Hollister has been back in business for a few days now, but that’s cold comfort to anyone who shopped at the bed bug-infested store last week—or anywhere in Soho, really. Since we’re still feeling itchy, we contacted some bed bug experts to see how paranoid we should be. The short answer: Not very.Timothy Wong, technical director at pest-control company M&M Environmental, told us his firm has handled over 150 calls from freaked-out Hollister customers in the past week. On inspection, the majority turned out to be free of the tiny bloodsuckers. The likelihood of getting bugs from the store, he says, is slim.
Not reassured? We also spoke to Jim Rueda, the head of Moving Right Along, the company that fumigated Hollister’s inventory. Between his answers and Wong’s, we’ve pulled together a miniature guide to the Great Hollister Bed Bug Panic.
Is Hollister really safe now that it’s re-opened?
Well, yes and no. There are two things you need to do to rid a retail space of bed bugs: Fumigate all the inventory, and spray the building itself with a bug-zapping solution. Moving Right Along packed the store’s merchandise into chambers, drove it to a facility in Ozone Park, and then gassed it thoroughly. The colorless, odorless gas, which is designed to kill anything that breathes, leaves no residue—supposedly you can use it to fumigate dinner plates and then eat off them the next day. So the clothing won’t show any effects of the gassing, but it’ll all be free of bugs.
As for the building itself, the situation is a little dicier. You can’t fumigate a building in NYC because a) it’s illegal and b) it’ll kill your neighbours, according to Wong. And bedbugs have been known to crawl through plumbing and up electrical wires, meaning everything above Hollister could probably use a good inspection. Our sources indicate that Hollister got a solid once-over with spray, but we’re still trying to reach the company that handled it for details.
What should you do if you bought something at Hollister or at the South Street Seaport Abercrombie recently?
Toss whatever you bought in the dryer at high heat for 20 minutes, says Wong, adding that this is a good habit to get into whenever you buy anything. And if you’ve still got the shopping bag, wrap it up and throw it out ASAP.
Does this mean Soho has been engulfed in a stampede of hideous miniature pests?
Not necessarily. Just because one building on the block is infected doesn’t mean its neighbours are at risk, according to Wong. That said, Hollister probably got bed bugs from an employee or shopper rather than a warehouse. (That might explain why Abercrombie has them too—an infested manager could have brought them from one store to the other.) And if bed-bug–ridden consumers are browsing in Hollister, lord only knows where else on Soho’s Broadway strip they might have stopped. If you were really paranoid, you could try avoiding shopping anywhere that a Hollister fan would go—but then again, you might be doing that anyway.
This article originally appeared on Racked.com and was re-published here with permission.