update: coworker didn’t warn us about bed bugs when we traveled to satellite office

Remember the letter-writer who was upset that coworkers at a satellite office hadn’t warned her and others from her location about their bedbug infestation before they traveled to that office? Here’s the update.

About two weeks after our group met at the satellite office, the main office began showing signs of bed bugs. Some complained of bites, and the area tested positive for the bed bug scent. One bed bug was found.

Our entire workplace has turned topsy turvy over this because bed bugs are obviously very hard to get rid of and very costly–getting them in your home can turn your life upside down. Many people asked management whether they can be compensated if they get bed bugs at home and got a mixed response.

Some of your readers questioned why the satellite employees were so nonchalant about the whole matter. Well, it turns out that not everyone thinks bed bugs are a big deal and it just “slipped their mind” to warn us. I do think some of it was, “Well, we’re working here and we’ve come to terms with it” and so it’s become a small issue for them and they didn’t think to warn anyone. And some of the satellite employees even said, “Oh, it was like a big secret” because they were “embarrassed” (which made me think that some of them just intentionally didn’t tell us and it happened to come out at the meeting).

Obviously the million dollar question is whether the main office became infested as a result of us going to the satellite office. I personally brought this up with some of the satellite employees soon after that meeting and they protested, claiming that they never “really” had any bed bugs–the exterminator only found the scent of bed bugs and no bugs themselves– so that couldn’t be true. Okay. (That was before our office tested positive for bed bugs and their office still tests positive for signs of bed bugs.)

What’s made the situation worse is that management is being secretive and cheap about the whole thing. In the main office, they’re only exterminating the location of where the one bed bug was found and not the entire office — and they only exterminated once. Also, no one really knows what’s going on — there are rumors that so-and-so down the hall has bed bugs in his office and management secretly knows and is dealing with it but doesn’t want to embarrass so-and-so by revealing this. For some people, they reason, “Well, others are coming to work so it’ll look bad if I don’t” — that and management is downplaying the issue. It’s just become a circus.

Some of your readers (in the comments) voiced that I seemed over the top in my letter because obviously the satellite employees were dealing with this issue (so I guess…why should we be upset about it — maybe we should all be bed bug infested in solidarity???). But you know what? The result of all of this is that no one in the main office now trusts any of the satellite employees anymore, and trust is a fundamental part of reputation and professionalism. A lot of us don’t feel comfortable inviting business partners or clients to the main office knowing we have a bed bug issue (because that wouldn’t be courteous or even remotely professional), so it’s affected our work apart from just general fear of bringing home bed bugs.

Obviously, this whole issue could have been avoided by having protocols and transparency by management (so I don’t feel the satellite employees are 100% to blame). I’ve been staying home or working out of another office for the most part. I guess, if anything, I learned that in business, trust really does mean everything.

{ 178 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    Sorry to hear that, but at all surprised. Been in a similar situation and people were surprised that I would have refused to set foot in that office for months until it was confirmed to be bed bug free. Some people really don’t think it’s a big deal.

    1. caryatid*

      i am astounded that there are people that don’t think bedbugs are a big (ENORMOUS, GIGANTIC, COLOSSAL) deal.

      i also learned from my son’s grade school that there are people that do not think headlice is a big deal either.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Omg right?! Years ago my kid had a recurring bout of lice we just couldn’t figure out and then finally after like months of this we discovered her best friend across the street had had them the whole time and the parents were clueless and acted all nonchalant about it.

        1. caryatid*

          ugh. i took my kid for a playdate at a friend’s house and the girl’s mom said “she just keeps getting lice, i don’t really know how to get rid of it, haha lol, kids”. and then i ran screaming from the house with my son under my arm. well, not really, but i wanted to.

        2. Winter is Coming*

          I kissed my nephew on the head a while back, only to find out an hour later that he had lice. I was not thrilled.

          1. Evie*

            I was putting one of my little nephews to bed – sitting next to him, reading stories for 2 nights in a row, and I noticed something crawling around…. The next day all the boys had much shorter hair!

      2. Jeanne*

        I find bed bugs to be a really big deal. I also had lice once in high school and it sucked. But it sucked worse for my mom who did the deep cleaning.

        The conclusion of this update is everything. She is correct.

      3. MashaKasha*

        We had multiple bedbug infestations in my college dorm. Yes it is a big (ENORMOUS, GIGANTIC, COLOSSAL) deal. Anyone who thinks otherwise has evidently never had a sleepless night because of bedbugs biting. Out of all insects I’ve met in my life, bedbugs are the ones I fear the most.

        I agree with OP that now their satellite office has put them into a situation where they cannot invite clients, vendors, oh hell any business connection, to their office, and cannot very well explain to them why not! I can’t believe OP’s management and satellite office blew their concerns off like they were nothing. I’d be livid too.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I am so totally waiting for us to discover that bedbugs DO spread disease. Tics do; why wouldn’t bedbugs and head lice? We just haven’t discovered it yet.

            1. Honeybee*

              Well, they discovered that it is possible bed bugs to transmit one very specific disease under ideal lab conditions. Whether or not that’s likely in the wild is up for debate. the CDC still doesn’t consider them a public health or medical hazard.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          I almost wonder whether it would behoove OP or a coworker to let the situation slip to a client. If a client raises a fuss, maybe THEN management might take real action.

          Of course, they’d probably also try to find out who the leak was. :(

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This company has set themselves up for this to happen. Some where an employee will decide that she has had enough and a client will be involved in what happens next.

        3. JamieG*

          Right? I had bedbugs for a while like a year ago, and even now every time I have an itch on my hand (their favorite bitey place) I’m convinced they’re back and we’re going to have to deal with that nonsense again, except with a baby for added excitement.

      4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Head lice are much, much less of a big deal than bedbugs. Still a pain, but not a get-rid-of-your-furniture kind of pain, since head lice can’t live off the human body for more than a few days.

        As an elementary school teacher, I’ve had to deal with balancing preventing lice from spreading and preventing kids (and parents) from bullying and shaming around lice. We once had a set of parents go on almost a witch hunt to figure out which family was “responsible” for a lice outbreak in the first grade. While I understand that it’s a hassle to deal with (I’ve had them myself, and it was Not Fun At All), it’s usually not spread because of negligence or lack of cleanliness. Head lice are just as likely to infest newly-shampooed hair as dirty hair, and kids spend so much time rolling around together that it’s easy for them to spread from one kid to another before the first kid’s parents know she has lice.

        1. caryatid*

          oh i totally get that, and having dealt with lice in my kid i understand it can happen to anyone. but when i found my kid had it, i made sure to treat it to the point of it being completely gone. he’s gotten it more than once, but it was years apart so i know it wasn’t a reinfestation from lack of effort on my part. i don’t understand why any parent wouldn’t do the same.

          and agreed, bedbugs are wayyyyy worse.

          1. asteramella*

            Because of ignorance, or poverty, or indifference, or simple inability to deal with the situation.

