Bed bug product industry sinks to new low

by nobugsonme on May 6, 2011 · 26 comments

in bed bugs, bed bugs in theaters, misinformation

Can anyone explain to me how placing a polypropylene cover on top of your seat in a movie theater will prevent bed bugs which may be in the seat or in the theater from biting you or hitching a ride home with you in your clothing or possessions?

Can you give me any reason on earth why bed bugs would not simply go around or climb over the seat cover and feed freely?

No, you cannot.

I did not think so.

Bed bugs, my friends, are the new gold rush.

And you don’t have to have any proof whatsoever that a product actually works in order to sell lots of it, garnering attention in the blogosphere, and stocking shelves at major chain stores (which I will not name).

Simply placing the caption “No Bed Bugs” on the product package does not mean this product will do anything to prevent bed bugs biting or hitching a ride home with you.

Consumers beware: at $2.99 a pop, someone may get very rich on your false sense of security.

Entrepreneurs be aware: try actually talking to someone who knows something about bed bugs before you design a product.

(Direct link to YouTube for those who can’t see the embedded video.)

Update (6/1/2011):

In the Comments below, Jeff White suggested that if the cover is smooth, it may have some value in that bed bugs might not be able to walk across it.

If this is so, then it’s possible the product may prevent bed bugs on the seat itself from feeding on theatergoers. (I’d like to see some testing data from independent entomologists on this.)

However, in response to Jeff, I argued that the product claims from the product website were nevertheless misleading:

The marketing of the product suggests the use of the product will keep consumers from being exposed to bed bugs.

The product label features a bunch of bed bugs in a red circle with a line through it, saying “No Bed Bugs.” This implies the product keeps bed bugs away entirely.

These are some phrases and statements used on the product’s website:

“Protect yourself from bed bugs everywhere you go…”

This implies that the product protects you from bed bugs. It may give consumers a false sense of security.

Interestingly, as of June 1st, this has been amended to “Protect yourself from bed bugs and germs anywhere you go!”

The “facts” page also gives detailed advice on inspecting an airplane seat for bed bugs and ends with “Do all that or just use our product.”

That implies that this is equally helpful as a careful visual inspection of all sides of the seat and head and arm rest.

As of June 1st, this language has now been removed from the Facts and Tips page.

I am also concerned, as Cilecto was, that the product may be kept in its carrying case for reuse. If bed bugs are present on the seat, they may be removed from it with the seat cover after use. That would seem to be a great conduit for bringing bed bugs to another location. The website should warn people never to reuse this product and to dispose of it right away.

The product page is now emphasizing a “Disposable one-time use.”

Again, I want to stress that without testing data, we cannot be sure whether this product will keep bed bugs on the seat from biting you.

However, no seat cover can fully protect you from getting bed bug bites in a movie theater, nor can it prevent you from picking up bed bugs and bringing them home. It’s important that people do not get a false sense of security from products like the Bug Off Seat Cover.

Note also, there’s a second seat cover on the market now: Seat Defender. More on that here.

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1 supercalifragilisticexpialidocious May 6, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Can you give me any reason on earth why bed bugs would not simply go around or climb over the seat cover and feed freely?

Well, if they were in on the racket, they could look at the cover and see that the owner had paid their protection money.

2 nobugsonme May 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

I guess the bed bugs are being paid off with blood money?

(Har har!)

3 Mary May 6, 2011 at 4:38 pm

I posted on Bug Off Facebook page and it was of course deleted. It said exactly this, “Seriously? This is absurd! Like they they cannot? crawl from the floor onto your pant leg, as well as crawl right around that elastic from the bottom of the chair. I feel sorry for the consumers that fall for this.”

4 ichin May 6, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Yeah, and fear not! If the bedbugs don’t bite you during the movie because the seat cover “did its job”, they’ll definitely hitch a ride with you home when you take the seat cover home… Brilliant idea!

