I vividly remember the night I spent at the Quality Inn hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. I was returning from a business trip and it was late at night and still I had about six hours of driving before I arrived home when I decided to pull over, get some sleep and start fresh in the morning. Simply exhausted, I checked in, took a quick shower, and retired for the night.
Around six o’clock AM, I woke with insane itching on my neck, shoulders, and waist and under my left arm. I tossed and turned for a while when I couldn’t stand it any longer and went to relive myself in the bathroom.
I stood looking in the mirror and saw red marks all over my upper torso, arms and neck and two on my face. My heart sank. They were all over from my hip on up. It first reminded me of a trip to an ocean front hotel in Mexico where my kids and I stayed and were bitten by sand fleas. Then I thought maybe spiders. It didn’t matter at that time all I wanted was out of that room!
I went to the front desk to check out and the attendant asked me how my stay was. I replied, “I slept like a baby but I woke itching all over, as I pointed out my neck and lifted the side of my blouse to show her my waist.
Her immediate response to me was, “We don’t have bed bugs!”
With a grimace on my face I thought to myself – What! Bed bugs? – Who said anything about bed bugs – I thought that was a fallacy. Without saying another word – I paid my bill and left.
Within the first hour of my trip, I was going out of my mind scratching so I stopped at a drug store to purchase some cream to soothe the wounds. By the time I got home, I noticed more and more bites. I lost count after 43. I was miserable and wanted relief of any kind. I immediately went online and looked up bed bugs. To my surprise, they were a reality and were being found in hotels everywhere! I sat and read for many hours.
My biggest concern was if I was going to have the same reaction I had with a spider bite several years back. I spent three and a half months in the hospital, five back-to-back surgeries, almost lost my left leg and picked up those wonderful hospital diseases MRSA and Gangrene. I would never wish that on anyone.
Within a short time, I received a letter via email that said:
Dear Miss Donovan,
I’m concerned about the issues you experienced at our hotel during your recent visit. I’m writing to thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to my attention. We accommodate many guests each evening, and the principal goal of our hotel is to provide dependable service to each at a reasonable price. Consequently, it’s disappointing to learn that you’re unhappy. Please accept my sincere apology.
To my understanding, you have stated that you had bed bug bites on you. As we had mentioned at departure of your stay that we will check the room, and upon checking we did not find any trace of bed bugs in the room or on the mattress. We have recently renovated all the guest rooms and all the bedding in the rooms are new.
Please be assured that the issues you have raised have been addressed, and that appropriate action has been taken. We take pride in our hotel, and do our best to prevent problems from recurring.
We would like to demonstrate the true quality of our service by extending to you a one-night complimentary stay, subject to availability. At your convenience, please contact me directly to arrange your reservation, and simply present this letter to the front desk staff upon check-in.
Wow! Total denial. Furthermore, never once did I state I had bed bugs bites on me (because I was one of those who didn’t even know at the time what bed bugs were) nor did I make the statement I was unhappy. My spoken words were minimal and exactly what I wrote. It became obvious to me that it was not this hotels first rodeo with bed bugs.
I became obsessed in learning everything I could about bed bugs. I spent the following year contacting and interviewing biologists, scientists, professors, PHD’s, B.C.E.’s, Vector Control, Boards of Health, professional pest control people, and anyone that knew anything about bed bugs. I read the complete 583 pages of the Usinger’s Monograph cover to cover and even attended the first Bed Bug Symposium in California. I didn’t leave one stone unturned. I even went to pest control school to learn up on what treatments were being used and to gather whatever information I didn’t have. Sadly, they didn’t even address bed bugs in their curriculum and asked me to teach at their school after seeing what I put together.
The problem was, that there was no combined and easy to read information for the public or pest control for all that matters. It was a new phenomenon that from my observations was about to explode into plague proportions worldwide.
Once I had my knowledge base, I began arranging my newly learned information into simple to understand notebooks, pamphlets and books to share with others and started a bed bug hotline. I really wanted to help so that just maybe if everyone learned about these nasty bloodsuckers, we could collectively do something to stop it from happening.
It suddenly made sense to me that these hoteliers didn’t have a clue what they were doing and it is no wonder they couldn’t find bed bugs because in early stages it is almost impossible for even a professional to find them.
The following year, I called the manager of the Quality Inn hotel in Phoenix where I stayed and asked if he would get real with me and he agreed. He explained to me the process they used when they should find bed bugs in any of their rooms.
It went like this:
Once someone makes a complaint, they take the room out of service and strip it down removing all the bedding, mattresses, chairs and soft goods, etc. They then send in their maintenance person to spray and quarantine the room for ten days. After ten days, they do a repeat performance of the spray and keep it out of service for an additional ten days. A final spray is applied and the room is not dressed to open for a guest for a total of 30 days.
As he was speaking his bed bug protocol, I was writing down the nightly fee they were losing by taking the room out of service. It included the cost of replacement of goods, cost of maintenance and products and came to the conclusion that they were losing big on their return on investment to the tune of somewhere between 5 – 7,000 dollars every time someone complained of bed bugs. He agreed with me saying it was an expensive endeavor.
I truly wanted to help him and booked my free room the next year while on another trip. This time, my son went with me and I organized a bed bug detection dog and professional bed bug company to meet with us the following morning. Mind you, I never threatened to sue nor asked anything for my help.
My son and I arrived around ten at night and went to the front desk to grab up our key to the room. I wanted to show my son how to inspect a room for signs of bed bugs so I pulled out my LED light and magnification glass. We started with the bed furthest away from the bathroom and inspected all areas including the headboard, which was attached to the wall. We found nothing.
We then moved to the other bed closest to the bathroom and peeled back the sheets. In the upper left piping of the mattress were little black marks and a cluster of first and second stage instars. We immediately stopped looking when we found evidence, took a picture and called the front desk to ask the night manager to come to the room. She hesitated at first but after about ten minutes she did show up. We showed her the bed bug cluster and she agreed and moved us to a new room.
Before we moved to the next room, I placed a mark with a red pen under the piping on the right hand side of the mattress.
We moved to our new room, checked for bed bugs and found none. Our meeting with the manager and the people I arranged to help was at eight the next morning so we retired.
We all met for breakfast and were waiting on the manager when we saw him going back and forth from the room we were originally given – (the one that we discovered had bed bugs in the upper left corner of the top mattress) After about fifteen minutes, he showed up at the back door and requested me to step out to speak with him. I told him he could speak freely in front of the others but he insisted not.
He was confrontational and made the statement “There are no bed bugs in that room we gave you first last night – we checked”. I reached for my phone showed him the pics and told him even his night manager saw them and moved us to a new room because of them. He immediately wanted to go into the room so I could show him where we found the bed bugs.
We all went into the room, peeled back the sheets and exposed the corner and low and behold there were no bed bugs! Even the black smudges were completely gone. My son and I looked at each other and said – this looks like a new mattress – check for the red mark under the piping on the right hand side. Surprisingly, there was no red mark because they switched out the mattress as they didn’t want to face up to the fact that they were wrong.
It still amazes me that people will go to such great lengths to cover up and stay in denial over bed bugs. When will they get it and embrace the fact that no matter how well your housekeepers clean, bed bugs are on the foot or luggage of the next guest. If you don’t believe me take a look online to see the multitude of hotels that are racked across the coals over bed bugs.
Never can you say, “We don’t have bed bugs” in good conscience!
Wake up people, put a workable protocol in place and do what’s right to avoid being sued. Denial does not save you.
We are always here to help!