          2. manybellsdown*

            My daughter kept getting lice in the first grade, over and over. To the point where I was afraid to put any more chemicals on her head. I spent hours every day combing her out. I took her to a professional salon. I was almost at the point of cutting all her hair off. Maybe some kids are just more susceptible.

            1. yasmara*

              There are areas across the US (I live in one) that have chemical-resistant lice, so no matter how many chemicals you put on kids’ heads, the lice won’t die (you are actually just strengthening the population’s resistance!). So, the only solution is manual nit-combing.

              1. manybellsdown*

                This is what I thought too, because the shampoos didn’t seem to kill them! I was still finding live ones after the third shampoo. It was so frustrating, but I finally managed to get rid of them by smothering her in conditioner every night and combing her out. She must have ended up missing 3 weeks of school that year.

        2. schnapps*

          Two weeks after school started this year, we got a notice that head lice had been found in my kid’s class.

          I’d already started with the tea tree oil in her shampoo, she gets sprayed down with a tea tree oil & water solution every morning, and knows not to share hats, her hairbrush, hair ties or headbands. We got it twice last year, the second time, I had gotten rid of it the week before, she went to her Sparks (girl guides for 5 and 6 year olds) camp and came back with lice again.

          All I can say is thank god they don’t spread to cats. Those boys would be shaved if they did.

          I was so mad. Yes, I let her Girl Guides troop know.

          1. Dr. Speakeasy*

            It’s quite likely you’d just missed some nits. They have a 5-7 day hatching cycle, so you’ll think you got them all and then a week later – more lice.

        3. BananaPants*

          Our kid’s school sent a note home last week saying that they have higher than average rates of lice infestation so far this year and emphasizing that there’s no relationship with cleanliness or social class. Doesn’t matter, based on the irate comments from parents on the school’s PTO Facebook group, there’s still a widespread feeling among parents in our area that lice = poverty and/or filth. If our child had lice, we’d treat her immediately with a prescription lotion and notify only the school nurse and her teacher – I don’t want her stigmatized.

          The school nurse started doing lice checks the first full week of school. She didn’t tell the kindergarteners at least what it was for – she and the health aide use popsicle sticks and told the kids they were “checking their brain”. The kids think it’s fun, apparently! I told her about lice to try to ensure that she doesn’t share hats, scarves, etc. with other kids. She shares a locker with two other children and that’s unavoidable, but I don’t want her sharing apparel. I’m not thrilled with the school rescinding their no-nit policy; when a child has lice a note goes home – that’s it. There’s no requirement that the child be treated effectively, which means that one inconsiderate parent can ruin it for everyone if their child spreads lice to others.

          Because of the lice outbreaks at school, on the kindergartener we use Rosemary Repel shampoo and I run a lice comb through her hair every couple of days to hopefully catch any infestation early. We try to keep her hair pulled back but it’s a losing battle right now. I would be livid if lice came home from school or daycare, because our toddler has a mortal hatred of the bath (she has since birth). Bathing her or washing her hair is an ordeal that often requires both parents, and she screams non-stop at the top of her lungs for the duration. If we had to go through lice treatment on her, I would think VERY uncharitable thoughts about the family that started the chain of infestation…I wouldn’t do or say anything to find out who it was, but I’d be seriously pissed.

          1. yasmara*

            I’m pretty sure I’ve read that lice actually like clean hair better than dirty hair. so there’s that.

          2. LeighTX*

            The school sends a note home, but doesn’t send the child home?! When my older daughter was in third grade they had a terrible outbreak in their class and my two girls ended up having lice three separate times that year. I put all their stuffed animals in the garage for about six months, did laundry every morning, and combed out their hair nightly (some nights we’d all three be sobbing, we were so tired of it all). Tea tree shampoo was about the most effective thing we found, and they *still* use it, eight years later. I’m taking NO CHANCES!

        1. Jcsgo*

          I am so freaked out by mice, and have contended with both bed bugs and mice… and I’m not “grossed out” by bed bugs the way I am about mice. That said, I’d take one mouse over bed bugs. Bed bugs are such a ton of work – – laundry, itching, paying for treatments, etc. plus mental anguish trying to sleep at night. Mice are so much easier to deal with!

    2. JenVan*

      I remember several years ago my brother had a bed bug problem in a part of our state where that thing is common. It was GAWDAWFUL for him. He moved and all seemed well for a while. I get a frantic call from him one day asking to borrow $2600. A student who is generally very responsible with his very meager finances, it must have been something serious. Poor guy was nearly in tears telling me he thought he had them again. We got an inspector over and come to find out he is, 2.5 years later, just paranoid to he core – no bed bugs after all. The horror I heard in his voice that morning made me realize how lucky I am to have never gotten them. Bed bugs are, from what I understand, NO JOKE.

    3. Honeybee*

      I guess I’m one of those people? I mean I don’t want bed bugs and would do a lot to avoid them and get rid of them, but I wouldn’t freak out if I got them. Bed bugs don’t actually transmit illness – they’re just annoying – and they’re not indicators of cleanliness or anything.

      I still think the professional thing to do would be let people know so they can decide for themselves whether they want to expose themselves to that situation, though.

      1. Honeybee*

        To be clear, I’m talking about the public health/medical/social aspect of them – not the psychological one. I feel the way some people feel about bed bugs about roaches.

    4. Csmith*

      I have known people personally that have had bed bug infestation and I have a dear friend who is an entomologist and the answer is NO there is no pesticides that will rid bed bugs. Exceptional high heat of 140 degrees or higher is the only way, but very expensive. Do not let exterminators lie to you because they will be glad to take your money the only pesticide that would work has been banned years ago which is DDT. The problem with bed bugs is they can live for a year without feeding from and off a human all the while breeding at alarming rates. Please understand there is no pesticides !! Rubbing alcohol will kill on contact but because of flammability and fast evaporation issues isn’t a great idea. The people I knew that lived in an apartment building had to throw everything they owned out literally things that can’t be washed and dried in high heat, however they were so scared that when they moved they didn’t want to even take that chance. There was a tenant in the building who trash picked and eventually managed to infest the entire building so just be careful where you go, and who you invite to your house, sad thing is these bugs are called hitchhikers because just brushing up against someone at a store can transfer them to you. It is a epidemic and will get much worse since nothing kills them that the population can afford.

  2. Episkey*

    Horrible! You have my sympathies. I was not one of the commenters who thought “no big deal.” It’s a HUGE deal and I’m sorry your main office is now infested.

  3. justsomeone*

    Bedbugs are the literal worst and I am so sorry you’re going through this and that management has been so cagey about treating it. I’m glad you can work remotely/out of another office. No advice, just commiseration. We just dealt with bedbugs at home and are *finally* putting our lives back together.

    1. Mreasy*

      Anyone who has ever had bedbugs will concur that they are a huge enormous terrible deal. It’s expensive and laborious to get rid of them – you have to kennel your pets, your apartment smells like disgusting chemicals after the exterminator comes, and depending on where you live, you can spend upwards of $1000 for the extermination.

