The Wall Street Journal reports that the Hollister Epic store in SoHo closed Wednesday because of a bed bug infestation on the premises. (Hollister is an Abercrombie and Fitch brand.)
Apparently the store’s shirtless male models that normally greet customers at the door are now turning them away.
The WSJ was quick to emphasize that bed bugs don’t spread disease*, and that commercial buildings do not need to report an infestation to the city.
Still, bedbugs aren’t something consumers expect to bring home with their new clothes, and an expert on torts law said, hypothetically, consumers who had made recent purchases and then discover bedbugs could have a case.
“Technically it’s a breach of warranty of merchantability,” said Michael M. Martin, a professor at Fordham University School of Law. “They are defective because they don’t meet consumer expectation. The usual remedy for that, first of all you can get price back and, second, you might well be able to recover for the consequential injuries. I’d be willing to take that case.”
Words likely to launch a thousand lawsuits!
Gothamist shares one employee’s account of the situation in the dark retail store, and unfortunately perpetuates the incorrect idea that “bed bugs only feed at night.”
Unfortunately, Consumerist also picks up this piece of misinformation from Gothamist.
It’s not true.
Bed bugs do not only feed at night, or even only in darkened rooms, though this is their preference if possible.
Bed beds will feed in broad daylight if that is the only option they have. They can and do feed on people in lighted New York City public schools, law firms, publishing houses, record companies, and so on.
MSNBC reports the SoHo Hollister store was “in the process of removing the bedbugs and hoped to reopen the store soon.”
*Just to clarify: The World Health Organization is concerned about the health effects of bed bugs. They reported in 2008 that bed bugs may cause bronchial asthma, anemia, and even a “general malaise”. (Here’s a link where you can download the report in PDF form, and here’s a post on Bedbugger about it.) The WHO was also concerned about the potential for bed bugs to spread human pathogens (even though such transmission is as yet unknown).
Bedbugger also notes that stress, anxiety, and a loss of sleep — which are all commonly reported by bed bug sufferers — can be serious health problems (and can contribute to the onset of disease). Serious reactions to bed bug bites are not unknown, and even “typical” itchy bed bug bites can lead to infection if scratched, and can cause significant discomfort for sufferers.