Bedbugs Close StoreMichael M. Martin in The Wall Street Journal, July 01, 2010
By MELANIE GRAYCE WEST
The sign at the Hollister Epic store in SoHo Wednesday said it was closed for maintenance. The real culprit? Bedbugs.
A spokesman for Hollister, an Abercrombie & Fitch company that sells clothes popular with teenagers, confirmed the infestation. The bedbugs, he said, were "affecting certain isolated areas of the store. Our primary concern in any situation of this nature is our customers and associates. We are taking all necessary steps to eradicate the problem as soon as possible, and expect the store to reopen shortly."
The 40,000-square-foot flagship store opened last July, its entry flanked by two statuesque male greeters, often shirtless.
On Wednesday, Sylvia Mak of Brooklyn saw the sign saying the store was closed and was confused. She and her two daughters, ages 12 and 13, had planned a shopping spree. They'd wanted to spend $70, or more, on shirts.
"We're very disappointed," said Ms. Mak of the closing.
Adela Giraldo of Jackson Heights had made a trip with her son to the store and planned to spend about $200. An employee told her the store would open again on "Thursday or Friday."
Infestations in commercial buildings are typically handled privately and don't need to be reported to the city. A spokeswoman for the city's Department of Health said bedbugs "do not present a health risk or spread disease."
Still, bedbugs aren't something consumers expect to bring home with their new clothes, and an expert on torts law said, hypothetically, consumers who had made recent purchases and then discover bedbugs could have a case.
"Technically it's a breach of warranty of merchantability," said Michael M. Martin, a professor at Fordham University School of Law. "They are defective because they don't meet consumer expectation. The usual remedy for that, first of all you can get price back and, second, you might well be able to recover for the consequential injuries. I'd be willing to take that case."
Write to Melanie Grayce West at firstname.lastname@example.org