      1. Allison*

        I think the issue is that some people have never dealt with them and don’t know anyone who has, so they simply don’t realize how devastating they can be. I myself knew they were a bug issues when I moved to the city for school, but it’s not until I inadvertently picked one up at work and brought it back to my dorm that I realized how awful it is, and I didn’t even have an infestation! I literally had one bug in my bed! But I did think I was going to have to clean all the things and evacuate for an entire day. Thankfully it wasn’t necessary. But I was extremely allergic; bites turned into huge, tender, itchy welts that, once the swelling went down, looked like bruises everywhere.

        1. Just Call me Mrs. Beaux Beaux*

          I agree that I have never dealt with bed bugs so I cant really relate. But if it evokes the same feeling I have about roaches, then I get it. I would be petrified to bring one home from work or worse yet, have one show itself in the office while entertaining company. GASPPPP! I found out the hard way that my friend, who I give occasional rides home, must have roaches since I had a few surprises in my car! Talk about the stress of trying to get them out of a car and trying to find a gentle way to explain why I cant give her a ride right now (if ever again…).

  4. Jerzy*

    I just keep thinking that if my office became infested due to the failure of a satellite office to inform me of an infestation prior to a meeting there, and I then transported that bed bug infestation home, I would be absolutely livid! I have a 2 year old, and if my work place caused him to get bitten, and possibly sick, I’d be beside myself.

    What stands out to me here is the secrecy around all of this. The stigma around having bedbugs is ridiculous. It’s not necessarily a sign of being somehow dirty. Just like all sort of much more serious things (mental illness, rape) we certainly won’t rid the world of bedbugs by ignoring them and hoping they decide to leave on their own.

    1. steve g*

      My coworker had them now my other coworker does and since coworker #1 just brought in their dog a few times, coworker #2 asked them about it and they were in total denial. I’m pissed I have too much expensive stuff at home + lots of plants + a huge aquarium that make bombing my place a huge thing if it comes to it. I feel like I’m babysitting adults having to tell them “please don’t bring your dog in again” (even though we aren’t really an animal friendly place to begin with). Take pto like everyone else!

      1. Ctina*

        Bedbugs don’t seek out furry pets. Bedbugs eat blood, and it’s much easier to get that from humans who have limited body hair than to burrow through dog or cat hair to get to pet blood. It’s extremely unlikely that your coworker’s dog transmitted bedbugs to the workplace. It would be far more likely for the bedbugs to have stowed away on your coworker’s belongings (clothes, purses, etc). Further, bug bombs are not an effective method of treating bedbugs, so if you do get them, please do some research into how to get rid of them rather than just buying something off the shelf!

        1. Harriet Vane Wimsey*

          This is just kind of funny — I caught ringworm from my rescue puppy and we were both
          the exact same medicine.

      2. Csmith*

        Bombing nothing works except high heat over 140 degrees. Please research before being sucked in by exterminators nothing works. Just research. I have personal knowledge of these bugs.

    2. Bagworm*

      The stigma is ridiculous but also seriously powerful. I can totally understand the resistance to letting them know but don’t think I could live with myself if I knowingly put others at risk of being unnecessarily exposed simply out of embarrassment. Even if you know you shouldn’t feel it, you often still do but you’ve got to suck it up and do what’s the right thing for everyone involved.

      1. fposte*

        It also might be leverage, and I think the satellite office missed an opportunity there. “Guys, we’ve got freaking bedbugs, management doesn’t seem to care, and you’re going to be next! Help us before you get them too!”

      2. Anx*

        It’s not just the social stigma, but what could you really do if you even had bed bugs?

        Some people may dip into their savings, rehab their home, and work from home or take time off until they were in the clear. What would I do? I am not sure. I guess I’d tell my boss, but would I have to take off of work? That means no pay and probably no job later down the line. Even if it’s waiting for me, that no pay part combined with a major expense (even if a landlord covered the actual extermination, there are so many other costs related to remediation) may mean having to move back home and not being able to pay rent.

        I think there’s probably a sense of denial that comes from having no way to cope with proactively taking measures to stop a spread.

        1. Ctina*

          It’s pretty easy to avoid taking bed bugs to your work if you do ten minutes of research. Bed bugs rarely actually live on people — they live/sleep in stuff, so you just need to have your stuff decontaminated before going to work. That means running your clothes through the dryer, putting them in a plastic bag until you get dressed for work, and not getting dressed until you’re ready to leave. It also means not bringing bags, lunchboxes, purses, etc., into the office. Either use a fresh plastic bag to carry your belongings or leave them at home. Ideally, you would also leave your important belongings (phone, wallet, etc.) outside of your home or keep them in bags at all times so no bed bugs can crawl into them.

          1. Mabel*

            I don’t know if I’d call that “pretty easy”! I’m not discounting anything you said – I think it’s very helpful information, but all of the precautions you mentioned seem like a big deal to me.

          2. Anx*

            I know a lot about bed bug containment and agree that there are a lot of steps you can take, although it’s still not fail safe.

            But if we’re talking about an employee’s responsibility, I wouldn’t feel right hiding that I have bed bugs, nor would I trust that an employer would let me come into work.

        2. misspiggy*

          I blithely assumed home insurance would cover these costs, but apparently not unless you take out special insurance, at least in the UK. Which seems like a recipe for spreading pests.

  5. ReluctantBizOwner*

    Holy shit. I’m sorry you’re dealing with this-but I’m glad you’re able to work elsewhere. I can’t believe management isn’t dealing with this decisively and openly. You’re right about trust-were I a client, I certainly wouldn’t want to do business with a company that refuses to deal with an infestation like that. They could cost themselves a lot of business were this to get out. I hope they come to their senses.

    1. Sketchee*

      I definitely agree with this. And the OP is doing business with this organization as an employee. Moral factors have been my number one reason for leaving previous jobs. Something to consider as a management decision of this scale may be impacting a lot of how this company is run and changing your personal situation is so much easier than tackling any of this

  6. INFJ*

    I think this update goes to show that many different conclusions can be drawn from the same story without all the proper context. I can’t blame the “no big deal” (as you’ve called them) commenters for giving the satellite office the benefit of the doubt. Nobody here knows them personally and/or can vouch for their trustworthiness. Thus, when you reported their claims of having it under control with an exterminator, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for readers to have taken that at face value. Add to that your undeniable resentment towards the satellite staff in general, I can’t blame readers for questioning your bias. So, how about we chalk it up to the existence of various different ways to read a situation, instead of the “I told you so” attitude.

    It really is awful how secretive and nonchalant your company is being about this. Bed bugs are certainly a huge deal and can get out of control without proper measures taken. It sounds like your company isn’t being forthright with any reassurances that it is being taken care of. Any recourse on this? OSHA?

