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Now there's a business idea... buy a bug-sniffing dog and work 1-3 times a week by walking your dog through homes and hotels. Gee, hard work huh? ;p
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/08/busin ... ral&src=me
September 7, 2010
Bedbugs Bad for Business? Depends on the Business
By KATE MURPHY
Recent reports that bedbugs have infiltrated office buildings, movie theaters and stores in New York did not come as a surprise to Wes Tyler, general manager of the Chancellor Hotel on Union Square in San Francisco.
â€œShort of putting a bedbug-sniffing beagle at your door to check everyone before they come in, youâ€™re going to get bedbugs,â€� he said. â€œDealing with them is the cost of doing business these days.â€�
An employee first discovered a bedbug in the 137-room hotel in 2003, and Mr. Tyler has since instituted a comprehensive bedbug detection program to find the blood-sucking insects before a guest does. For starters, Mr. Tyler created a position called â€œbedbug technicianâ€� â€” an employee whose sole job is to go from room to room checking for bedbugs. There is also a bedbug bounty of $10 paid to any employee who finds one.
If a bedbug is found, the room and all adjacent rooms are taken out of service for up to five days while they are steam-cleaned and chemically treated to eliminate the bugs and their eggs. The mattresses in the rooms are also discarded. The total cost for each room is $2,500, including lost bookings.
â€œIt sounds like a lot of money, but the value of a good reputation is infinite,â€� Mr. Tyler said. â€œYour biggest fear is that someone will get bitten and post something about it on an online travel site, and thatâ€™d be a killer.â€�
Bedbugs used to be solely a residential problem, but they are showing up in commercial settings, and not just in places with beds like hotels, nursing homes and apartment complexes. Increasingly, pest control companies report finding bedbugs in office buildings, movie theaters, clothing stores, food plants, factories and even airplanes. For the affected businesses, the expense can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. For the companies that deal with the scourge, it is a bonanza, with business doubling and tripling.
The costs of coping with bedbugs are significant, and they are not covered by most insurance policies because they are seen as a maintenance issue. Hiring bedbug-sniffing dogs, which is considered the most effective detection technique, costs about $250 for a 1,200-square-foot retail store and as much as $10,000 for a million-square-foot department store.
â€œTo stay ahead of bedbugs, I recommend having the dogs come through quarterly,â€� said Pepe Peruyero, chief executive of J&K Canine Academy in High Springs, Fla., which trains bedbug-sniffing dogs and offers inspections for large buildings like department stores and school dormitories. However, he added, many customers cannot afford it and instead choose to rely on the vigilance of employees after an initial dog check comes up clean.
Eliminating infestations is also costly, ranging from $750 for a few rooms in an office building to $70,000 for a large apartment complex. And that is just for the application of the cocktail of pesticides that kills bedbugs. It costs an additional 40 percent for the gold standard regimen of placing all the contents of an office or retail space into a heat chamber â€” bedbugs die at 120 degrees â€” and then spraying pesticides in the temporarily empty rooms.
â€œIt takes about four to seven hours per roomâ€� for the combination heat and pesticide procedure and a couple of hours on three separate occasions if using pesticides alone, said Judy Black, technical director for the Steritech Group, based in Charlotte, N.C., which provides pest control and other quality control services to commercial customers. â€œGetting rid of bedbugs is not quick or easy.â€�
Businesses lose money when they have to interrupt operations. In addition, they may have to destroy bedbug-infested merchandise. Abercrombie & Fitch, for example, had to close two of its stores in New York in July, one for four business days and another for five, to deal with bedbug infestations. A representative confirmed disposing of merchandise but declined to comment on the cost.
The managements of the Empire State Building and the AMC Theater chain were similarly tightlipped about the cost of dealing with recent bedbug infestations.
