It’s a dangerous time for taking in secondhand goods. These days, you don’t need to crawl the curbside looking for secondhand furniture that may contain bed bugs. Craigslist, Freecycle, and similar websites offer forums where people with stuff can connect with people who can buy it or take it for free.
Inevitably, some of that stuff is going to be from the homes of people who have bed bugs (whether they know it or not) and it’s easy to introduce bed bugs into your home in this way.
Some folks have even taken it into their own hands to post warnings about bed bugs on Craigslist, since the company is apparently unwilling to do so itself.
And so I offer you: the second bed bug story from Craigslist in one week.
Last week, we got a lesson in “how to spread bed bugs in three easy steps” via the post of a Craigslister offering nearly the entire contents of a home, while warning that the home had bed bugs, and nevertheless reassuring people it wasn’t hard to decontaminate bedbug-infested items including a futon, an upholstered office chair, a crib and — (potentially the bed bug motherlode) a captain’s bed.
This time, we see an ad for a “FREE antique couch” in “beautiful condition,” offered by a Toronto Craigslister at 3:21 pm on Sunday 8/17.
We simply can’t take it with us.
Yours if you can pick it up. Worth hundreds. Upholstery in great condition.
xxx xxxxxx Avenue.
Will be on the curb today.
Readers might have wondered why an “antique couch” in “beautiful condition” was being left curbside in Leslieville, and not moved along with other belongings? Well, it’s possible they did not have the means to move it. It happens, right?
Then we see a separate post in response by another Craigslister in the Toronto “Free Stuff” section the following day 8/18 at 1:16 pm. The title of this post is the exact address given in the first post as the place to pick up the sofa:
hi guys… we picked up that couch yesterday and by midnight — while watching tv — we discovered some bedbugs crawling along it… we have since thrown out all our furniture that was near it, doing the big clean of all our fabric… and are hoping that this will do the trick….we are in talks with our super about getting the apt. sprayed…
in 10 yrs. of being in toronto, my partner and i have never had to experience bedbugs…
Although I suppose there are other possible explanations (such as the sofa recipients having bed bugs already and just happening to notice them for the first time on their newly introduced Craigslist sofa, the day they pick it up), it really does look like the recipient got bed bugs along with the sofa.
Perhaps the unlucky sofa recipients thought it safe to accept this furniture because they figured if something had bed bugs living in it, the donor would know it was infested, and would not give it away.
As the song goes, ‘t ain’t necessarily so.
Never assume anything is bed bug-free. A good percentage of the population does not react to bed bug bites. Some estimates put this number as high as 50%.
The person donating your secondhand stuff, whether they’re a friend, neighbor, or someone on Craigslist may have no idea they have bed bugs. Maybe the sofa’s former owner was one of them.
On the other hand, I’m not so sure that’s the case here. If the recipients of the sofa saw multiple bed bugs, isn’t there a good chance the former owner did too?
Perhaps they did not know what they were.
Or perhaps they knew there were bed bugs in the home and were moving out to get rid of them, but did not understand that all of their furniture and possessions were at risk of harboring bed bugs.
In either case, ignorance is not bliss. As I said earlier in the week, these Craigslist bed bug cases emphasize the need for education: the government needs to educate the public about how easily bed bugs spread, and about how to inspect one’s home for them, and how to avoid getting them or passing them to others.
People should not be wondering, as this metafilter poster did back in 2006, whether there’s a “foolproof way” to be sure furniture items are not infested before you take them home, or to remove bed bugs from the item once you get home.
Picking up secondhand goods on the street needs to be seen as a really stupid idea, in every instance.
And Craigslist and Freecycle and similar services need to warn people, point blank, that any item offered via their service may be infested with bed bugs. Period.
There’s one good way to ensure no one gets bed bugs from an item that is tossed out or given away, and that’s to destroy it.
Remember the story David Cain told in the Bedbugger forums, about once having treated “the same Italianesque bed in 3 different properties on the same street”?
One tenant tossed out a bed bug-infested bed, the second saw it curbside and thought it looked nice, but later realized his/her error and tossed it out again. The third tenant made the same mistake as the second.
At this point, David ended the cycle with a baseball bat:
As I did general pest control in those days, I was able to rely upon my trusty rat bat to make sure that it did not find its way into a fourth [home].
Many thanks to the anonymous Toronto Bedbugger who tipped me off to these Craigslist posts.
Note: unlike the last Craigslist post, I decided not to do a screenshot of this one, since it has an address included, albeit the poster’s former address. I don’t mind linking to that on Craigslist, but I don’t want to be the one responsible for sharing someone’s address online. (So please don’t mention the address if you see it!)