    1. OP*

      The “no big deal” people were acting that way when it initially happened, but now that it’s spread to the main office and EVERYONE is freaked out about it, the “no big deal” people are now on board with the fact that bed bugs are horrendous. Obviously, my resentment came through in the letter because it was at the moment and I was very frustrated. Even if an exterminator came a few days before the meeting, that doesn’t mean much. They still should have warned us that they had a bed bug problem–bed bugs don’t go away with one extermination–those eggs live up to 6 months. So yes…I was frustrated primarily with the fact that they didn’t disclose this until we got there and when they did, they did so in a joking manner. When things like this happen (an employee doing something annoying or worse), I think people tend to look at the overall person or people to gauge whether this is just a one-time slip or whether there’s a general pattern. In general, that group is just inconsiderate—and I didn’t mind it that much before the bed bug incident but when the bed bug incident happened, that’s my frustration grew.

      1. fposte*

        It’s making me think about what we’d do if our building got infested. And honestly, being 1) a university and 2) the state, we wouldn’t be able to close and wouldn’t have a work at home option. I found at least one university, the University of Chicago, with information about bedbugs in dorms, and there wasn’t much advice about limiting the spread beyond “don’t move out to stay with a friend.” I suspect that would be our approach as well.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I live in a co-op apt. with a snarky, condescending president. And i live in terror that I’ll accidentally pick up bedbugs at a hotel or something, and they’ll spread through the building, and we’ll have to listen to her.
          I think the building president is worse, to me, than the bedbugs!

          My BIL and his girlfriend had bedbugs, in their whole apt. bldg as well as their own apt., and they were always really careful about how they dressed, where they stored their clothes, etc.!

    2. OhNo*

      I don’t recall the details of the comments on the original letter, but I agree that you can’t really blame the commenters for their opinion. Given that they were only working off the information in the letter, and didn’t have any background (previous experiences with these people, any intuition or suspicion, or any dealing with the people, office, or company), it’s not unreasonable that they tried to give them the benefit of the doubt.

      How upsetting that OP ended up getting bed bugs in their office though! Blegh. I agree that the company is way off base by being secretive. If there is anyone you can report this to – and I mean not just outside agencies like OSHA, but even HR or some other higher office that might take your concerns seriously – please do. Your poor coworkers who are stuck in that office!

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I too was wondering if this would be something OSHA or health dept could get involved in?

        1. fposte*

          There’s a reg that says you have to bring in exterminators, but I’m not seeing anything beyond that, and it looks like the OP’s management has met that standard.

          Bed bugs are not considered to be a health hazard–the pesticides to eliminate them are likely more dangerous–so health departments generally don’t intervene because of their existence.

          1. OP*

            what is the reg that says you have to bring in exterminators? Also, some of us have been concerned that they’re doing spot treatment and not the whole office

            1. fposte*

              I’m including a link below. Keep in mind that 1) I’m no expert on OSHA regs so I may be misinterpreting and 2) even if it means that, that doesn’t mean that OSHA is going to do anything about office bugs.

                1. Stranger than fiction*

                  Excellent it says *Effective* extermination and I’m pretty sure Op’s office did not do it effectively.

                2. KatSD*

                  Wow! Thanks fposte.. good to know.. not sure if we have bed bugs but we have had fleas and rodents and other assorted critters (big YUCK) .. and I don’t ever recall having the place exterminated.. (exterminate.. dalek?)

            2. Mreasy*

              Spot treatment might be ok, depending on the extent of the infestation, oddly. I got a crash course when I had them, and our exterminator explained that they don’t spread the same way as eg fleas. In fact, they were only biting my then-boyfriend, who slept next to the wall, & didn’t spread to me, even though we didn’t realize what was going on for over a month. They definitely should have told you, but spot treatment may not alone be a cause of alarm, particularly as the chemicals they use are pretty toxic & it’s still necessary to replace upholstery a lot of the time.

              1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

                Don’t get grossed out, but they were most likely biting you, too. It’s fairly common for people to not react to the bites.

                1. AH*

                  Yes. I had bedbugs a couple years ago in an apartment I lived in alone. I found out because I actually saw one on my bed. It took three months to get rid of them, and at no point during did I exhibit any evidence of bites.

          2. Anx*

            I interned at a health department in 2010, when bed bugs were more high profile. We did visual inspections of hotels and a lot of outreach, but that’s about all we could do. It’s not like a restaurant where most of the health hazards are preventable (procedures, training, sick policies), short term (outbreak, infected water) and have a clear recourse. People would try to demand us to shut down the hotel and fine them just for having had a bed bug. We were more interested in whether or not they were being transparent and responsible. Most of these hotels/motels were independent, with no corporation to absorb the costs of closing down or remediation, so I’m actually relieved we didn’t have to be the bed bug police.

  7. shirley*

    I would lose my damn mind. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. I am TERRIFIED of bed bugs – a friend of mine actually had to go to therapy after she got them because the process of getting rid of them was so traumatic.

    1. Another Emily*

      I like almost all creatures with six or eight legs, but I have a complete horror of ticks and bedbugs. Absolutely disgusting things. If I had bedbugs I’d seriously go live in my tent until the exterminator gave me the all clear.

          1. caryatid*

            that is exactly what i have had to do with my son each of the 3 times he’s had it.

            the shampoo was ineffectual, so i combed them all out with a metal comb, and re-combed his hair every day for 30 days.

            damn near lost my mind. he, on the other hand, really enjoyed all the x-box time.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              At my old school, we did lice checks after every vacation, using these little wooden sticks to lift up kids’ hair and look at the roots.

              My third graders LOVED it. They said it was like a head massage, and when we asked them what they wanted to do at our end-of-the-year party in June, they said they wanted an extra lice check. So I obliged while the other teacher did a long read-aloud. I specifically did NOT actually look for nits, though, because I didn’t want to deal with sending a kid home early on the last day of school – I just moved their hair around with the little sticks.

          2. ITChick*

            They are becoming resistant to the over the counter stuff that everyone has used since like the 60s. The prescription stuff, of which there are 4 or 5 options, still works really well. It’s just annoying you can’t go to CVS and buy it off the shelf.

          3. Honeybee*

            That’s true of a lot of crawling insects we kill with pesticides, particularly in certain areas. I’d heard that about fleas too when my dog got fleas a couple months back.

    2. K.*

      There’s an episode of This American Life, I think, where a woman has spent something like $15K dealing with them and then sees one while she’s being interviewed, after she thought they were gone. She basically has a nervous breakdown on the air.

    3. brightstar*

      It’s weird, I was thinking about bedbugs today because friends of mine are dealing with them. I invited them over for dinner before remembering, and now I think I’ll have to change it to meeting them in public instead. I really do not want to deal with them.

      1. Anx*

        Unless their home isn’t an option because of the remediation process, could you maybe go over there and wear an outfit that is really easy to inspect as you leave their home, as you get into your car/onto transit, and again as you go home? Maybe bring take out since they probably don’t feel like cooking a lot or have the room? Or perhaps a Skype date? I think it’s great not to outright cancel all of your plans, since bed bugs can be so socially isolating.

        If you’re concerned they’ll be carrying bugs on them, they’d probably do so in public, too, and that just shifts the problem to a restaurant.

    4. Zillah*

      Yeah, one of my best friends from college was visiting her boyfriend and they realized he had bedbugs. She got eaten alive and was absolutely traumatized.