â€œNobody wants to talk about this even though itâ€™s happening everywhere,â€� said Ron Harrison, director of technical services for Orkin, a pest control company based in Atlanta, whose commercial business has more than tripled since 2008. â€œI spoke at the Mobile, Ala., chapter of the National Apartment Association and asked for a show of hands of who had experienced problems with bedbugs, and not a single hand went up, and right there in front of me were three of our customers who I know had us out to treat for them.â€�
The silence, of course, is to avoid the stigma of an infestation. Even if businesses manage to avoid media attention, they may end up on one of several Web sites like bedbugregistry.com and bedbugreports.com, which encourage people to report hotels, apartment complexes, offices and retailers where they saw or were bitten by bed bugs.
â€œItâ€™s been nonstop drama dealing with hotels disputing claims,â€� said Maciej Ceglowski, a computer programmer in San Francisco who started bedbugregistry.com in November 2006 after he was bitten by bedbugs in a local hotel. â€œEveryone is scared of being publicly outed and losing business.â€�
There is also a real fear of liability. Bedbug-related lawsuits have been increasing since 2003, and several lawyers now advertise themselves as specialists in such litigation. Typical is a recent case filed against Aaronâ€™s Sales and Lease in Norristown, Pa., by a woman who contends furniture she bought there had bedbugs. In court documents, she said she wanted at least $50,000 in compensation because the bedbugs not only gave her itchy welts but also caused her to lose her hair and her job as an attendant at a nursing home.
â€œMost bedbug suits are settled out of court for less than $5,000, but Iâ€™ve seen damages go as high as six figures,â€� said Christian Hardigree, associate professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a lawyer who has consulted on bedbug cases involving hotels, cruise ships, movie theaters and nursing homes. â€œIt can be a nightmare for businesses because a lot of claimants in these cases are treating the litigation system like a lottery and are going after the big win.â€�
In addition to personal injury law firms, other businesses benefiting from the bedbug scourge include Protect-A-Bed, based in Chicago, which makes mattress encasements to keep out mites and bedbugs. The company developed the product in 2004 and had sales of $10 million last year, twice as much as in the previous year, according to James Bell, the companyâ€™s chief executive. He predicts an even larger jump in sales this year. â€œThe response has been enormous,â€� he said.
Bedbugs gave Linda Develasco of Des Plaines, Ill., a new career when she was laid off from her job as a new-accounts manager at Verizon two years ago. Having learned about bedbugs in the hospitality industry from her fiancÃ©, who was general manager of a hotel, she bought a bedbug-sniffing beagle named Scooby for $9,700. She recouped the expense within three months by doing one to three inspections each week. â€œHe was worth every penny,â€� said Ms. Develasco, who had been doing mostly residential work but within the last week began inspecting office buildings, retail stores and movie theaters. â€œItâ€™s been crazy.â€�
Exterminators are also enjoying a windfall after several years of declining revenue as customers cut back on pest control treatments to save money in the tight economy.
â€œI just got a $60,000 contract to take care of bedbugs in an apartment complex,â€� Tony Esposito, owner of the Bug Reaper, a pest control company in Katy, Tex., shouted into his cellphone as he drove to investigate another bedbug complaint in nearby Houston. â€œI had to pull my truck over and do a happy dance.â€�
March 10, 2010
A New Breed of Guard Dog Attacks Bedbugs
By PENELOPE GREEN
CRUISER made four house calls on a recent rain-soaked Tuesday. There were two happy endings and two unhappy ones, a fairly typical outcome for a typical day in the life of a bedbug-sniffing puggle.
â€œExcept that thereâ€™s nothing typical about this business,â€� said his handler, Jeremy Ecker, 35, whose six-month-old company, the Bed Bug Inspectors, has vetted hotels, college dorms and Midtown office buildings, suburban homes, bare-bones Brooklyn rentals and tony Manhattan co-ops. (Mr. Ecker, who charges $350 for a residential inspection, is an independent inspector, meaning he has no affiliation with an exterminator, though many hire him to check a property they have treated.)
