Bed bugs close Hollister store, New York City

by nobugsonme on July 1, 2010 · 15 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in the workplace, new york city

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.”

Read more stories about bed bugs in the workplace.

*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.

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1 Cody July 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm

The picture in the article is so not a bed bug.

2 nobugsonme July 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Hi Cody,

I think you’re referring to the photo in Gothamist — and you’re right, it does not look like a bed bug’s cast skin.

It does not sound like this “sample” led to the closure, however. The employee cited by Gothamist claims multiple employees have been complaining for weeks about bed bug bites.

3 CiLecto July 2, 2010 at 6:10 am

Why are itchy welts not considered “disease”?

4 parakeets July 2, 2010 at 8:32 am

I agree that the spin in media keeps saying bedbugs are not a known health risk. But here’s a quote that I found recently on WebMD’s MEDSCAPE about bedbugs: “Repeated bites may sensitize individuals, leading to more pronounced cutaneous manifestations or systemic hypersensitivity reactions. The local trauma from bedbug bites can lead to secondary bacterial infection, causing ecthyma, cellulitis, or lymphangitis. There is some evidence that bedbugs may also be a vector for hepatitis B and Chagas disease. Histologic findings from bite-site biopsy specimens typically show eosinophilic infiltrates, which are indicative of the allergic nature of the reaction.” If this is true, and MEDSCAPE is a reliable source, why are we still being told when there is an outbreak that bedbugs are not a known health risk?

5 nobugsonme July 2, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Cilecto and Parakeets,

Sorry I did not interrogate that statement by the WSJ. I have corrected this above:

*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.

6 Lou July 2, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Not a health risk because this species does not vector diseases. Correct though, that secondary bacterial infection can occur, causing ecthyma, cellulitis, lymphangitis. Evidence of vector for hepatitis B and Chagas disease (latter reported in literature via Cimex hemipterus not lectularius). Bite reaction indicative of allergic nature of bed bug bite. Repeated bites, in my case, actually somewhat desensitized me to their saliva. As I stated earlier, it appears that the reason for the bite of the bed bug not equating to health risk is because the insect is not a competent vector for various diseases. That said, there are certainly other reasons to consider it somewhat of a health risk, but not a vector-related health risk.

7 nobugsonme July 2, 2010 at 2:39 pm

L Magazine is having a bit of schaudenfreude at Hollister’s expense.

But perhaps the Williamsburg-oriented magazine should think twice.

What is the old adage about “People who live in bed bug-infested houses…”

8 diebbsdie July 2, 2010 at 9:43 pm

OOOOH wow…Nobugs, that is one reason I moved away from Williamsburg. The pretentious, self-righteous attitude of many of the residents, AND the bed bugs! Every time I walked home from work or a bar, there would be mattresses thrown out on every corner!

This Hollister bed bug scare is really terrifying to me because, although I’m not really one of their customers, I am a designer for a company that uses a lot of their clothes as “inspiration” samples. So I always have several of their garments near me. A few weeks ago, I had 5 bites on my leg, and then a week later I got 3 or 4 more while sitting in my chair. It’s hard to pinpoint when I actually got the bites, but as I’m pretty sensitive to them and in the past have reacted right away, I truly believe my chair was infested. I moved it out to a deserted conference room and took a different one. Since then, no problems.

I just hope I didn’t give them to someone else. Everyone told me the bites were mosquito bites, and with me it’s really hard to tell the difference this summer.

I also hope Jeff White’s comments about how this could be over reaction or mass hysteria is truer than not.

9 nobugsonme July 3, 2010 at 1:08 am

diebbsdie,

I suspect Jeff may be right — while it sounds like there are definitely bed bugs involved, it would not surprise me if there was a lot of hyping going on also. It’s hard to know how big the problem is.

It seems improbable that any samples you’ve gotten from the company would have been affected by what sounds like a problem in a couple of stores — which probably came in via employees or customers (or returns).

That’s not to say your workplace might not also be infested. It really can happen anywhere there are people.

10 diebbsdie July 5, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Nobugs,
I hope you’re right, but the more I think about it, the more i realize it coincides with the whole “scare” i had about a month ago. We always shop at the Hollister in Soho and I had purchased some things for my company and brought them home before taking them to work with me. Yikes!
Now after 4th of July weekend, I realize I have one large bite on the back of my thigh, and two smaller ones about 4″ apart on my calf. Surely that is from being outside all day/night, right??? 🙁

11 nobugsonme July 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Hi diebbsdie,

I did not realize you got your samples from the store itself.

In that case it’s possible, though mosquitos outside on the 4th of July are kind of a done deal.

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