Nary a day passes without a report in the news about bed bug encounters (real or imagined) in a hotel or elsewhere in the hospitality industry. Almost invariably, the hotel manager or owner is said to deny the problem without doing due diligence to even check whether or not bed bugs were present, and then ignores the earnest (and sometimes exaggerated) claims of the guests. Such a response (or lack thereof) fails not only the guests but also the personnel of that facility. It also gives the entire hospitality industry a black eye.
Here’s a case where guests who alleged a bed bug problem at a hotel did receive compensation (from the hotel’s insurance company) for laundry and certain other expenses. Characteristically, the hotel in question is said to deny the existence of a bed bug problem. Whereas it is impressive that guests were reimbursed (this was likely in lieu of a much more costly legal challenge), many opportunities were apparently missed here.
What should have been done?
1) The hotel management should have had (and may have had) a good bed bug training program in place for the housekeeping staff. Ideally, the housekeepers will spot a problem before it comes to the attention of the guests and will summon appropriate resources to deal with the issue.
2) At the first instance of a bed bug sighting or complaint, the room should be thoroughly examined for bed bugs or signs of bed bugs. If a problem is confirmed, the room should be immediately closed, all adjacent rooms should be inspected, and a licensed pest control professional should arrive within the day (if possible) to treat as appropriate. Affected rooms should be maintained closed until it is fairly certain that the bugs have been eliminated.
3) Guests in any affected rooms should immediately be offered an apology and a new room (if the guests are continuing their stay) or reasonable reimbursement for the night(s) they stayed. Guests should be advised to have their clothing laundered before returning home or traveling to other facilities, and also urged to carefully inspect their luggage and personal effects. To this end, the hotel manager should offer to immediately launder all the clothes of the affected guests, or provide reasonable compensation for such laundering elsewhere.
Whereas it is comforting to learn that these guests were compensated, it is not clear whether they received proper and timely guidance. How many of them may then have inadvertently transported bed bugs from the hotel to their own homes or to other hotels? Only the bed bugs will know this for sure…
The issue remains as to whether bed bugs really existed in the rooms or were merely imagined. Most reports of bed bug sightings seem well-intentioned, but are fatally flawed. This is why the various registry sites for posting presumed bed bug incidents are of little, if any, value. The observed ‘bug’ may have been a cockroach, carpet beetle or even a bit of lint on the bed linen. In such a case, this is much ado about nothing. This highlights another opportunity for hotel manager and guest, alike. The suspected bed bug or other villain should be captured and evaluated by a third party who has expertise and no commercial agenda as to whether the object is a bed bug or not. How can this be done? Simple. The bug (dead or alive, smashed or not) can be captured on tape or swept into a plastic bag and sent to IdentifyUS LLC for a rapid, independent, confidential and expert evaluation. Even faster, the likeness of the bug can be captured using a digital camera, camera phone or our IDmyBUG mobile solution, an inexpensive dedicated digital magnifier. Images can be captured in seconds and uploaded to our secure server for a fast, confidential review. This process can quickly resolve an uncomfortable situation, defuse anger, lessen worry and save considerable cost. Imagine if the images help confirm that the suspected bed bugs were, indeed, bits of lint? The current strategies - of denial and subsequent legal challenge - are far more costly to a hotel’s bottom line and to their reputation.