5 Ci Lecto May 6, 2011 at 6:59 pm

This looks like it’s intended for reuse (it appears to be a plasticized fabric and a case is mentioned), which means it would need inspection and/or cleaning when brought home.

I’ve seen people pull trash bags over the seats on commuter buses. I also saw something similar in disposable, clear plastic in my neighborhood hardware store and had the same thoughts about its ineffectiveness against BB crawling around it or coming from adjoining surfaces.

I’d bet, unfortunately, that most people with BB (or worried about them) don’t follow this forum. They go by instinct (throw out all belongings and/or use the nastiest thing they can get their hands on, like bleach). They fall for the crap that gets posted in the comments section of most every BB-related article or YouTube video. They buy what’s on display at the hardware store. Pay >$20 for a quart of detergent. I’m fairly certain that a big hardware chain “knows” that people will snap up the 3 for $20 electronic bug repellers they display en masse between the BB sprays and the giant ziplocks, because BB are scary and what the heck.

That’s gold in them varmints.

6 David Cain May 6, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Yeah I can confirm you may as well sit on your coat for all the good it would do.

I am however tempted to see how well they work for asphyxiating the sales people of such crash and stupid products.

Sadly as time goes on more and more of these “half baked” ideas float to the surface and what really amazes me is that occasionally someone who should know better gets caught up in it all.

David

7 Carpathian Peasant May 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Well, if they are ON the seat (shed by someone with a hole in their pants or something) and you drop a sheet of plastic on top of them and sit on it, assuming they survive, they will be trapped between the seat and the plastic until you move…. Right?

If you don’t put the plastic there, as soon as you move they can turn over and grab you by the seat of the pants.

8 nobugsonme May 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm

Hi CP,

The thing is, bed bugs are probably not going to be hanging out on the top part of a seat (where your body hits the fabric). They’re going to seek out the narrow crevices or back or underside of the seat (even inside it if they can), and hide there safely until a body is seated, at which time they can safely come out and feed.

They desire to hide and they love tight spaces. This is Bed Bug Behavior 101.

9 JWhiteBBCTV May 9, 2011 at 8:55 am

This entire post is based upon me not having seen the product and the assumption that the “cover” is a smooth plastic the bugs would have trouble walking on. If it’s textured, I take all of the following back.

I completely agree that this product should not be relied upon to protect you if you are concerned about bed bugs in a theater….that being said…

I think we all tend to look for 100% effective products that do exactly what they seem to be intended to do. The person who mentioned a bug walking on your shoe is the perfect example. They want a product that they can’t shoot any holes in and will 100% protect them. To me, this product is all about how it’s being marketed. When we find bugs in a movie theater or similar seat, they are usually on the seams of the seat itself or the backing of the seat. The concept is if this is a smooth plastic and it creates a smooth plastic barrier between the seat and person sitting in the seat, there’s a good chance the bug will have a difficult time getting to that person and may find someone else or wait for the next victim. If it makes things a little more difficult on the bugs and it’s 2.99, my feeling is why not? If I were a concerned-type of person, I might buy it to protect me from all the nastiness that’s already on those seats besides bed bugs.

If it’s being sold as a guaranteed protection, then yes I agree and that’s not right. If it’s being sold as a product that could protect you and it is smooth plastic, it might and if you’re a concerned patron, for 2.99, why not? What I can tell you is that this product is going to sell, very very well, and honestly, I don’t have a huge issue because it may actually make it difficult for bugs on the seat to get to the person in the seat.

I agree it’s not foolproof and I’m sure it has it’s faults but I think some are making way too big of a deal about a 2.99 product that may actually have some conceptual value (again, this is all based on me not having seen one in my hand). I also have no affiliation with this product and the site I’m affiliated with does not sell it.

