If you are like me, you've started thinking about what great gifts you will buy your loved ones this holiday season. Retailers are already rolling out their holiday displays and the commercials have started. What is different about this holiday season is that we are currently facing a bedbug epidemic. Big-box retailers like Victoria Secrets, Bloomingdales, and Abercrombie & Fitch have all had breakouts of infestations in their stores. A bedbug outbreak in a store not only affects the company's bottom line but it also has great consequences for employees and customers.
I receive many calls from customers concerned after they have shopped in a store where bedbugs have been found. The question is, "What do I do now?" Here are some tips that will help you during the upcoming holiday shopping season, whether you shop at a retailer or online.
1) Take a good look at the clothing that you are going to buy. Turn the shirt or pair of pants inside out and see if you see anything out of the ordinary. Don't forget the pockets.
2) If you are trying on clothing, do your best to use the hooks or stool provided to place your clothing and handbag. Try not to place anything on the floor of the dressing room.
3) If the store you are shopping in had a bedbug outbreak, ask a manager or store employee about what steps they have taken to ensure that they are bedbug free. Did they treat the whole store? Do they now get regular canine inspections for bedbugs? Bottom line: you want to feel comfortable that they have and are continuing to do everything they can to stay bedbug free.
4) When bringing home clothing from any store or purchase online, you can treat it with an over-the-counter spray, like a Pronto Plus, but always remember to follow the instructions as per the label. You should also keep those belongings in the plastic bag they came in until you are able to wash or dry clean before first use. Avoid temptation to where it as-is or to hang the items right in the closet. If you followed directions in tip #1, remember that bedbugs lay eggs, so just because you don't see anything now, it does not mean a potential pest won't makes its way home with you.
5) If you have taken home gift boxes or have had your items gift-wrapped, check the boxes before the gifts are wrapped or unwrapped. Remember, bedbugs hide in cracks and crevices.
6) If you are storing gift boxes for later use, place them in a sealed container. This will help suffocate existing pests and help to prevent others from potentially contaminating the goods.
7) When ordering gifts over the Internet, check the boxes upon delivery. Remember that in some cases your items are coming from warehouses where there are a lot of opportunities for bedbugs to breed and to be transferred. It is usually a best practice to open all packages from the mail in your garage or outside in general. Inspect the items before bringing them into your home and discard the packages immediately, if possible.
8) If you work in retail and have dealt with a store infestation or are concerned of a potential occurrence in the workplace, you can take preventative measures before entering your home. Use an over-the-counter spray that is EPA-approved to kill bedbugs and their eggs. Treat your home, car and work bag with this spray every 14 days, as per the label. Always remove your clothing/belongings before entering your home and wash/dry clean often.
Lastly, there are lot of insects and bugs that we can bring home from shopping, going out to eat, or even going to the movies. Bedbugs are in the news and all over the newspapers, but this does not mean that every store and every restaurant will have them.
Many corporations are aware of the affects an infestation can have on a business and are taking immediate steps to prevent these pests and to give consumers peace of mind. Canine bedbug inspections are becoming more popular in the wake of this epidemic. The more companies adopt the best practices in prevention and do monthly inspections, the more consumers can rest assured that bedbugs can be kept at bay.
Live your life, but be educated on the topic of prevention. Prevention is the key to staying bedbug free, and this includes staying aware of where you shop and what you are bringing home.
Happy holiday shopping!
Michael Colongione is a spokesperson for Pronto Plus, manufactured by Insight Pharmaceuticals. The advice and opinions he expresses in this article are his own.