  8. hbc*

    I think the main idea from the comments was that blaming those employees in the satellite office is a bit unfair. Either it’s a totally safe environment for any and all employees to work in, or you should be horrified that your company thinks these conditions are fine. You say that the employees aren’t 100% to blame, but I don’t think they’re anywhere near 50%.

    Don’t underestimate the power of management downplaying the issue. I think it’s a little much to expect the people who work there to say, “I have to come in here 40 hours a week and apparently it’s fine for me, but it’s too much of a risk for you and the main office denizens to come slum it with us.” Of course that’s not what you mean, but it sounded like there was already tension between the offices, and that’s probably how it would have felt to them.

    tldr: Be mad that you can’t trust management to treat *any* of the employees/locations well, don’t take it out on the other victims.

    1. OP*

      I think the fact that we don’t work out of that office and we were traveling there after they asked us to come made the situation much worse. Yes, management should have been transparent sooner about the issue. But even if they were downplaying it, people still should have common sense. An exterminator came. The site tested positive for signs of the bed bugs. Management exterminated. Then the meeting was held there very soon afterwards. Yes, we’re horrified that the situation isn’t being dealt with but I don’t think the appropriate way to deal with it is to be mum with your coworkers about it either because it’s a situation that could have been easily avoided.

      1. hbc*

        In retrospect, that’s obvious, but I can imagine thinking, “We’ve never seen a bedbug and the exterminator came, things are under control.” It also sounds like there’s a *lot* of tension between the two locations, so while of course it makes sense that you just have the meeting at the main office like you usually do, they probably didn’t want to give up their victory of finally not having to make the drive.

        Also, at the risk of being pedantic, does it matter if one of the main office employees picked up a bug and brought it back or if one of the satellite employees brought it with them to a meeting at the main office?

    2. INTP*

      Yeah, I agree with this. It wasn’t any individual’s responsibility to warn everyone (especially if it would have gotten them in trouble with management), it was management’s. I can also see how some employees might develop the attitude “I have to come to work everyday and be affected by bedbugs, and I am supposed to now be further inconvenienced by having to travel more frequently just so other people don’t have to work in the same conditions for a short period of time?

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yep, I agree. The OP’s anger seems overly focused on the satellite employees when the blame lays primarily with management’s piss poor response to this serious issue. Who should be handling this? Management. Who should be restricting access to infected offices? Management. Who is responsible for communication? Management. So who’s the blame for this mess? Not the satellite employees.

      Maybe it’s just easier to blame the satellite employees than to live with the realization that you work for a terrible company that would rather sweep bed bugs under the rug than properly deal with the situation!

      1. OP*

        I’m really pissed at management but as I commented before, the satellite employees *asked* us to come there to their office knowing they had a bed bug issue (it’s not even like it was our time to go…they asked us to come) so in light of that, that’s really suspect that they did not say anything. If they hadn’t asked us to meet there, we would not have met there some quite a few weeks.

        1. phedre*

          That would really bother me. I had bedbugs, and I didn’t let anyone come over or visit their homes for like 2 months (basically until I felt confident they were gone). I can’t believe they didn’t warn you!

        2. Sketchee*

          If the satellite employees asked you to come, they are acting on behalf of management. You were asked there because it was their job. They had went through appropriate channels by informing their bosses of the situation. Ultimately, you’re working for an employer that handles this situation in this manner. Managers allow for communication to be handled this way.

          The most empowering action is to decide if there is anything that can be learned from this or if this is how this organization is run. If it is, it would not be a place I would continue investing my career in.

    4. Not the Droid You are Looking for*

      I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine *not* saying something to my coworkers before they traveled to the office.

      It sucks that the satellite employees had to deal with it, but isn’t the decent thing to do warning people?

      1. Zillah*

        Yeah, while I agree that it’s management’s responsibility, on a basic consideration level I can’t imagine not warning people as an employee.

  9. Another Emily*

    This is the worst possible outcome. I feel like management is mostly to blame here. If they’re being secretive and cheap about your bed bug situation, that’s probably how they treated the satellite office. Since you will never, ever get rid of bed bugs by “spot” exterminating, the satellite office employees probably resigned themselves to their fate.
    Bed bugs may not look like much, but they no how to move; they are hitchhikers. To get rid of them you need a professional exterminator to fumigate the office. Follow his/her advice on how many times to fumigate, if people need to stay away from the office, how to make sure the bedbugs don’t hitchhike home on you. You’re smart to avoid going in, I’d keep doing that.

    There is no reason for anyone to feel embarrassed about a bedbug infestation. Bed bugs don’t care about cleanliness either way. They’re as happy at a five star hotel as in a poorly maintained tenement. They care about only one thing only: feasting on the delicious blood of mammals. The anguish these little bastards cause can’t be understated. They are mentally and physically exhausting because they’ll never leave you alone. They generally feed at night but obviously not exclusively if your coworkers are getting bites.

    This is a really crappy situation that will never end unless management deals with it properly, in both affected offices.

    1. Anx*

      Sometimes fancier hotels are actually more at risk because people tend to travel there by airplanes and trains (as a opposed to cars) more frequently.

  10. Rachel - HR*

    I have so many thoughts in this…my company work environment (including the main office) has frequent exposure to and discovery of bed bugs. In 5 years, 200 employees no one has ever taken a bed bug home. Management communication and support is essential. All new staff are trained on bed bug precautions and given bed bug kits if they experience exposure in the job. We have a whole manual in it. We also do regular preventative spraying and emergency spraying is bed bugs are spotted at the main office. So in that sense, your management is failing.

    On the other hand, there is no way to prove you got them from the other office. One employee trip to an infested hotel room could have brought them in. To that end, my company will not pay if employees get them at home. They can be picked up anywhere! You need to let go of the animosity towards the satellite office and focus on getting a firm management response.

    1. Another Emily*

      Chances are the bedbugs did come from the other office, but that’s mostly management’s fault for not dealing with that situation properly in the first place. They have their heads in the sand (or some other dark place) on this issue.

    2. OP*

      I’ve been focusing on management response along with a host of other employees. It’s already sort of made my work life difficult because I along with other people don’t feel comfortable inviting people to the job. Anyone can get bed bugs from anywhere but the reality is you can’t trust people who could have prevented a situation of you personally getting an infestation. For me—it’s not so much animosity as a realization that now I know at least clutch of coworkers who are not trustworthy. I do not want to deal with this issue during the holidays and that’s been my main thought about all of this.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t know if your focus on the employees being responsible for the possibility of you personally getting an infestation is fair. If they had been honest, would you have requested that all travel between the main and satellite offices was blocked until the situation was under control? (I’m asking out of genuine curiosity.) And would that request have been agreed on?