10 Lou Sorkin May 9, 2011 at 2:59 pm

If the product is placed on a seat and if bed bugs are able to crawl onto it but slide off, then they are now in a potential place (could be the floor) that allows them to crawl along the floor and onto a shoe and up the pant leg or bare leg (at least until it begins to feed). True, depends on the plastic surface and if it can climb or slip or a mixture of both. A smooth surface can be traversed especially if made horizontal or slightly pitched.

11 James May 9, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I like JWhite’s big picture of this.
I showed the site to my friends and for the 3 extra bucks they’re finally willing to see a movie again. Worth it. It’s more of a psychological thing with this barrier between the dirt/bugs and you.

12 nobugsonme May 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Hi Everyone,

Thanks for your comments.

Hi Jeff,

I appreciated your input and that the texture may be a factor, but even if they can’t crawl across the plastic, sitting in a seat with bed bugs puts you in danger of bringing them home or being bitten on your legs or feet.

The marketing of the product suggests the use of the product will keep consumers from being exposed to bed bugs.

The product label features a bunch of bed bugs in a red circle with a line through it, saying “No Bed Bugs.” This implies the product keeps bed bugs away entirely.

These are some phrases and statements used on the product’s website:

“Protect yourself from bed bugs everywhere you go,”

This implies that the product protects you from bed bugs. It may give consumers a false sense of security.

The “facts” page also gives detailed advice on inspecting an airplane seat for bed bugs and ends with “Do all that or just use our product.”

That implies that this is equally helpful as a careful visual inspection of all sides of the seat and head and arm rest.

I am also concerned, as Cilecto was, that the product may be kept in its carrying case for reuse. If bed bugs are present on the seat, they may be removed from it with the seat cover after use. That would seem to be a great conduit for bringing bed bugs to another location. The website should warn people never to reuse this product and to dispose of it right away.

13 Ci Lecto May 9, 2011 at 8:50 pm

I’d also be concerned about carrying BB home via bags that are placed under the seat or near the seat ahead of you, scenarios that the seat-condom won’t protect against.

I saw a similar product for sale at a big department store in lower Manhattan (which shall remain nameless). They seem to have a big chunk of their bedding department devoted to BB covers of various sorts. The seat cover they had was $10 (unsure about quantity) and was marked “good for lice”.

14 supercalifragilisticexpialidocious May 9, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Groan 🙂

15 nobugsonme May 10, 2011 at 1:27 am

I’m worried about the bags on the floor and body parts on the floor (like feet).

16 David James May 10, 2011 at 8:41 am

This one is a stinker. If it doesn’t protect you from them, all it gives is a false sense of security. I suppose however I could start coming up with a load of products that only half work or are mostly good as it would be pretty simple and I could make more money that way. Would save a lot of time we usually spend in testing our own products, why bother? Maybe an encasement that has buttons instead of a zipper? I’d like to hear from the peanut gallery, what other half-baked poorly thought out or designed products could I start producing? Apparently it is high season to make a buck first, worry about whether it works later or not at all.

Disclaimer: I make the Packtite and the Bed Bug Beacon, products that were actually well thought out and tested.

17 JWhiteBBCTV May 10, 2011 at 11:06 am

James “comfort/big picture” post is exactly what I’m talking about. Without having seen the product I’m sure it’s not perfect nor are 98% of the other products out there. I’d love to see a study that somehow tested the frequency of taking bugs home from a seat that is covered in a smooth, plastic cover vs. no cover at all. I’d easily bet on the covered seat being less frequent.

Can they walk on your shoes, yes. Bring disposable, plastic shoe covers. Could they walk on a bag, yes. But your bag in a Ziploc bag while you are sitting there.

I’m sure there marketing is garbage and overselling their product like 99.9% of most products out there but, if designed properly, it’s a tool that if used in conjunction with other things and perhaps disposed of after use puts people at ease while seeing a movie. Also you can always launder your clothes when you return home if you’re still concerned. Again, it’s 3 dollars and just needs some better recommendations around the concept.

