Practical steps to minimize risks of warehouse infestation, negative media attention and frivolous consumer lawsuits.
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Bedbugs are on the rise in the US, and can present problems for furniture and bedding stores.
Bedbugs are on the rise in the US, and can present problems for furniture and bedding stores. Retailers who pick up and dispose of used mattresses, or take back products due to warranty or "customer satisfaction" guarantees risk the possibility of bedbug infestations being transferred to new bedding and other furniture items.
Just having a bedbug infestation in your store can be a public relations nightmare. On numerous occasions, local and national TV and newspaper reporters have given top billing to bed bug infestations. News that your store will be closed for several days or that you have infested even one single home is publicity you don’t need or want.
Even worse, are real or imagined customer claims against your store stating that new delivered goods caused a home infestation resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in remediation costs. Damages in favor of consumers have occasionally been awarded by the courts, including $49,000 to a couple who purchased case pieces at a J.C. Penny in Cherry Hill, NJ.
News of these kinds of claims spread like wildfire via Twitter, blog posts and internet review sites.
Here are a few random posts resulting from a simple internet search. Although some of the complaints may have merit, many others are “payback” for poor customer service, or wrong perceptions regarding the actual cause of an infestation.
“I bought a store sample mattress from (major bedding retailer) in July 2008. I had almost the same experience as Joseph from Wharton NJ ... so I would like to get into touch with all the ones who have suffered bedbug problems from (major bedding retailer) store sample mattresses. I would like to disgust readers of our horrible experience with bedbugs but the customer service experience is even worse. I am now in an arbitration proceeding against (major bedding retailer) and we will see how it goes. I am shocked to find out I am not the only one who have suffered this and (major bedding retailer) had known about the bedbug infestation problem and refused to address the problem from the source such as fumigating their warehouse/show room. Instead, they have insisted that we got bedbugs from the subway, starbucks or just implying we are dirty animals so we got bedbugs. Justice needs to be served.”
"(Major Discount Retailer's) service was terminable from the beginning. I purchased a tv/dresser night stand and head board.On the delivery of the furniture the nightstand had a broken corner and they said they would order a new top.I refused and asked to have a new stand delivered. It came in two weeks. To find out when the furniture was delivered it also had a guest BEDBUGS.This gets bigger than you would like. They were in two bedrooms making us itch like crazy. I had to remove all articles off the walls and bag everything in the rooms. It took money and time.I had to dispose of two mattresses and box springs $$$$$$$$$$$$."
"Have to comment on your remark about buying cheap bedding from "Major Bedding Retailer) and the 'big stores' You are BIG and wrong. Just bought a bed from (major bedding retailer) infested with bed bugs. So not trying to save money and a lazy American. Google bed bugs and (Major Bedding Retailer) and you will see pages of stories regarding bed bugs..."
"We purchased a brand new mattresss from (Major Department Store). When we received it, it had a few darkish brown black spot at the bottom corner, which we thought was ink or something splattered. Since last week these spots spread all around mattress and now see bugs ... it's disgusting I called (Major Department Store) to inform them and seeking replacement. The supervisor named _____ accused us of lying and now I'm out $625 and No Bed to sleep in. I've been a customer of (retailer name) for 15+ years. I've contacted several news stations and am seeking justice."
Proper written procedures for handling, inspection and preventative extermination, plus careful and complete documentation can be helpful in defending against claims made by customers who say that their new delivered furniture caused a home bedbug infestation.
The focus of the rest of this article is to prevent bed bug problems in warehouse and delivery based on on-site operations reviews. If your facility becomes infested, you will need professional assistance.
Bed bugs are very small parasites. Eggs are about 1/32”. and adults are 1/4” to 3/8”. Adults are easily visible. A bed bug can hide in a crack or fabric fold as small as the thickness of a credit card. While they are not known to carry diseases, their bites cause red spots on the skin and may cause allergic reactions. Entomologists claim that bedbugs can live as long as 18-months without ingesting any blood.
The most common way for warehouses to become infested is by poor handling of returned bedding or upholstered furniture. If a return is authorized, each item should be carefully examined before being picked up, regardless whether the home is modest or mansion. If there are any signs of bed bugs, no pickup should be made. All bedding should be bagged and taped. Once in the truck, the return should be segregated from new merchandise.
Bedding pickups generally fall into these categories: recently purchased bedding returned on a comfort warranty or old bedding for donation or disposal. Warranty returns are a particular challenge as the vendor rep typically must do an inspection prior to issuing a return authorization. These items should be stored in a designated area away from new goods of any type. Donation/disposal bedding must also be separately stored to avoid cross contamination with good merchandise going out for delivery.
You can also reduce risk by insisting on having effective housekeeping throughout the warehouse and your delivery trucks. If you suspect an infestation, a professional may do physical examinations or bring in a dog trained to recognize the distinct odor given off by bed bugs. The parasites can be killed with various EPA approved chemicals or by heating the area to a temperature that guarantees that the warehouse space and all its contents are hot enough for a long enough period to kill live bugs and eggs. Where feasible, heat treatment is the most effective method. The Internet links provide additional useful information applicable to home or business.
The bottom line is that while you might prefer not to pick up used bedding, it is a competitive fact of life in most communities. Following the steps summarized in this article will minimize this very real problem.
Daniel Bolger P.E. provides operations consulting services to clients throughout North America. FURNITURE WORLD Magazine readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 740-503-8875. For more information on transportation, logistics and furniture warehousing topics, go to FURNITURE WORLD Magazine’s website www.furninfo.com to read all of Dan’s articles.
Additional Bed Bug Resources.
Contributing editor Dan Bolger of The Bolger Group helps companies achieve improved transportation, warehousing and logistics. See many other articles by Dan in the Operations Management article archives on the furninfo.com website. You can send inquiries on any aspect of transportation, warehousing or logistics issues to Dan Bolger care of Furniture World Magazine at email@example.com or call him direct at 740-503-8875.
View all articles by Dan Bolger