After the Hollister in Soho and Abercrombie on the Seaport closed recently to treat bedbug infestations, Victoria’s Secret on Lexington Avenue and 58th Street closed this week to treat a bedbug problem of its own. A rep for the store said that the bedbugs were only found in a small, isolated area, which the store closed on Wednesday to treat before reopening that same day. The bedbug-tainted merchandise was removed and destroyed, Victoria’s Secret confirms. Reliable sources tell us a bedbug-detecting dog was used to locate the bugs before blasting them with cryonite, which freezes and kills the vermin. The dog was then brought back in to make sure the area was clear. So is it safe to shop in the store?
Bedbug expert Timothy Wong, technical director of M&M Environmental, told us that the Victoria’s Secret should be bedbug-free. Cryonite “can work if the case is very limited,” he explained. “If they caught it early enough and they’re able to isolate the area with a canine they can do something about it.” Wong noted that a lot rides on the accuracy of the bedbug-sniffing dogs. In a store the size of the Victoria’s Secret on Lexington, dogs are more likely to be accurate than in an epically huge store like the Soho Hollister, where sources have said the bedbug infestation was much worse. “The dog is only two feet high,” Wong notes.
Since the bedbug outbreak at Hollister in Soho — which only closed for three days to treat a problem that some experts would recommend spending at least a week to treat — more stores have been taking preventative measures against the bugs. “They’ve been bringing dogs in on a regular basis to check. We’ve probably done ten in the past two weeks in the stores in Soho,” Wong says. All the stores his dog has checked have been clear, but he’s helping retail establishments institute “ongoing monitoring systems not just with dogs,” he says. “It’s like the hotel industry, which has transformed itself to do this on a regular basis.”
But Wong says while the recent news about bedbugs in retail establishments seems alarming, it’s not, really. “People on the inside knew about this. We’ve been seeing this the past two or three years — the public just didn’t know about it because it’s not something people want to announce,” he explains. But he applauds Victoria’s Secret, which has promised to check all its stores for bedbugs. “The fact that they’re being proactive is definitely the right strategy,” Wong says. “The preventative is key, and don’t forget — unfortunately, like most things in the world, people don’t think about preventative until something happens.”
Nonetheless, if you buy something at Victoria’s Secret or anywhere else, Wong recommends washing your clothes before you wear them. Even if they’re not at risk for bedbugs, they could have a lot of other gross germs.