Legal Law

Don’t let bed bugs affect your business reputation

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Barely the size of an apple seed, the tiny bed bug is creating major headaches for business owners. An annoying pest that does not transmit disease, the unpleasant fact that bed bugs feed on human blood engenders a level of revulsion far out of proportion to their miniscule size. When this parasitic insect infests a retail store or business office, the public stigma associated with bed bugs can cause employees to panic, cause customers to flee, damage a company’s business reputation, and tarnish its corporate brand. That is a high price to pay for a problem over which business owners have no control.

Unlike other nasty pests, a bed bug infestation is not an indication of poor sanitation or lax maintenance. Bed bugs enter a retail store or office building hidden in clothing and in the possessions of customers and employees. “Bed bugs are hitchhikers; they travel with people and with items that travel with people,” National Pest Management Association (NPMA) spokeswoman Missy Henriksen told USA Today in an August 2010 interview. business owners are held accountable and burdened with the cost of getting rid of a problem they did not create.

Virtually unheard of in the US A decade ago, bed bug infestations have tripled in the US since 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A major headache for hoteliers since they started returning to the U.S. In foreign travelers ‘luggage, bed bugs gradually spread to travelers’ homes and in the last year have been increasingly discovered in commercial buildings. In a 2010 survey by the NPMA and the University of Kentucky, 20% of American pest control companies reported treating bed bug infestations in commercial buildings, compared with less than 1% in 2007.

As the nation’s busiest international gateway, New York City has suffered early in the national bed bug invasion and has proven to be an indicator of the increasing pattern of bed bug infiltration in other cities. In recent months, bed bug infestations have moved beyond hotels and residential buildings and have been increasingly reported in New York retail stores, popular entertainment venues, and commercial office buildings. Bed bugs have also affected hotels and motels across the country, government offices in Washington DC, federal offices in Philadelphia and Kentucky, and most recently a popular high-rise commercial tower in Chicago.

Expert hitchhikers, bed bugs are easily transported between home and work in backpacks, shopping bags, briefcases, purses, gym bags, laptop bags, and frequent travelers’ suitcases. Customers, Employees, Suppliers, Cleaning Staff, and Maintenance Contractors – Anyone can bring bed bugs into a workplace. Bed bugs have been found in office furniture and supplies transported in an infested delivery truck. When bed bugs invade, filing cabinets, wooden desks, upholstered chairs, cubicle walls, rugs, employee lockers, padded locker room benches, and cluttered bookshelves provide an attractive retreat. “They (bed bugs) tend to prefer fabrics and wood, but they can be drawn to heat and end up almost anywhere,” warned national bed bug expert Michael Potter, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky, in an article by August 2010 published in Forbes. com.

Citing the “alarming resurgence” of bed bug populations in the US, the EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a joint statement calling bed bugs a serious threat. for public health and stated: “Bed bugs cause a variety of negative physical effects, consequences for health, mental health and the economy.” While nearly half of bed bug victims do not react to their bites, bed bug bites can cause mild to severe allergic reactions and, in rare cases, life-threatening anaphylactic shock. But it’s the mental anguish that many bed bug victims experience that worries public health officials the most. Anxiety, insomnia, depression, stress, and paranoia are common. “Probably one of the least reported problems is the mental anguish that comes with having bed bugs,” Henriksen told USA Today.

No business is immune to bed bugs. Some of Manhattan’s elite hotels have been sued in high-profile lawsuits from guests claiming to have been bitten by bed bugs. While hotels and apartment buildings continue to account for the bulk of bed bug lawsuits, recent lawsuits have also targeted dry cleaners, laundries, furniture stores, moving companies, universities, and cruise lines. Most companies prefer to settle bed bug claims out of court to avoid negative publicity and potentially high jury awards. Settlement amounts are generally much less than the amounts awarded by the jury captured by national headlines. Attorneys note that many stinging insect victims expect to be compensated for mental anguish over and above reimbursement for medical treatment and replacement of infested belongings. “If I’m trying to settle a case, I could be offering $ 8,000, $ 10,000 and the person wants millions. They feel violated,” Christian Hardigree, attorney and professor of hotel law at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. he told Bloomberg Businessweek in a 2007 article.

Bed bug lawsuits began to gain attention in 2003 when a Chicago jury awarded two bed bug victims $ 382,000 in punitive and compensatory damages for bites suffered at an inexpensive chain motel. The generous verdict unleashed a flood of bed bug lawsuits. In 2004, a well-known hotelier arranged a bed bug tracking against his posh New York City hotel in the amount of $ 150,000. In 2007, a Chicago couple filed a $ 20 million lawsuit against a Catskills resort after the woman had to be hospitalized for a severe allergic reaction to bed bug bites. In 2008, an employee of a news channel sued the owner and manager of the building that houses the studio where he works for bed bug bites he suffered at work. In 2008, a New Jersey couple who claimed a major department store had sold bed bug-infested furniture received $ 49,000. Last March, elderly and disabled residents of two Des Moines apartment buildings filed a class action lawsuit against the building’s owners and managers for improper bed bug control.

While lawsuits hurt a company’s bottom line, negative publicity can deliver the coup de grace. Consumer reports of this bug activity on BedBugRegistry.com, the new bed bug tracker app for iPhone, or popular bug blogs can scare potential customers and erode brand equity. Unfortunately for business owners, self-reported sites make no effort to verify consumer reports of bed bug activity or update reports when bed bug problems are corrected.

There is no magic formula that will make insects disappear. “The main defense against biting insects is education and awareness because everyone has a role to play in pest management, and it is much easier to manage if caught early,” said Edwin Rajotte, professor of entomology and IPM coordinator at Penn State University. Forbes.com in a recent article on the cities most infested with bed bugs. Privacy concerns avoid questioning employees, visitors, and vendors about personal exposure to pests or conducting visual inspections of clothing and belongings, but there are effective and proactive steps that business owners can take to reduce the risk of infestation of pests. insects.

• Prevention. Scheduling regular facility inspections by a licensed pest control company with proven experience with biting insects ensures early detection of pest activity. Early detection can contain bed bug activity in a small area, minimizing your business disruption and extermination expenses. Pest control professionals can also recommend Integrated Pest Management (IPM) procedures that can help keep your business bed bug free. To prevent the transport of bed bugs between home and work, some companies now provide sealable plastic containers for storing personal belongings while employees are at work.

• Education. Maintaining a bed bug free work environment is a common endeavor that requires the cooperation of employees. Employees should be taught how to identify bed bugs and signs of infestation, where to look for them, preventive steps they can take to avoid bringing bed bugs to work or home, and what to do if they see or suspect bed bug activity. Licensed pest control professionals can help with employee training.

• Action plan. An insect action plan that clearly explains the responsibilities of the employees and the employer must be implemented and communicated to managers and employees. The importance of early detection should be emphasized.

• Communication. Employees should be encouraged to report bed bug activity at work or at home and be assured that doing so will not incur any penalties or jeopardize their employment. Employers should inform employees immediately of any bed bug activity and tell employees what steps are being taken to control the infestation.

• Treatment. Bed bug treatment protocols should be developed and implemented to ensure rapid response and treatment by a licensed pest control professional if bed bug activity is detected.

• Training of personnel by professionals. ChemTec Pest Control provides comprehensive training for commercial customers on how to prevent and monitor bed bugs. Many other pest control companies across the country are doing the same; understand that prevention and careful monitoring will allow early intervention and treatment that mitigates damage to a company’s reputation.

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