inspire “disproportionate horror.”

The San Fransisco Department of Public Health obviously doesn’t think bedbug infestations at hotels are at all blown out of proportion by the public. In fact, the city developed this plan of action specifically for hotels, and has enforced it as a code of public health. Why? Not because bedbugs create “disproportionate horror,” but because bedbug infestations are serious matters- they spread quickly, they are highly transmittable, and they are financially devastating, and not just for hotels.

I wonder if the author of this article would be up to spending a night or two in an infested room? I wonder if the thought of getting hundreds of bites from a parasite that feeds solely on humans would be a little horrific? I wonder, particularly, how horrified the author would be to learn that bedbugs are easily transported, and the possibility of taking them home from an infested hotel room is pretty good? I would bet that the author would be, well, horrified at the thought of having bedbugs in his or her bed for the month or two it takes to eliminate an infestation from a home. And I’d say that horror would be… Proportionate.

1 Bugalina January 20, 2007 at 10:58 am

Jess…Thank you once again for an informative article and commentary. I had a man come to my home yesterday to measure for a shower door, and he commented on how empty my home was…I decided to tell him..I could see that he “didn’t get it”….Unfortunatley, unless people live with an infestation, they cannot fathom the horrors of bed bugs. This reporter is an example. Researchers deal with “bed bug zoos”, reporters deal with once removed information. We, on the other hand, have bed bugs living in the wild…infesting our homes. Predatory vampire bloodsuckers…..I don’t know how this is all going to play out, but I predict that bed bugs are going to create chaos. As I have said before, they go to the core of how we live, without a decent nights sleep it is impossible to function properly and I cannot think of anyone I know who can get into a bed that has bloodsucking bugs in it without it causing extreme mental distress…..Bugalina

2 Bugalina January 20, 2007 at 12:21 pm

here is a quote from the above mentioned article…”I think there’s a lot of trauma associated with that, and that, I think, is what drives a lot of the consumer fear of bedbugs,” he said.
He is saying that the trauma of bed bugs is that they come out to suck blood when someone is sleeping….Well he is omitting another huge factor of what drives the consumers fear – the fact that Bed Bugs ARE NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO EXTERMINATE….unless you throw away half of your hard earned belongings, spend thousands of dollars, and have continuous exterminations..And, what happens when adjoining apts. are infested and tenants refuse entry or landlords refuse to take actions and do nothing !!! ALL of these factors make up the reason why, justifiably so, that consumers FEAR BED BUGS !!!

3 nobugsonme January 20, 2007 at 7:16 pm

Hi Bugalina,

I agree that the author needs to understand that bedbugs–as Jess said in the post above– cause discomfort, are easily spread, hard to get rid of, and cause enormous financial distress, as well as physical problems.

Anyone who thinks they’re not a health problem should realize that people can have trouble sleeping for months, and experience allergic reactions which can be anywhere from annoying to even occasionally life threatening! They’re also dealt with on the CDC website, a sign that they may be cause for greater concern in future.

On the other hand, with the utmost respect for your views, I have to say that bed bugs are not always as severe as you say. Many people eliminate them with 3-4 treatments, and the recommendation of most people now seems to be not to throw away everything you own.

People in multi-unit dwellings can have more severe problems, and this can be a special case. But that is not always true–if the infestation is brought into a single unit from outside, there’s a lot of hope if it’s treated quickly. (If it isn’t treated quickly, or if the tenants throw away infested items and other tenants take those in, it can be disasterous.)

I don’t want to sound like I am saying bed bugs are not serious and cannot be a severe problem. I know that you have suffered enormously from this as many of us have. I know they can be a nightmare.

However, in saying this is not always such an extreme experience, I am thinking of people new to the problem who may be reading this, and I don’t want readers to think they should not bother with pesticides (as I have seen some unfortunate websites proclaim) or that people should throw everything away (whcih can exacerbate one’s situation–especially in multi-unit buildings, can be a disaster). My latest post (on do’s and don’ts) is targeted at avoiding just those kinds of panic reactions. I don’t want readers to think that every case is hopeless–it’s my sense that more cases are solveable. If you and the professionals you deal with know what you’re doing, and do it tirelessly.

Those of us giving up a lot of time to write about this on websites are likely to have had the most extreme experiences, and we are in the minority, and we should remember that. We also, however, know how devastating bed bugs can be, and how easily things can get out of hand.

4 Bugalina January 20, 2007 at 10:03 pm

I agree Nobugs…each bed bug case is different….but as the exterminator said ” Bugs don’t stand a chance against an exterminator….but Bed bugs stand a chance…” The fact that bed bugs are so so hard to get rid of, is what makes them so evil…so insidious…yes….they can be exterminated…but it takes a whole lot of effort….and then some….xo Bugalina…

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