More on the Hollister bed bug case, and consumer fears

by nobugsonme on July 8, 2010 · 12 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, new york city

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.

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1 bugbitcha July 8, 2010 at 6:38 am

Having just consulted M&M, and Bed bugs and beyond, I can let you know that the fumigation with Vikane is a wonderful way to go. Everything came back with out any residue, and I had peace of mind. M&M referred me to BB&B, and BB&B referred me to Moving right along, which we did not use. We rented a truck, put all our stuff into it, drove it to BB&B in Ozone park, left it there for 24 hours, paid them $1750.00, and brought the stuff home. This is a great option if you can afford it and are planning a move in the future, and want to make sure you are not taking any travelers with you!

2 bugbitcha July 8, 2010 at 6:44 am

Oh, want to clarify that the fumigation of belongs MUST go hand in hand with treatment of your home. And when the belongings come back, you should keep them in plastic for a LONG time (3 months is one suggestion) to keep them from being re-infested while you continue to fight the BB war in your home.

3 Jim Smith July 8, 2010 at 8:04 am

has anybody had any success treating an entire house with heat to get rid of bed bugs? because rather than chemicals i would like to treat the whole house rathar than a room or two, just to be safe.

4 nobugsonme July 11, 2010 at 1:45 am

Jim,

Yes! Heat treatment of an entire home, if done properly by an experienced professional with the right technology, can work really well.

You can see previous discussions of heat (thermal) treatment on our forums, or post your own question here.

5 nobugsonme July 11, 2010 at 1:46 am

bugbitcha,

I am glad you had a good experience with commodity fumigation. How long has it been since you were treated?

And yes, it is important not to bring decontaminated items back into a still-infested home. How did you deal with furniture? I assume it did not stay sealed in plastic after being brought home.

6 bugbitcha July 11, 2010 at 8:02 am

nobugsonme,
We unfortunately could not afford a truck big enough to treat all the furniture. But if we HAD, it is suggested that you wrap the couches in plastic and leave the plastic on for 3 months. Yup…3 months. I know that since we did not do this, we may not have eliminated our problem, but we had to draw the line somewhere…we just don’t have unlimited funds, and bed bug elimination can empty out a bank account faster than a vacation to Hawaii. So we chose to have things fumigated that are difficult to clean ourselves , books, papers, winter coats, musical instruments, baskets, etc etc etc. Our exterminator is working with us and treating our furniture every time he comes to spray (as you know… treatment usually happens several times…nothing kills all bedbugs and their eggs in the first treatment) and so far, things are going well. All our belongings are still in plastic (and of course the mattress has a bed-bug cover on it), and will be for the foreseeable future. This is to keep the decontaminated stuff clean, and makes it so I won’t have to wash EVERY piece of clothing, linen, etc every time we are exterminated. A huge job, and expensive for those of us who do not have the luxury of home laundries. So far our experience has cost over $2500, and our landlord is paying for the exterminator (but did not pay for fumigation). If we had to pay for that, the cost would be well over $5000. This has been quite the summer project and not exactly how I had pictured my vacation!

7 nobugsonme July 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm

bugbitcha,

Thanks for clarifying that.

I know this is not going to help you, but for someone who comes along to read this and is in your situation, heat treatment of the home may be a better option. Done properly by an experienced and knowledgeable team, it will kill bed bugs in your belongings, furniture, and home. It can be done in apartments as well as single homes.

Readers can see previous discussions of heat (thermal) treatment on our forums.

8 heyhey July 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm

i work at jersey city hollister…they have it there too…and they didnt even have the decency to let their employees know of the problem

9 nobugsonme July 20, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Thanks, heyhey, for your comment.

10 nobugsonme July 20, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Thanks, heyhey, for your comments.

11 kim July 21, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I just came from Hollister in Jersey Gardens, could have sworn there was a bug on my arm. Anybody know if that store was checked?? I dont want to bring my bag in my house. I am sooooo itchy!!!

12 nobugsonme July 24, 2010 at 12:07 am

You could call them, kim…

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