Racked asks how scared Hollister Epic customers should be about the recent bed bug problem in that store. Racked says Timothy Wong of M&M Environmental
… told us his firm has handled over 150 calls from freaked-out Hollister customers in the past week. On inspection, the majority turned out to be free of the tiny bloodsuckers.
With the media frenzy about the bed bug problems discovered last week at Hollister in SoHo and at the Abercrombie and Fitch store at South Street Seaport, it’s not surprising if some customers of those stores would call a pest management firm about inspecting their home.
The statement above implies that some of those calls to M&M resulted in actual bed bug cases. However, let’s be honest: in New York City, it’s likely some of any set of 150 people getting an inspection would have as-yet-undetected bed bug cases, even if they weren’t Hollister shoppers. In other words, the fact that some cases exist among Hollister shoppers is not in itself proof that any bed bugs came home from a shopping trip there.
Racked also talked to Jim Rueda, the head of Moving Right Along, the firm that orchestrated the commodity fumigation of Hollister’s inventory.
Moving Right Along packed the store’s merchandise into chambers, drove it to a facility in Ozone Park, and then gassed it thoroughly. The colorless, odorless gas, which is designed to kill anything that breathes, leaves no residue—supposedly you can use it to fumigate dinner plates and then eat off them the next day. So the clothing won’t show any effects of the gassing, but it’ll all be free of bugs.
(You can read about sulfuryl fluoride gas fumigation — sometimes done under the brand name Vikane — here.)
Racked reports that while commodity fumigation was used to kill bed bugs and eggs in the clothing stock, Hollister’s premises were treated using traditional (spray) methods.
It’s clear from Moving Right Along’s website that they have a relationship with Bed Bugs and Beyond, and this suggests that that firm may have taken care of the actual sulfuryl fluoride gas fumigation. I am just speculating on this.
A second icon on that page suggests Moving Right Along also works with M&M; however, blogger Izzy Grinspan says Racked are “still trying to reach the company that handled [the spray treatment] for details,” so it is pretty clear from this M&M was not the firm that sprayed Hollister’s store.
Racked also notes that
You can’t fumigate a building in NYC because a) it’s illegal and b) it’ll kill your neighbors, according to Wong.
Is that true?
My understanding is that Vikane (sulfuryl fluoride) gas fumigation can be used in NYC buildings if you treat an entire free-standing structure.
It’s true of course that treating one unit of an apartment building (or any building attached to another) would be deadly for neighbors, and not permitted.
(Looking at a photo of Hollister’s SoHo store it seems likely there are attached neighbors.)
Perhaps some of the local pest pros can confirm for us that sulfuryl fluoride gas fumigation is legal in NYC, as long as you treat the entire free-standing structure.
Vikane gas fumigation is a good choice for commodity fumigation, and lots of Bedbugger Forums users have reported using it.
However, heat treatment is another option for treating structures — and could theoretically be done in the store itself, baking both the stock and the premises at the same time. I can’t help wondering if that option was also considered.
I want to note that I appreciate the fact that Hollister closed the shop for treatment and publicized their own bed bug infestation. They went a step further and had other stores in the city searched.
Lots of public places — including restaurants, movie theaters, colleges, and offices — have had bed bug infestations. Most you never hear of, because they don’t close down, and they keep a tight lid on publicity. (These are some stories of bed bugs in offices, government offices, schools, hospitals, etc. which did get out.)
And as for firms proactively searching premises which don’t have recorded complaints (as appears to be the case at the other NYC Abercrombie & Fitch stores)? This is not something we hear about often. And it should happen all the time.
The calls that M&M is getting from worried Hollister shoppers makes it clear many are freaking out about the store’s bed bug problem. The general response from blogs and newspapers to the Hollister/Abercrombie & Fitch saga has been “Ick! That store!”
But this is not a Hollister-specific problem.
Next time you hear a joke about “Abercrombie and Itch,” ask the joker where he or she last shopped for clothing, dined out, or watched a movie; ask about their last taxi ride.
Every store, restaurant, college, office, and theater in New York City should be implementing a pro-active plan to prevent bed bugs and detect bed bugs, and they should all have a plan for what to do if and when bed bugs are detected. However, I would guess most have not given this a second thought.
These other places where people come and go and sit for extended periods are as likely to get bed bugs as a popular clothing store, if not moreso. It’s time everyone started thinking about preventing and detecting bed bugs, rather than waiting until an employee suspects they have bed bug bites, or until a customer actually sees a bed bug.