Aaron Schalk told Channel Four in Nashville (see: Bedbugs Infest Family’s Sofas) that his pest control operator suspected sofas from an unnamed furniture rental firm brought bed bugs into his family’s home:
Schalk said the pest control worker asked where the couches came from.
“She said, “Did you get them from a rental place?” We said, “yeah.” She said, “Those bugs came in on those couches.”
Schalk’s fiancée, Alma Arroyo, was making payments on rent-to-own furniture; but whether the bedbugs came in with the couches is the subject of some dispute.
The furniture rental company confirms the couches were used, not brand new, but says they were treated in the store in accordance with store procedures. A spokesman for the store said, “We are confident we are not the source of the infestation.”
It would be interesting to know more about what the unnamed company Schalk hired was doing to ensure that bed bugs were not in the items he rented before they entered his home.
One way to ensure bed bugs were removed from furniture might be to properly use proven thermal technologies to kill bed bugs in items between rentals. Equipment, once installed, could be used by the company’s employees.
Another option would be chamber treatments of rental items with Vikane gas (sulfuryl fluoride). That would probably be pricier because it would require licensed experienced fumigators and lots of piecemeal treatments.
Remember that items would have to be treated upon pickup from prior customers, before being returned to the store or warehouse (to avoid infesting the storage area), and the delivery truck would have to be treated after every pickup, to ensure it was not harboring bed bugs and infesting subsequent deliveries.
(Note that this is not a problem which is isolated to rentals, but is instead something that can happen to new furniture: many mattress companies will cart your used mattress off after bringing you a new one, potentially infesting the truck and subsequent deliveries.)
One idea would be to have pickups done by trucks with thermal heaters installed. At the end of the day, the entire truck could be heated to 140 F and left for long enough to ensure all the items inside reached core temperatures of 120 F or so. Done properly, this could help keep the pickup vehicle and the warehouse bed bug-free.
Deliveries of fresh items would have to be made in separate trucks to avoid cross-contamination.
We heard a rumor years ago that some rental firm was employing heated trucks, but we do not know the details or the firm.
Back in July, the Tennesseean reported that a Nashville woman named Evangela Cowan was suing a local Rent-a-Center, alleging they delivered bed bugs with rental furniture. (The full article is no longer available from the site, but you can find an abstract here, and here’s another article on the same case from UPI.)
A spokesman for the company said in the July Tennesseean article that they “use a number of agents to sanitize the equipment” once it’s returned and that they visually inspect items before and after they are rented.
It’s also worth noting that the laws regarding sanitizing of rental items may not mandate treatment guaranteed to remove bed bugs. UPI cited the Tenneseean article regarding Cowan’s case in July:
The Tennessean said Tuesday that Rent-a-Center declined comment on the lawsuit but stated that company policy is to aggressively sanitize its merchandise in accordance with state regulations.
State and local regulations unfortunately are not always sufficient.
You’ll recall that it’s perfectly legal to spray “sanitize,” recover and resell used mattresses in New York City. The local regulations permit it, for now. But by no means does it mean bed bugs are removed from the mattress during this “sanitizing” process.
Keeping rental furniture stock, stores, and trucks bed bug-free sounds like a very challenging business.