Monday, November 4, 2013

PSA: Bed Bugs Are a Nightmare, Check Your Hotel Rooms Thoroughly

If you are a twitter follower you may know that I had a run in with some bed bugs while travelling for work last week.  SO GROSS, right?  There are a million reasons I love my bloggy and twitter family, but you guys really came to the rescue big time.  

I have to admit, I am not one of those people who pays much attention to things like bed bugs.  I basically tend to assume that if I can't see it, it doesn't exist.  Smart, right?  I don't check Trip Advisor (at least not for bed bug reports) or the Bed Bug Registry, I don't put my stuff in the bath tub or keep it in the car before checking the room, I don't pull back the sheets and look behind the headboard to look for bugs or bug poop, and I certainly don't sleep in a bed bug sleep sack or use bed bug spray.  Well, that is sure as hell going to change going forward (except for maybe the sack thing, that's a little over the top even after this nightmare).  

I was VERY LUCKY in that a) I didn't check into the hotel until late at night, and bed bugs are noctornal (peak activity 10 pm - 6 am, per wikipedia), so b) I just happened to see one within minutes of entering the room.  I was hanging out waiting for the bell hop to bring up my bags, perusing the dinner menu.  He dropped my stuff off, setting everything except my suitcase on the desk.  The suitcase was on the floor, but away from the bed and walls.  I called in my dinner order, and just happened to bump into one of the pillows on the bed when hanging up the phone.  The pillow fell forward, and I saw a bug crawling on the back pillow.  

Even though I was not super up on bed bug trivia, I figured that's what it had to be.  I snapped a picture before it could skitter away and consulted google and twitter.  Yep.  Definitely a bed bug, and a hungry one at that.  
They say they look like appleseeds.  That's fairly accurate.
Let's get a little bit closer, shall we?

GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH it's looking at me!!!
So I looked at the time and realized that it was too late for our corporate travel service to be open.  Fuck.  Our work policy is kind of lame in that if you don't book 100% of all travel through our corporate travel service it's not reimbursable, so I thought maybe I'd just move all of my stuff to the car, change rooms, sleep on top of the comforter with my clothes on, and hope for the best.  I couldn't get past the fact that I don't have $400 extra to spend on a out of policy room, plus it kind of seemed hopeless because the conference I was supposed to attend was at that hotel ANYWAY.  Ugh.  

I called the front desk and they sent someone up to escort me to my new room 5 floors away.  I told them to send my dinner to the new room, and I got it shortly after arrival.  I was sitting at the desk, trying to eat while reading zillions of tweets telling me to BURN EVERYTHING, when I noticed THIS on the door:

Stinkbug?  Maybe?
@TemerityJane agreed with the front desk that it was a stink bug, but I took it as a sign that I should listen to the very wise people on twitter and get the hell out of there, money be damned.  @purplelara found me a bed bug free hotel while I was straightening stuff out with the front desk.  They were actually aware I was coming because whoever they have responding to twitter complaints was on the phone warning them about me as I reached the desk.  The manager was very nice and assured me I wouldn't pay for dinner, the room, and valet for the entire time I was in Harrisburg, and told me to let them know if I needed somewhere to charge my stuff or change or whatever when I was there the next few days for the conference.  They were very professional, all things considered.

However, I REALLY wish they had offered me giant trash bags to put my stuff in after my first phone call.  The whole time I was driving I was thinking about how my car may very well be crawling with bed bugs, and it seriously sketched me out.  So if you are travelling with your own car and this happens, SECURE YOUR STUFF IN TRASH BAGS BEFORE PUTTING IT IN THE CAR.  

The hotel Lara found was very nice and clean and new and a million times better than the first hotel.  THANKS, LARA!!!  I spent the minimum amount of time required of me in Harrisburg, then I hightailed it back home to follow @carmendhf's email advice.  THANKS, CARMEN!!!  And THANKS, RACHAEL and everyone else for all of your support too!!!

I sealed everything from my car in trash bags and put it in the screened in porch until I could process it (an area we never use; there was too much stuff stored in the garage for me to want to put it there).  It's attached to the outside of the house, not part of the house, if that makes sense.  I threw away anything I didn't absolutely need, and took all of the clothes to a laundromat to blast it on high heat.  I also cleaned all surfaces with bleach or sprayed it with alcohol, and inspected everything for eggs.  I decided I was okay with keeping my suitcase and just blasting it with my hair dryer on the highest setting.  Basically, it was a GIANT GIANT PAIN IN THE ASS that I hope to avoid going forward.  

The hotel has agreed to foot the bill for detailing my car and for my dry cleaning.  I seriously think that if all of my awesome twitter friends hadn't caused such a ruckus, they wouldn't have been nearly as helpful.  Social media for the win.  Work also hasn't given me problems with reimbursement yet, so I think we are good to go.  And no sign of bed bugs on anything, yay!  I really recommend Akron Auto Polish if you live in the area...they even detailed the car seats for no extra cost and put some special enzyme in the rugs to kill anything we couldn't see.  They did a way better job than the dealership does when they detail my car, and for a lower price.  