The hysteria this year is going to be ridiculous and I guarantee, reasonable or not, certain public places (movies, theater, etc…) are going to lose out on business because of it. If a silly, 3 dollar cover that may help a little and puts people slightly more at ease gets people back in the movies (especially since they probably won’t encounter bed bugs anyway), then so-be-it.

Also, to just look at a product and completely discount it because of some overzealous marketing is a mistake. The concept is there, just needs some tweaking I’m sure.

David, if it’s such a joke, design your own product package. It’ll sell.

18 M. May 10, 2011 at 1:27 pm

Thing is, I have seen bedbugs scale a clean glass surface without any trouble, and I can’t imaging why they should be detered by plastic, rough or not. It is still making $2.99 on something that takes $0.02 to make and does not do anything more than a trashbag would do or wearing a raincoat. It may give you “peace of mind”, and then you may be interested in buying this bedbug repelling brick I have to sell that you can place under your seat….

19 Carpathian Peasant May 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Well, okay, so people start draping public things in plastic. Who wants to bet 50% of them will be left right where they were draped? Add into any costs the personnel necessary to clean up after that. Meanwhile a percentage of what does get picked up by the owner may shake any bugs right on them.

As an aside: Since movies are available on disks that fit into computers, and for that matter on things that fit into television sets and are readily available for free from libraries, I think something more than plastic covers for seats will generally be needed to revive the movie industry (if it’s possible). The heyday of that is over.

While there are still people who go to movies, show me a downtown that hasn’t lost 90% of theirs. It’s one of those things that’s talk as if everyone does it; but, everyone doesn’t.

20 David James May 11, 2011 at 6:36 pm

Sorry, I have no interest in selling products that don’t work, have obvious design flaws, and do nothing more than give a false sense of security, especially when dealing with an economically crippling pest such as bed bugs. Once you go down that path, so does your reputation. I don’t want to be thought of as that guy that sells useless products to the gullible, but that’s just me, others don’t seem to have a problem with it, good for them if they can sleep at night.

21 John May 17, 2011 at 3:15 pm

Seat and bed covers work by trapping the bed bugs in the existing fabric so they can’t get out. It also keeps them from getting on the fabric and breeding there. Covers only work if they stay in position. The movie theater would have to buy the covers and leave them on. Taking a cover to a theater and putting it on the seat wouldn’t really do anything.

22 nobugsonme June 1, 2011 at 11:26 am

Post updated above.

23 nobugsonme June 1, 2011 at 11:27 am

Hi John,
It sounds like you’re talking about a seat encasement, along the lines of mattress encasements.

That’s not what this product is. It sits on top of the seat, rather than fully encasing it.

24 fran June 15, 2011 at 10:56 pm

This product is as effective as most anti bed bug products on the market. If bed bugs are resistant or immune to most insecticides than almosevery spray on the market is pretty much useless. As far as encasements go, some don’t even completely encase the mattress so thos are useless as well and the ones that do encase completely give the impression the bed bugs actual reside inside your mattress, which is untrue. Just because you have an encasement doesn’t mean that bed bugs can’t live on the encasement. What prevents the bugs from as Sorkin says” dropping on the floor and crwling up a pant leg or shoe”

25 nobugsonme June 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Hi Fran,

No encasement is going to keep your home bed bug-free.

Some encasements are pointless as you note. Others which are designed and used appropriately can serve a function. Even professionals who don’t recommend encasements for mattresses seem to note that North American style box springs benefit greatly from being encased with an appropriate encasement –see our Encasements FAQ.

I would also note that bed bugs are not “resistant or immune to most insecticides.” People who say this are usually either trying to sell consumers a particular treatment method, or are giving up on treatment entirely. If you’re in the latter group, don’t give up. Lots of methods can get rid of bed bugs.

The primary problem we hear about is pyrethroid resistance. Which means other pesticides and methods such as steam and dusts used alongside sprays can help treatment succeed.

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