        1. OP*

          A few people brought that up–yes–we could have telephone conferenced them in. I’d treat them the same way I’m treating myself–now that our office has an issue, I would never invite clients or partners to expose them. Who really cares about “stigmatization” (that’s what some of the satellite employees brought up also). Hurt feelings won’t pay for an exterminator in my home, my mattress and box spring and lost items like clothes. But dishonesty can make you lose future business and collaborations. I really think this is a serious issue….much like when an employee is told to stay home if they have strep throat or the flu. It’s not about embarrassing him or her but making sure the entire office is healthy. Now, as a result of them being dishonest, I just don’t trust them and quite a few of the other colleagues feel the same way.

          1. MsChanandlerBong*

            Fortunately, you don’t have to get rid of your clothes, or your mattress and box spring. You need to have the bed treated, and you need to wash your clothes and dry them at the hottest setting possible. Even better, put them in a garbage bag and leave them in your car on a sunny day. The sun will heat up the interior of the car and kill everything (as per our exterminator).

            We had bed bugs, and it cost us $1,600 to treat them, but we didn’t have to get rid of anything because they were treated properly.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Do you even have to have your mattress treated? Can’t you just “double-bag” it with bedbug-proof zippered cases? If they can’t get out, ever, then they’ll eventually starve in there.

              My SIL had her mattress chemically treated, and I was really worried about her because her lungs are VERY weak. When I realized that you could probably seal them in (heck, “triple-bag” the thing if you’re worried), I was mad on her behalf.

              1. MsChanandlerBong*

                We had to leave our house while the exterminator was there, so I didn’t see him actually treat the mattress, but we didn’t have to buy a cover (although you can buy a special cover that seals them in and prevents them from spreading). I imagine they treated the bed, though, because they treated everything else. They pulled up the wall-to-wall carpet and treated underneath, put chemicals in our photo frames and DVD player, treated the electrical outlets, etc.

                We had a BAD case of them after staying in a hotel in St. Louis (stay away from the Ramada in Hazelwood, MO; I know you can bed bugs them in nice hotels, too, but this particular Ramada was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in). I was getting huge welts on my arms, but I have lupus, so I just assumed I was having one of my weird skin reactions. My husband had no bites at all. Finally, one of our cats was going crazy, and we realized there was a bug on the wall. We put it in a plastic container and had an exterminator come identify it. Yup, bed bugs. It got so bad that we couldn’t even sleep the night before he came to treat the house. You could see the bugs crawling on the bed and on the walls. It was awful.

                (We didn’t see anything right until the end; it got bad quickly because we had to strip the bed and pack up all our stuff, so we disturbed the bugs and made them scatter.)

                1. Mabel*

                  Some of the buildings in the complex I used to live in had bed bug problems, and the exterminator said that the bed bugs can live up to a year (!) without food. He said if you had a problem, put the mattress and box spring in bed bug-proof bags (and make sure they have the special zipper that the bugs can’t get through) and keep it on for over a year. If they’re not in there, your bed is protected, and if they are, they’ll have to stay there and not be able to get at you.

            2. Zillah*

              Washing my clothing like that would literally ruin or shrink half my wardrobe. It’s great that that wasn’t the case for you, but I think the point the OP is making is that it’s a colossal hassle and really expensive, which they’re absolutely right about.

              1. yasmara*

                And my friend had *all* her laundry stolen from a laundromat in NYC while she was trying to treat her clothes while her apartment was being treated. Insult to injury there…(although I hope that karma ensured the stolen laundry was still infested & the thieves got a nasty surprise)

      2. fposte*

        I think the trust thing is a very personal decision. We’ve all infected other people tons of times with stuff, after all, and staph and strep carriers don’t go around ringing little bells; on the other hand, there are certainly some infestations we’d feel obliged to disclose or stay away once we knew. For you this is one, and it’s jarring for you to realize your co-workers feel the same way.

        Though this makes me curious. Presumably this means that you’re taking precautions to make sure you’re not spreading bugs when you go out, since that’s apparently how they got to your office. So does this mean no directly going out after work, changing into clothes to commute, stuff like that?

        1. OP*

          I normally go to the homes of friends and family but I haven’t been doing that because I’d feel horrible if I had them in my clothes and they spread to their homes. I’ve been lamenting to friends and family about the issue ever since it happened and…they’re more than happy to talk on the phone or text until this issue is resolved. I told my neighbors and some are taking precaution too (that’s how I found out about the Diato powder). Yes, there are bed bugs everywhere, I just feel like if I know I’m working or near a place that has them for sure, I don’t want to make it worse. I haven’t had any face to face meetings at work in a few weeks.

  11. Joie*

    As someone who has experienced bed bugs (in my apartment) I can assure you it is no joke. But I definitely understand the stigma and society imposed shame associated with it.

    Interestingly enough, my roommate (literally same room) never got bit, only I did. I started getting bite marks after another tenant was evicted… The conclusion I drew is that they lost their host so they searched for a new one. Now please don’t hate me for this… but I kept going to work and only told one person because they mentioned they’ve had it in the past, years ago. She really helped calm me down; she explained how to deal with it naturally and at a fraction of the cost.

    Diatomaceous earth. Get it. Create a barrier around your home, your room, and bomb the origin/source if you can with it. I threw out my mattress, shredding it too so no one is tempted to bring it home (new mattress to boot!) and bombed the whole bedroom with diatomaceous earth. I spent a week at the friend’s place on their couch. Vacuum it all up after a week and that was it. No more bite marks and no more bugs.

    It wasn’t as hard to get rid do it like I had feared (I did catch on early though) but the emotional turmoil that you go through is devastating… There shouldn’t be such a stigma associated with it – if it was talked about regularly then people would have known from the start and it wouldn’t have spread as easily!

    Good luck with it! Get some diatomaceous earth to use as a preventative if you can, and use it as work when you do head back.

    1. Joie*

      I forgot to mention I also did all the other things you’re supposed to do: vacuum everything (using the same vacuum with the diatomaceous earth already in it, wash everything in hot water and dry on high heat, and throw out anything you can’t wash. I didn’t throw out my furniture besides the mattress only because I was confident I had caught it early enough and bombed the whole room. Everything was literally covered in the diatomaceous earth. There was a thick layer in all the drawers, covering the drawers, 1-in thick layer on the carpet, every piece of furniture was covered! Can’t take the chance knowing they like to hide in furniture cracks (& I couldn’t throw the furniture out since it belonged to the roommate).

      1. OP*

        I recently bought Diatomaceous Earth from Amazon–thanks! It arrives today! I’m bombing my whole place with it. I also bought bed bug monitors for the bottom of the bed. I bought EcoKiller spray but after some research, found that the sprays just really aren’t effective, especially for the bed bug eggs. I don’t even have them in my home and I’m already a nervous paranoid wreck, checking myself for bites every morning and checking my mattress in the middle of the night. I just really pray I don’t get them. Thanks!

        1. Hlyssande*

          My former roommate got them in her room but I managed to avoid it by some miracle.

          She found out that rubbing alcohol is really great for killing them (and possibly eggs too). Every day we pulled her room apart and sprayed the heck out of everything in addition to the fumigation. So if you do end up with a problem, do that – just make sure there is ventilation because hooooboy. Fumes.