Hope this helps anyone dealing with bed bugs, and motivates the rest of you to take the time to check your room, if you don't already do so.  Because god DAMN are these things awful.

And now for some random bed bug facts (mostly wikipedia again) in case you STILL aren't sketched out enough to check hotels:

  • Bed bugs smell like rotting raspberries.
  • This is what the bites look like (don't click on that unless you have a strong stomach).
  • Bed bugs only feed every 5 to 7 days, and they go back to their hidey hole after eating.  This is part of the reason they are hard to detect.
  • Bed bugs mate by traumatic insemination...the female has a vagina that can be used for copulation, but the male prefers to puncture her with his barbed genitalia and deposit the sperm right into the body cavity.
  • Bed bugs will mount any freshly fed bed bug, so the males emit an alarm hormone to avoid being punctured.  Females can produce the alarm hormone but usually don't because it's not worth spending the resources to produce it.
I just thought the last two points were fascinating.  You might remember, I specialized in reproductive biology in grad school round 1.   

So, are you a checker?  If not, did I convince you?


Nowheymama said...

GAH. So GROSS. My mom travels for work and is a world champ at checking for things like this, but this is an excellent reminder to me.

Where did you stay in Harrisburg?! I'm going there in January.

Mama Tully said...

Ewwwww!!! This post makes me itch. I don't travel much, but I will DEFINITELY keep this in mind when I do!!!

Erin said...

YUUUUUUUUUUCK!!!!!! Wow, that is nasty. Glad you moved hotels!!! What a pain. Will think of this every time I stay in a hotel now.

Alicia Curley said...

I started to check for them after a colleague had bad experiences with them that made me paranoid. I had no idea what to look for though. Staying at hotels is still pretty traumatic. I'm sorry you had such a bad experience, but I appreciate that you shared the pic. I feel more knowledgeable now :)

Pirate Flag & Island Girl said...

As a former hotel housekeeping supervisor, I am fortunate to have some knowledge about this (AND I CHECK EVERYTHING!!! But also I am crazy about that since having worked that job. Or maybe just crazy in general, that one's up for grabs.) The best place to check is pulling back the sheets and the underside of the pillowtop will show signs if they've been there.

Hotels frequented by European customers are far more likely to have bedbugs because Europe is way more intense about not using chemicals than we are here in the states. I'm not sure there's any way to avoid this, but this is the case.

If I were you, I'd throw the suitcase away. It's not worth it. We had bedbugs only one time in my almost four year hotel career, and we literally had to get rid of everything-pictures, hard objects like the desk, television-down to the studs, basically. Then we had the exterminator come and spray three times-that room and the surrounding rooms. It's a pretty intense process.

Also-Trip Advisor and or any of those other sites aren't very reliable. Competitors in the hotel industry regularly ding other hotels-you can read lots of articles about it. You can even hire companies in other countries to post positive reviews about your hotel and negative reviews about others. There's also the fact that most people don't do their homework like you-spiders become bedbugs, praying mantis become bedbugs, etc., etc. I also can't tell you all the hotel horror stories about people who bring their OWN dead bugs (not bedbugs-nobody's risking that) and dumping them on the bed to get a free night (I've seen it all, I swear. Red Sharpie on the bed that's supposed to be blood-nevermind that I can SMELL the Sharpie, the housekeeper "stole" this one couple's iPhone charger-every time they stayed, which was about 7 times a year-etc.) People don't like it when their ploys don't work and they write bad reviews.

The best thing to do is be proactive on your own-do the checking when you go in. Turning the heat up in the room as soon as you get there will also make them come out-once it hits a certain temp (I think it's 84? but I can't remember for sure), it makes them come out of hiding.

I know this is a lot to take in and I'm writing a book-but basically it's the best thing to do.

Sorry you had to go through that but WAY TO GO SOCIAL MEDIA!!! At least you didn't have to do it alone :-)

Navigating the Mothership said...

Unfortunately my bed bug incident of 2006 has forever taken away the fun of hotels for me. Sad but true. I mean, I still travel, but good god yes do I check but even then it's not enough. I cringe when I think about suitcases piled together in the airplane...I hate to think what I might be bringing home. Ugh. Bed bugs are such super bugs and so hard to kill. They can not eat for a year and STILL BE ALIVE!!! Not okay.

House herpes. It's the worst.

purplelara said...

Oh MAN. You are so welcome, any time, etc. etc. I am just glad you got out of there. Those things are the grossssssssest.

kpsays said...

I travel a lot. I do pull sheets back, check behind headboard, but your post has convinced me to be way more diligent. Thank you!!!

Alta Peng said...

I find bed bugs worse than nightmares. Just imagine if those little pest get inside your ears, nose or mouth while you’re sleeping. Horrible, right? I’m going to demand a refund if I ever checked-in to hotel with those kind of unwanted guests in their rooms. Alta, Liberty Pest, Inc.