The Wall Street Journal’s Metropolis blog reports that the Abercrombie and Fitch store at South Street Seaport has now been closed due to bed bugs detected there. It appears the firm had its other locations searched after their Hollister Epic store was discovered to have bed bugs earlier this week. (The Hollister store is still closed and expects to reopen Saturday morning at 10 a.m.)
Melanie Grayce West writes for Metropolis,
The company will be temporarily closing its Abercrombie & Fitch South Street Seaport store to ‘deal with a similar problem,’ according to the spokesman. In a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Abercrombie chairman and CEO Michael S. Jeffries asked for ‘leadership and guidance’ on how best to address the problem.
Susan Craig, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said, ‘It is the responsibility of companies to handle bed bugs on their own.’
The Abercrombie & Fitch Fifth Avenue store has been tested and is bedbug-free, the spokesman said.
I am glad that Abercrombie and Fitch did not stop with the Hollister store, and instead had its other branches inspected.
I also appreciate that the firm asked Mayor Bloomberg for “leadership and guidance” on how to deal with the problem. (This is detailed in the firm’s press release today.) I think the city needs to do more than simply tell companies to deal with bed bugs on their own.
Yes, business owners may be responsible for their own bed bug inspections and treatment. However, we are all interdependent as far as bed bugs are concerned. Bed bugs are contagious. If businesses are left to their own devices, many will not be proactive (as it appears Abercrombie and Fitch is attempting to be), and the problem will get even worse in the city.
Unfortunately, though the city’s Bed Bug Advisory Board, (charged with making recommendations to the city about steps to control the bed bug problem) began convening in September 2009, and was supposed to produce a report with its findings within nine months, this report has not been made public by the city yet.
The article also comments on the preventive steps a number of commercial spaces are taking against bed bugs, including routine bed bug sniffing dog inspections.
However, Metropolis notes,
Most commercial spaces don’t have a formal policy on how to handle a bedbug outbreak or complaints by an employee or by the public. Bedbug lawsuits are a growing area of practice for Marc Miner, a lawyer for Zalman & Schnurman in Manhattan. Miner says that when an issue isn’t resolved employees will sometimes turn to the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration agency and file a complaint.
“In my experience there are very, very few places that have a protocol for bedbugs,” he said. “Often people come to us because they have a post traumatic reaction to it. For some people, the post traumatic stress is the worst part.”
Note to firms considering hiring a bed bug sniffing k9: as our FAQ on dogs explains, you want to make sure the dog handler visually confirms all bed bug dog alerts.
Metropolis recommends a number of steps to prevent bed bugs from coming home from a shopping trip, including washing/drying new clothing on hot prior to wearing it the first time. (A Packtite would be a great solution also.)
They do not recommend sealing new purchases in Ziploc bags until they are treated to kill bed bugs, but I would.