I first started hearing about bedbugs a couple of years ago when some friends of mine in Brooklyn, New York were telling me how bedbugs were becoming a serious problem in New York City apartments. Fast forward to 2010, and it seems that bedbugs have become a rampant problem in NYC as well as a growing problem throughout the country. A short while ago Abercrombie & Fitch in Manhattan became embarrassed with bedbug reports and was forced to close for fumigation along with Niketown, and a few weeks later the AMC Empire 25 Theater in Manhattan had to shut down briefly for bedbug fumigation after reports of people getting bitten during movies.
In fact, despite fairly good quality assurance checking, even Google has bugs in their Manhattan offices!
I mentioned to my New Yorker friends that I was again coming to New York for the upcoming SMX East conference, and they immediately sent me a link to the Bedbug Registry, and urged me to check out if there were any reports on the hotel I was selecting before I came. (Unfortunately, the conference hotel had some reports, although I won’t be staying there.)
I was amused to see that interest has spiked to the point where people are now interested in reading and filing reports on bedbug bites at hotels throughout the country. Google Insights is showing that “bedbug” related searches have increased by about 5X at this point in 2010:
I have some mixed feelings about the Bedbug Registry. On one hand, I feel like they may be doing a public service to some degree — enabling consumers to check out places they’re planning to stay, and decide if the hotel is acceptable in risk of getting bitten by the parasites — and there’s some risk of transporting the creatures back to one’s home.
On the other hand, I’ve complained before about intentionally negative directories such as DirtyPhoneBook. Such websites encourage people to beat up on businesses — sometimes unfairly. In one case I saw recently on Google Maps, a Manhattan hotel representative stated that they believed some of the bedbug reports in online reviews were manufactured by their competitors. What’s to stop hotel competitors from filing false reports?
For that matter, if a hotel has had a bedbug infestation in one of its rooms and subsequently cleaned it up and fixed it, the report might live on in perpetuity, giving an unbalanced view of the hotel.
Bedbugs have been around since the beginning — I’ve read reports of bed bugs from Victorian era books, for instance. Why the sudden perception that it’s become chronic?
Perhaps it has become chronic — there may be societal and ecological reasons why they could be spreading. I know people in a few industries which provide accommodations of one sort or another, and they state that they’re working harder than in the past to combat bedbug parasite infestations.
I think the Bedbug Registry actually is a good idea as a consumer service, and doesn’t fall into quite the same category as other negative directories I’ve criticized, but it really should have additional criteria to give some sort of sense of relative truth. It ought to have provision to allow verified representatives from the hotels respond to the reports. Also, it ought to have recommended criteria for consumers to follow, such as suggesting that if a report is 3-4 years old, it’s probably not as valuable at representing current conditions as more recent reports.
What would be even better would be if health inspection departments of local governments were investigating bedbug infestations and making those reports publicly available, along with reports of followup visits after corrections have been made.
Meanwhile, considering the level of interest, the Bedbug Registry is probably enjoying a whole lot of PPC income!