Increasingly, real estate lawyers are urging buyers in contract to inspect apartments before they close, and in their advertising, many pest control companies exhort would-be tenants to â€œinspect before you rent.â€� And dogs like Cruiser can inspect a room in minutes, whereas lesser mammals like human beings need hours to conduct a visual inspection.
Bedbug-sniffing dogs, adorable yet stunningly accurate â€” entomology researchers at the University of Florida report that well-trained dogs can detect a single live bug or egg with 96 percent accuracy â€” are the new and furry front line in an escalating and confounding domestic war.
While experts cite a host of reasons for the upsurge, they agree on one thing: the bugs, which were mostly eradicated in this country at midcentury by now-banned pesticides like DDT but remained a constant scourge overseas, are finding their way back to the United States through an increase in global travel.
And in cities like New York, where neighbors are often separated only by bricks and mortar, one personâ€™s infestation is everybodyâ€™s problem, since bedbugs can crawl through walls and along wiring and pipes, and hitchhike on clothing, furniture, luggage and more. In this city of 8.3 million, it seems as if everyone has a bedbug story.
Just ask Gale A. Brewer, a self-appointed bedbug evangelist and a City Council member from the Upper West Side. She prodded the Mayorâ€™s office to convene a bedbug advisory committee last fall, after years of what she and others felt were woeful public policy inadequacies in the face of the relentless advances of what some have called â€œthe pest of the century.â€� (The committee â€” entomologists, civic policy experts and advocates for children, the elderly and others â€” will issue its recommendations next month.)
The breadth and scope of the problem has been captured anecdotally in anguished tales â€” the family living in a tent outside their lovely-but-infested Long Island home, the woman in the Upper West Side one-bedroom who spent $9,500 on extermination and lived out of plastic bags, at friendsâ€™ apartments, for three months â€” posted on blogs like bedbugger and newyorkvsbedbugs, the likes of which have been spreading like, well, bedbugs, over the last few years. They are told over and over at community board hearings presided over by Ms. Brewer and others, and recorded in mainstream media. Another picture, though still incomplete, comes from the cityâ€™s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, which has been tracking bedbug complaints and violations through calls to the 311 help line. Consider that six years ago, there were 537 bedbug complaints and 82 violations (in other words, verified infestations); last year, complaints topped out at nearly 11,000, with 4,084 violations cited (nearly double that of the previous year).
But the complaints registered with the department and 311 relate only to rental properties; reports of bedbugs scampering through the private sanctums of hotels, co-ops and condos, colleges and office buildings remain largely uncounted, though real estate lawyers and brokers report that co-op minutes reveal a world thatâ€™s just as infested as the rest of the city.
In the last three months, and for the first time in her 21-year career, for example, Lori Braverman, a Manhattan real estate lawyer, advised buyers she was representing in three deals to inspect apartments they were in contract for, having noted in the co-op boardsâ€™ minutes instances of bedbugs in their buildings. â€œOne was described as a â€˜significant infestation,â€™â€� she said. â€œItâ€™s the deep, dark secret of co-ops and condos.â€� (All three checked out clean, including a classic five on the Upper West Side inspected by Cruiser.) Still, as Ms. Brewer said darkly, â€œThose bugs are everywhere.â€�
After a day or two with Cruiser, one would have to agree.
NINE-THIRTY in the morning in Borough Park, Brooklyn, at the home of a family of seven, two of them still in diapers: the family was poised to move to a new house, their things in boxes, the rooms askew, to the horror of the mother, who had to welcome a reporter and a photographer into the pre-move disarray. (Like all the bedbug sufferers in this story, she asked not to be identified because of the stigma surrounding the pests.)
Cruiser had been invited because the mother had found a dead bedbug floating in the bath of one child the night before, and she wanted to make sure, if there was an infestation, that it didnâ€™t travel to their new home. The house next door had had a problem, she said, and she knew bedbugs travel easily through walls. All this was related to Mr. Ecker, while Oscar Rincon, his colleague, waited outside with Cruiser.