        2. MsChanandlerBong*

          Be careful with the diatomaceous earth. It kills bugs by slicing through their exoskeletons…but it also managed to slice up our vacuum hose/filter, and we had to get a new vacuum after using it. Maybe you can buy a cheapie vacuum to use just this once, and then you can toss it if the diatomaceous earth damages it.

          1. ThuyJoie*

            I had the Oreck copied version of the dyson – purple one, and it was fine after. I’m still using that vacuum 2+ years later…

        3. Kat*

          Just want to say that I dealt with bedbugs in my house for THREE MONTHS because my housemates refused to take it seriously and get a real extermination done. We lived in an old house with lots of places for them to hide. We tried diatomataceous earth and it did NOT work–perhaps as a preventative, sure, but once they’re in there, don’t piddle around. Just get the exterminator. I learned the hard way.

          1. Newbie*

            More than 5 years ago, I dealt with a bedbug infestation in my apartment for over 6 months. The problem was a tenant who kept bringing infested things in from the trash/recycle area behind the building, refused to stop and refused to have their apartment treated. Note: The treatments were paid for by the landlord. There were some mental health issues going on, which complicated the issue/eventual eviction.
            While you *technically* don’t have to replace your mattress after it’s treated, I don’t think anyone could get a good night of sleep with the stains of dead bugs, bug feces and dried blood on their mattress. I couldn’t. I was so disgusted by the whole thing, I didn’t even try. I replaced my mattress and pillows, and bought bed bug covers for everything. It took months of multiple companies and multiple treatments, plus an eviction, before it was finally over.
            It took me another 6 months before I started sleeping well again. I spoke to the owner of my apartment building about 3 months in, and he advised he’d already spent 50K in treatment costs. It was such a horrible experience for a number of tenants.

        1. ThuyJoie*

          The thing with bed bugs (at least from the research I did) is that they’re mostly active at night. And my friend that I crashed with is the one that had it years before. She knew that while it was easy to spread them, it’s not like a contagious virus. She was the one that helped me figure out how to get rid of them.

        2. ThuyJoie*

          Sorry I had lost my train of thought in the middle of typing that:

          Since they’re mostly active at night, I actually continued staying in that room until I had the DE. Because if they lose the host, they’ll seek out new ones. If I had moved into the livingroom then they would have moved into the livingroom too. I stayed until the DE arrived, then I bombed the place and stayed away for the week.

          No one at work ever got it from me. My friend didn’t either.

          Now if a piece of her luggage/stuff had been left at my place overnight and then it was taken back to her place… that might have spread it. But I made sure to keep clothing at the apt separate from clothing for work (I did a load of laundry then put them inside trash bag hung up in the bathroom).

      2. Socalcad*

        Use food grade Diatomaceous earth only, not the pool grade. Wear a mask when applying the DE to avoid breathing the dust. I used it to fight fleas.

    2. KSM*

      I will note a few things about Diatomaceous earth application:

      1. Please use food-grade DE; pool-grade has more crystalline silica, which is quite bad for your lungs.
      2. Related to said crystals, please wear a mask (ideally a respirator, but I realize that is impractical unless you already own one) when applying it. Just because it is “food safe” doesn’t mean it’s “lung safe”.
      3. A thin layer is all which is required; thick layers will be bypassed entirely by the bed bugs, will cause more airborne crystalline silica from normal activities, and are more likely to destroy your belongings (like vacuums).

      Bedbug-proof mattress (and bed spring) encasements, assuming they are regularly checked for openings (tears, undone zippers) can help save your mattress even if it is infested. Bed bugs can live for up to a year without feeding, so the encasement must remain on for a year at least. The encasement also helps prevent further infestations by providing fewer crannies. Bed bugs can also be killed by heat (dryer; commercial steamers; Packtites; left in loose garbage bags in trunks of cars during sunny summertime days) or INTENSE, prolonged cold, as in a freezer (or flash-freezing at even lower temperatures). (Generally, leaving infested items outdoors in the winter is insufficient, but all bets are off if you’re above the Arctic Circle).

  12. AnotherAlison*

    Feel for the OP here. Part of the unspoken employer-employee contract is a safe and clean work environment, at least for us desk jockeys. I was curious, and I was surprised to find there were no legally enforceable standards (OSHA, EPA) on even mold remediation in workplaces. I thought, okay maybe not bedbugs, but mold for sure. Nope.

    1. fposte*

      I think the issue is what’s meant by “safe” and “clean.” I suspect that this not so much a contract as an unexamined expectation that most office workers are fortunate enough not to have to realize is unfounded.

    2. Hlyssande*

      Ugh, that’s terrible. A friend of mine is struggling with a bad mold problem in the bathrooms at her office and you’d think there’d be something in there. The one bathroom that doesn’t get horrific amounts of air freshener (that she’s allergic to) is infested with black mold (also allergic to). So asthma and allergies either way.

      You’d think there would be something about that, especially when the more dangerous molds are involved!

  13. Fake Name For This*

    I’ve found increasingly that work places don’t take issues like this seriously in my experience. I’ve worked in environments where there was lead, mercury and arsenic and was treated like I was ridiculous for being concerned about it or for wanting to wear protective gear while handling it. The justification was almost always “Well we’ve worked here for years and we’ve always handled it without any protective equipment and been fine. You’re being silly for being concerned.” Its a really difficult mentality to fight. I haven’t found a solution to it yet. People seem to think if they’ve “toughened” to the issue that you should too, instead of deciding that you should all be more careful or handle the problem.

    1. Anna*

      …Dear OSHA, I never thought it would happen to me. A company I work for regularly has employees handle substances that your guidelines strictly prohibit be handled without protective gear.

    2. Shannon*

      “If it’s good enough for Isaac Newton to die of mercury poisoning, you should be honored to die of the same thing!”

      No, thank you. You can keep your Mad Hatter’s Disease and I’ll keep my sanity.

    3. Anna*

      Also, the way to solve it is to make an anonymous complaint to the local OSHA office and have them come out for an inspection.

  14. Malissa*

    This is the very reason I love having my washer and dryer on my back porch. If we ever come back from a trip and suspect bedbugs we can strip everything off and dump everything straight into the hot wash and dry before going in the house. And we have a door that leads into the master bath from the porch so we can go in and scrub down.

  15. Mirilla*

    Actually I’m terrified of bedbugs so I see your point completely. People act like they are no big deal but if they got infested and had to pay $2500 to get rid of them, suddenly it IS a big deal.

    1. Marian the Librarian*

      I completely agree. I have serious anxiety around some bugs (including bedbugs), but even without that, I’m shocked that anyone acts like bedbugs are no big deal when it can cost literally thousands of dollars to get rid of them.

  16. Shannon*

    OP, I really hope you are job hunting, because it sounds like there is no coming back from the multiple violations of trust going on here.

  17. HR Recruiter*

    What the what? I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t think bed bugs are a big deal, ew! Bed bugs are a huge deal and need to be dealt with properly or this happens. Sounds like you need bed bug dog inspections regularly. Those who have bed bugs in their work space need to prove their home is bed bug free before returning to work. This is one of those times being cheap will cost you big bucks in the end.

