Slog reader Paul Forgey took issue with the Seattlish post I linked to about bedbugs. My intent was to stave off anti-thrift-shop sentiment. Thrift stores are important resources for a lot of people in Seattle—while a lot of Slog commenters love to complain about the smell in Value Villages, it's important to remember that many families simply couldn't afford the essentials without second-hand stores. But Forgey wants you to know that bedbugs are a real thing, and I want to share his story with you:
I appreciate the defense of thrift stores, and in fact I shop at them too despite my experience having bedbugs exterminated. There are certain thrift store items I simply don't buy because it isn't worth the risk. Any clothing I buy must be able to survive a trip though the dryer on high heat.
People just need to realistically know the risks. It isn't a trivial thing to get rid of an infestation, and most of the tips offered by Seattleish simply aren't effective.
On one hand, if you don't react at all to bedbug bites and live in a single family home, then knock yourself out. On the other, it's extremely irresponsible if you live in an apartment building, especially ones of older construction which give the bugs lots of places to hide and migrate between units.
My infestation came via a loaned book from a friend's apartment unit whose neighbor turned out to have a very bad infestation. Many residents of the building had to throw out a lot of their personal belongings. They had to put books and art pieces put in long term storage. There were multiple treatments requiring the residents to move all of their belongings around and not be in their units. Regular dog inspections followed for two years after that, and during these inspections residents again had to have all their furniture and belongings moved around to accommodate the dogs.
In my own home, my treatment involved having to practically pack all of my stuff or move it around, including heavy furniture, books, bookshelves, etc. The treatments and dog inspections totaled thousands of dollars (not counting the damage and cost incurred by the first exterminator who turned out to be incompetent, but that's another story).
It's like sex. You need to be educated on what the risks are, what precautions reduce which of the risks you are willing to take, and how much risk you expose others. The tips offered by Seattleish defending thrift stores are like people who don't wear condoms thinking they can wish away the risk. And that puts everyone at risk.
Thank you to Paul Forgey for sending this along. I'm sorry if I came across as diminishing the risk of bedbugs. As Forgey writes, I think the key, here, is situational awareness, not swearing off thrift shops entirely. For good information about bed bugs, you should also visit King County's informational page and of course Brendan Kiley's wonderful feature about bedbugs from a few years back.