â€œI donâ€™t want to know the details,â€� Mr. Rincon said later, lest the knowledge affect his body language and interfere with the dogâ€™s inspection.
Mr. Rincon, 42, is an old friend of Mr. Eckerâ€™s who worked for years at the North Shore Animal League. He and Mr. Ecker, Cruiser and his partner, a beagle called Freedom, were all trained for their work at J&K Canine Academy in High Springs, Fla., where rescue dogs are schooled in the scent detection of termites, bedbugs, bombs, some cancers and canker, a scourge on citrus crops. The school has an ongoing relationship with the University of Florida, which has been testing its results.
In two weeks training with Cruiser and Freedom, Mr. Ecker and Mr. Rincon learned how to hide live hives of bedbugs â€” little gangs of bugs tucked into vials fitted with mesh covers, so the scent can travel, but the bugs stay put â€” and work with the dogs in constantly changing scenarios (hiding bugs in high cupboards, in drawers, under rugs and so forth). Like all scent-detecting dogs, Cruiser and Freedom work for food; put another way, they are fed only when they find their target, which keeps them accurate and keen on their jobs.
This poses challenges, however, for a dog handler. Back home in Fresh Meadows, Queens, Mr. Ecker discovered pretty quickly that his new career required an extreme lifestyle commitment. Not only would he have to live with bedbugs to train and feed his new roommates, Cruiser and Freedom, he would have to feed the bugs, too. Remember that dinner for a bedbug is a nice long quaff of human blood; Mr. Ecker rolled up a sleeve to reveal a horrifying tattoo of old bites. (Bedbugs donâ€™t carry disease, but their bites can itch like crazy.)
Happily, the bugs need to eat only once a month or less, he said. â€œItâ€™s not so bad. You can hardly feel it.â€�
A few days later at his home, Mr. Ecker demonstrated, tipping a vial of bugs onto his forearm, which the critters latched on to like hungry newborns, their bodies quickly swelling with blood. Meanwhile, Mr. Rincon was cleaning vials, ensuring that the dogs learn to detect only live bugs and eggs. He swept the debris â€” bedbug feces, maybe some eggs â€” into plastic cups, which he filled with water and stuck in the freezer, since extreme temperatures are proven bug snuffers.
â€œYou have to be very focused,â€� Mr. Ecker said. â€œYou canâ€™t sneeze, or answer the phone. The cat has to be out of the room. Want to try?â€�
BACK in Borough Park, Cruiser had started to work. Mr. Rincon wiped his paws with a towel and began leading him around the house. The familyâ€™s boxed possessions, stacked in the basement, were quickly vetted. But a wooden crib in a childâ€™s room gave Cruiser pause. The father turned it back to front and the dog began pawing the mattress, signaling an alert. (What Cruiser does is detect the scent of a bug or an egg; itâ€™s up to an exterminator, said Mr. Ecker, to visually confirm the presence of bedbugs in the spots a dog has noted.)
The mother exhaled slowly. â€œThatâ€™s where my 2 Â½-year-old sleeps,â€� she said. She had the expression, a sort of satisfied wince, familiar to parents everywhere, when a nagging suspicion â€” the toe is broken, the teeth need braces, the itchy scalp is really lice â€” has been confirmed.
Returning Cruiser to a crate in the back of his white Subaru Outback, Mr. Ecker, who had been in the extermination business for six years, reflected on his new career. Since he and Mr. Rincon returned from Florida in September, theyâ€™ve done hundreds of inspections. Despite the ick factor, â€œitâ€™s very rewarding work,â€� he said. â€œWe get to walk dogs for a living and we help people get peace of mind.â€�
Mr. Rincon added: â€œWe see people who literally havenâ€™t slept for weeks. They think everything is a bedbug. At a place in Jersey, the wife was a total wreck. Sheâ€™d saved 15 samples of stuff, thinking it was bedbugs.â€�
It was mostly lint, as it turned out.