  18. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    Exterminating one room and not the whole building is such a huge mistake, and I’m sure the exterminators told the company that. Of course, nobody listens… The issue is that if you only treat one room the bed bugs can flee the treated room and into adjacent rooms, which only makes the infestation worse. I’m getting high blood pressure just thinking about it.

  19. phedre*

    I had bedbugs last year. IT IS NO JOKE. I can’t even express how stressful it was. And expensive! I swear I have PTSD from that experience. Over a year later, anytime I have a bug bite or see a little bit of fuzz, I go into panic mode.

    The fact that your company isn’t being transparent and proactive is a bad, bad sign. If I were you I’d be job hunting.

  20. CoffeeLover*

    I’m kind of surprised by how big a deal bed bugs seems to be. OP, you’re not alone in thinking that as I’ve seen in the comments above. I’ve had a few experiences with bed bugs (when I studied and travelled SE Asia), and it never really bothered me. I’m one of the few who doesn’t react to bed bug bites (my SO and I slept in a bed full of bed bugs and he was covered in bites while I had nothing). People would also infest our dorms pretty regularly, and it would be a one day affair: exterminator comes in and pumps the area full of chemical, next day you’re good to go back to your bed bug free room. Maybe they’ve got a better handle of it in SE Asia since bed bugs are a pretty common occurrence.

    If I was one of your satellite coworkers, I honestly doubt I would have felt the need to warn you about it. Not out of malicious intent, but because it wouldn’t bother me if someone did the same to me. I do think the conscientious thing would have been to warn you and let you make your own decision for how to react.

    1. OP*

      I think for most people, including myself and many of my colleagues, the issue is time, emotional turmoil and money. We don’t get days off to deal with this in our homes and I already used up all of my vacation and personal days this summer. It’s not clear whether they’ll compensate employees for home infestations but since they’re being cheap with the office, there’s reason to think they will NOT reimburse any extermination fees. And it costs at least $1000 for a one time extermination procedure for bed bugs. That doesn’t include the bed, box spring and bed frame you have to throw out or the clothes you have to throw out. Last but not least, I do *not* want to deal with bugs biting me—the thought of it really grosses me out especially of them traveling with you and ruining your social life

      1. TootsNYC*

        You don’t have to throw out anything. You can treat the mattress and then encase it thoroughly (costs $ to buy a couple of the zippered mattress cases, of course–but far cheaper than tossing it).
        And clothes can go through the dryer (even if not the washer; they’ll be less likely to shrink in the dryer if they’re not also wet). It only takes 30 to 45 minutes on high to kill all the bedbugs. And then your clothes go into a clean plastic bag and stay there until you’re all done w/ the de-bugging of your home.

        But yes, it’s expensive.

    2. Jazz*

      But you said yourself you don’t get affected. I got bites when travelling in Italy and it was awful. Huge, bright red, incredibly itchy welts all over my body. I have scars 4 years later. People were talking about me in shops in Italian and actually pointing at my hands, which were also bitten (rude AF).

  21. Not So NewReader*

    I don’t like infestations of any sort, the bedbugs sound like nightmare material.

    OP, I think that this is a heads-up about your company. I am wondering if the employees set this up so you guys would make waves which would work into advocacy for their situation.

    I do agree that if a company is saying “this is no big deal” or “we have always done it this way” you do have an uphill battle. I hope you are keeping your eyes open to see if this is a pattern or just a one-off.

  22. Kadee*

    I fault management far more than the satellite office. You are all victims of a workplace that seems to have poor leadership and non-existent communications (after all, they didn’t feel a need to notify others who may be visiting the satellite office) or confusing communications (how much of the bill will the company cover for employees impacted by this issue) resulting in an environment where people are feeling pitted against and distrustful of their fellow workers. Bed bugs and the satellite employee’s responses (or lack thereof) are just the symptoms. I feel sorry for OP, but I also feel sorry for the satellite employees who seem to be the easy target.

    1. OP*

      I fault management too. Everyone is fed up now. As I said above though, what made the situation worse is that the satellite office *asked us to come* for the meeting when they knew they had a bed bug issue. We were not even due for a rotation there for some time. So considering that they asked us to come—and they are not close to the main office– and they didn’t tell us about the situation….well to me, that makes them just as bad as management because there’s a question of whether they were forgetful or malicious…but either way you slice it, they were very inconsiderate.

      1. Sketchee*

        Management sets the expectations for what is communicated and what is not. Was this explained to them by their managers?

  23. Gem*

    Wow I feel silly – I was one of those people who thought it wasn’t a big deal, seeing as the satellite employees were already putting up with it. Your company is not dealing with this properly at all, how stressful. I had no idea bed bugs were such a problem!

  24. YandO*

    I am a bed bug survivor and if this was my office, I would not step foot into it again. I would quit over this.

    Bed bugs ruin lives. Emotionally. Financially. Personally. You name it.

    I cannot believe the management and their response. BTW, how are they exterminating them? There are only very few effective treatments and all of them have to address the entire office, not just one area.

    Wow. just Wow.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I think you would be justified in your response but quitting a job without another one lined up ruins lives too. And your next employer could also have bedbugs. There really needs to be some kind of workplace protection / guidance set up for responding to this situation.

      Maybe the Department of Public Health (ie: our tax money) should pay for proper exterminations. That is the only way the spread will really stop. If you don’t have the money for an exterminator, all of the wishing in the world isn’t going to make it happen. Those same people that don’t have money for an exterminator also likely can’t miss work without losing pay or getting fired. We all do what we have to do to survive.

      1. Honeybee*

        I don’t know where you live, but in the U.S. the CDC’s pretty much declared bed bugs not a public health concern. They don’t spread disease. They’re very annoying and can cost a lot of money to exterminate, but they’re not going to make an entire nation of people sick, so it’s unlikely a DPH (state or local) would pay for it.

    1. Rana*

      No, but I keep looking at our apartment that is full of stuff, and freaking out about the thought of dealing with it if bedbugs got into it. Dealing with clothes moths is stressful enough.

      1. TootsNYC*

        oh, yeah! I mentioned above that I live in terror of bringing them home from some hotel and then having to deal with my building president snarking condescendingly at me.

        And then I think about all the stuff in our apartment, and how I’d need to treat everything…

    2. Michelle*

      Yeah, now I’m paranoid.

      I’m with YandO, I’d quit. Management gets zero kudos for how they’re handling this issue.

  25. LadyCop*

    I want to say…having professionally dealt with bed bugs that they are a serious deal, but no they are actually not difficult to get rid of. In fact, the easiest way is through heat. Many companies hook up a heating system inside the room, heat it to about 120~140 degrees and *poof* the bugs all die. This is great because it doesn’t require the area to be blanketed with chemicals or off limits for a significant period of time. I don’t know what it costs, but compared to bed bugs spreading like wildfire, I’m sure it’s worth every dime…

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