Looks like it’s our turn for a run-in with that new modern rite of passage: the bed bug.
July 15, 2011 6:57 AM   Subscribe

We are staying at an off-strip suites hotel in Las Vegas. Found bed bugs after our first night, and after an initially good response, we're concerned we're going to get the run-around from the hotel. Additional complications with pregnancy and chemicals mean that we need to be sure we're bug free without poisoning our little one, but I don't think the hotel has the same priorities...

We have been here two nights, and yesterday my wife woke up covered in big red itchy welts that grew throughout the day. She has about 10 total, and they’re in the classic “three in a row” pattern that you always hear suggests bed bugs. I either haven’t been bitten, or aren’t reacting, which wouldn’t be surprising as I’ve been popping Benadryl for seasonal allergies. Last night we were lying in bed Googling and trying to find out what the problem could be except bed bugs, when a bed bug crawled on my arm – most definitely a bed bug, we got a good look at it, and we still have it smashed on a piece of paper, although it’s not in good shape.

I was initially happy with the hotel’s response, but now I’m getting concerned that we’re going to get screwed in this process. Last night when we called to complain and report the bugs they moved us immediately to a room on another floor which they said they had checked out. They really do seem to have a whole process for this, and sent security guards to photograph my wife’s bites and the smashed bug (we allowed this) and to take a written statement (we agreed but haven’t done it yet). They did not challenge that the problem is bed bugs, and one guard told us that this happens a couple of times a month.

They allowed us to take a few items (we took toiletries, food, and one change of clothes) to the new room, and when we got there we stripped and threw every piece of clothing we had in the dryer in the room for about 25 minutes (our idea, not the hotel’s). We don’t seem to have any new bites today, and I don’t see any “dirt” in the bed, when I’m pretty sure it was there yesterday in our old room. The guards told us that the room and our clothes would be treated, although we could not get a straight answer on what would be used. Different people told us dry cleaning, steam, and chemical spraying. We expressed our concerns about chemicals being used on our clothes and bags, as we’re expecting a baby (2nd trimester). They said they would get us more details on the chemicals.

We didn’t hear back until we demanded to see a manger today. He was evasive and said there had been miscommunication blah blah. Turns out our clothes are to be “dipped in hot water” by an outside company, which sounds fine, except that some of our clothes are unlikely to survive a process like that. Our bags and pregnancy body pillow(!) will be sprayed with chemicals by another pest control co., but we will not have an answer on what the chemicals are until tomorrow. Unsurprisingly, a full-body pillow sprayed with any pesticides at all is not high on our list of pregnancy must-haves. We also don’t feel that we’ll ever be comfortable taking the hotel’s word for it and taking those bags back into our home. We’re basically ok about the clothes, and plan to strip and hot wash everything as soon as we get home anyway. The hotel say that they will pay to replace any damaged clothes, but replacing our bags will be a matter for their insurer, who may or may not pay. The manager kept using the words “as a courtesy” and we kept correcting him. It was heated, but basically civil.

Then we went back to the old room with two security guards, who put on full-body disposable suits, and put our clothes into bags, making a list of every item, apparently they will be returned some time tomorrow, which sucks because we’re here for a work event, and need to look presentable, but I guess it can’t be helped.

Thanks for reading so much text, my question is essentially this: How do we make sure we get our suitcases, body pillow, and any damaged clothes replaced? How do we make sure we don’t get screwed or strung along by the hotel? This has already ruined the week for us (we are here until early next week and don’t have any other hotel options), I don’t want to spend the next few months fighting about it. I think we have not bringing the bugs home with us pretty covered (toss any textile-type items that can’t be immediately washed on hot and tumble dried). Is that ok? Should I be more concerned about shoes and the couple of books we have? Am I right not to trust the suitcases again? Is there anything I’m missing?

An extra note: We have pictures of the bites, the squashed bug, and video of everything in our room and every item we left for treatment, along with some video of the guys in their protective suits, the names of everyone we have spoken to, and notes on what happened. Also FYI, bed bug registry describes a steady stream of bed bug problems at this hotel, and also the kind of response we have gotten from management so far, followed by a lot of foot dragging over compensation.

Long because anonymous, anonymous because this is the kind of potentially-legal question I often see folks recommend be anonymized. Thanks again for reading and any help you can offer.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it was me, I would take my stuff back, go out to a laundromat myself, and get everything washed and dried under my watch. Next, check your travel insurance - maybe you can claim for any extra clothes you have to buy for the work event?

Why can't you move hotels? Or ask for a refund and move?
posted by wingless_angel at 7:05 AM on July 15, 2011

Is this an independent hotel or part of a chain? If part of a chain - perhaps moving up the corporate ladder might help. Some are more responsive than others to bad press.
posted by pointystick at 7:42 AM on July 15, 2011

If I were in your place, my first concern would be bringing them home. They do get into suitcases and even into shoes and books. I would not trust the hotel to adequately treat your stuff (and totally understand why you wouldn't want pesticides near a pregnancy). So, if I were in your shoes I would be buying this thing called a "packtite." One thing that does kill bedbugs, and bedbug eggs, is cooking at 125 degrees for more than an hour, and the packtite is essentially this giant $300 duffelbag with a cooker and a thermometer in it, with which you can treat your shoes, backpacks, suitcases, pregnancy pillows, etc. without fear, poison, or the threat of burning your house down.

If the hotel is getting multiple complaints a month, they maybe don't even know how to adequately treat it.

I would order the Packtite and have it sent to your hometown before you get there, so you can treat your belongings before bringing them into your house. (Alternatively, you can double garbage-bag and seal everything and put it in the garage until you're ready to deal with it -- assuming that you have a garage?) I'm not trying to shill for the device, but let me tell you that getting bugs in your house is a much bigger deal than $300 :(

Meanwhile, regarding the hotel, I'm not sure how you can expedite things. I guess you could threaten to post about your experience on Tripadvisor and Yelp.

Good luck with it, and feel free to memail me.
posted by hungrytiger at 9:57 AM on July 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that if heating bedbugs and their eggs to a temperature of 125 degrees for at least an hour will kill them, then you don't necessarily need a Packtite. Save yourself the $320. You just need a really hot, sunny day (as you have in Las Vegas) and a car. Get a remote sensing thermometer. Put everything in your car along with the temperature sensor - you shouldn't have any issues hitting at least 125, if it's over 95 degrees out - park in the sun, and go to a movie.
posted by Addlepated at 1:30 PM on July 15, 2011

Ah, bummer! I thought I was being so clever, too.
posted by Addlepated at 11:21 AM on July 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

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