Editor's Note: I rarely get the chance to write first-person narratives in Allergy Consumer Report, so I welcome this opportunity to tell you about my totally gross hotel bedbug experience. This happened just a couple of weeks ago when I was in Las Vegas for a business conference.
You see that bedbug over there? I killed it.
I suffocated it by placing it under an upside-down drinking glass in my hotel room. No more blood shall it suck.
For legal reasons, I cannot tell you the name of the hotel right now, but I can tell you that this incident occurred at a major hotel in Las Vegas, and based on my first-hand experience, the bedbug problem is real, and it's a huge problem for hotel managers.
From the beginning of my meeting with the hotel's general manager, he was in "cover-up" mode - big smiles, half-truths, and flat-out lies. He told me that they had never had any problems with bedbugs in this particular hotel. However, much to his chagrin, his assistant manager had already admitted otherwise.
He also told me that he would not return my bedbug specimen to me, even though his assistant manager, who took the specimen from my hotel room, had promised that I would get it back (after I asked her not to take it). It's a good thing that I had already taken a photograph!
It's ironic that such a tiny insect can make a hotel manager so nervous. But it's understandable when you consider that hotels have had to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle lawsuits with guests who were bitten by bedbugs.
Last year Business Week published an article titled "The Cost of Bedbugs" which revealed that one case was settled out-of-court for $150,000, while another ended with a Chicago jury awarding $382,000 in punitive and compensatory damages. One attorney has even filed a $20 million bedbug lawsuit against a hotel in the Catskills!
Hotels also have to pay big money to treat bedbug infestations; this can cost upwards of $60,000. To make matters worse, they normally have to throw out and replace all beds.
And, obviously, nobody wants to stay in a hotel with a bedbug problem. That's just about the worst public relations imaginable for a hotel.
It's been a couple of weeks since I discovered the little critter sucking blood from my leg. I still have a swollen, red, itchy bump where I was bitten. I don't expect to have any further medical complications - bedbugs are not known to transmit disease - but the experience was still awful and terrible! But what shocked and disappointed me the most was the dishonest, conniving behavior on the part of the hotel management.
What I Learned from My Awful Hotel Bedbug Experience
1. Always check your hotel mattress before sleeping on it. Look for signs of bedbug infestation, including dark brown or black spots on the mattress or around the bed. This "spotting" is their fecal matter. Eww.
2. Take an Allergy Armor mattress cover and Allergy Armor pillow cover on the road with you. Now, if your hotel room is heavily infested, a mattress cover won't necessarily protect you from bedbugs; however, it will protect you from any bedbugs (and dust mites) inside the mattress. The problem is that bedbugs can also hide under the bed, behind the headboard, etc.
If you are a hotel owner or manager, you can protect your mattresses from bedbugs with zippered Allergy Armor mattress covers; this way, even if bedbugs infest your hotel, you won't have to throw out all the mattresses.
3. If you encounter a bedbug problem in a hotel, gather as much evidence as possible before reporting the problem to management. Based on my personal experience, hotel management will likely try to cover up the incident."Bedbugs? No, we don't have bedbugs here!"
4. If you find a bedbug in a hotel (or elsewhere), it's best to replace your luggage and clothing. You don't want to risk bringing bedbugs or their eggs into your home. I have a friend who works for a large apartment management company here in Atlanta, and this particular company has spent an unbelievable amount of time and money trying to eliminate outbreaks of the little blood-suckers. In one instance, they had to evacuate nearly a whole apartment complex!
To learn more about bedbugs, see Five Ways to Bite Back at Bed Bugs.