A mother of 7-month-old twins in a bedroom community outside of New York was not so lucky. It was Cruiserâ€™s last stop of the day; after Borough Park, heâ€™d inspected a Midtown office and an apartment in Riverdale. Both were bedbug-free, the dayâ€™s happy endings. Outside the city, the rain was still coming down in sheets. A Manhattan-dwelling relative of the mother had had bedbugs, perhaps the source, she said, of her houseâ€™s infestation, which she had had heat-treated, at a cost of $5,000. (Many sufferers with animals or young children choose this nontoxic method, in which very hot air is channeled into a space.)
She and her husband and their young family had decamped to a hotel. Back in her pristinely renovated 19th-century brick row house a week later, however, she was convinced she was being bitten again. The woman extended a graceful bare foot with a large, angry welt on the arch. She had called the pest control company she had used, but they were backed up on inspections and couldnâ€™t promise a dog for another week. â€œI canâ€™t wait that long,â€� she said.
When Cruiser arrived, he greeted the woman by placing his paws on her knees.
â€œDoes that mean Iâ€™ve got them?â€� she wondered. â€œI feel like one big bug. If I can get through this, having twins isnâ€™t going to be an issue.â€�
Cruiser spent 15 minutes at the house and alerted four times, scratching a parlor-floor loveseat, an upholstered side chair nearby, the motherâ€™s side of the bed and a small black suitcase in a closet.
The motherâ€™s eyes welled. â€œI have to remember no one is sick, no one has cancer,â€� she said. â€œIs it possible, when we went to the hotel, I brought them with me and then brought them back?â€�
â€œItâ€™s possible,â€� Mr. Ecker said. â€œIâ€™m sorry.â€�
Cruiser insinuated his wet nose into the reporterâ€™s hand, and she scratched his silky ears.
Back in the car, she wondered: Shouldnâ€™t the mother wrap the couch, the chair and the suitcase in plastic? What about her mattress? Does the inspection mean that heat treatment doesnâ€™t work? Should the reporter, who had taken off her muddy boots in the house, throw away her socks?
Mr. Ecker shook his head. â€œWhat if I tell her to do one thing and it contradicts the pest-control companyâ€™s plans?â€� he said, referring to the client. â€œThereâ€™s nothing wrong with heat. Thereâ€™s more than one way to cut apples.â€�
He added: â€œWeâ€™ve never taken a bug home with us. Theyâ€™re not like fleas. They donâ€™t jump on you.â€�
Bedbugs need time to get to know you, he explained. A short visit to a bedbug lair poses no risks. Still, as Mr. Rincon pointed out, â€œI never sit down.â€�
Moving Them Out
In the last several years, bedbug infestations have increased exponentially in New York City, but so have the resources to deal with them. The city offers a guide at nyc.gov. Bedbugger.com, a blog, is a Baedeker for treatment and a group memoir; newyorkvsbedbugs.org focuses more on city policies than remediation.
Think you have bedbugs? Bites might be the first sign, but not everyone reacts the same way: on some they look like welts or hives, on others mosquito bites and some people donâ€™t react at all. Once youâ€™ve met a bedbug, though, you wonâ€™t mistake it for anything else. The bugs look different at each life stage: the eggs are clear and the size of a pencil point, the babies are semi-transparent and poppy seed-size and adults are rust-colored and as big as an apple seed. The cityâ€™s Web site advises using an exterminator that describes itself as an â€œintegrated pest managementâ€� service; make sure it is registered with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation; ( 718) 482-4994 or go to http://www.dec.ny.gov.
To reach the Bed Bug Inspectors: (917) 455-6865.
I suspected bed-bugs last year in Florida and had read about these dogs. So I called around to a few pest companies but nobody had them. And they admitted that there was no sure fire way for humans to inspect for them.
You can earn business idea here but bedbugs have infiltrated office buildings and movie theaters and stores in New York.so bad for business this the depends on the business.
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