Attention, shoppers: The city can’t help you with those icky bedbugs plaguing stores.
People can call 311 when they spot the pests in homes, schools or hotels, but the hotline can’t accept complaints for bedbugs in businesses because there’s no city agency to handle them, said Nick Sbordone, a spokesman for the city Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications.
That doesn’t sit well with many New Yorkers.
“Do they want people to buy something with a bedbug on it, bring it home and then call 311 for help when their homes are infected?” said Michael Jeon, 39, of Murray Hill.
Bedbugs are increasingly showing up in stores, with recent infestations breaking out in a Victoria’s Secret in Lenox Hill, a Hollister store in SoHo and an Abercrombie & Fitch shop at the South Street Seaport. Exterminators say they are getting more calls from businesses, including a mattress warehouse, sporting goods store and doctor’s office, where the creepy-crawlies have popped up on examination tables.
The bugs travel in people’s clothes and then hop off into the stores, said Steve Nelson, founder of Chemtech Exterminator Corp.
“It’s an epidemic,” Nelson said. “People can bring bedbugs to their office or a movie theater.”
Complaints to 311 about bedbugs are up 19 percent between fiscal years 2009 and 2010, with 31,719 calls this year, city records show.
The city’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development handles complaints about bedbugs in homes.
But New Yorkers said the city should be keeping a tally on sightings in stores, too.
“It’s disgusting. [The city] should be aware and listen to complaints of infestations,” said Caden Brown, 25, of Gramercy.
The city doesn’t consider bedbugs a public health risk because they can’t spread disease, so businesses must deal with the pests on their own, Sbordone said. Bedbugs are more likely to bite people when they are sleeping, and a few bugs in a store are rarely a sign of an infestation, a city health department spokeswoman said.
Jenny Tai contributed to this story.